Marvel’s hotly anticipated “Black Panther” teamed up with New York Fashion Week Monday night giving a lucky crowd a glimpse of Wakanda style, courtesy of 10 fashion designers who created pieces inspired by the saga. It was also a chance to catch sight of the stars — Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, among others.
Called “‘Black Panther’ Welcome to Wakanda,” the charity event was held at Industria in Greenwich Village and featured apparel and accessories designed by Chromat, Cushnie et Ochs, Sophie Theallet and other labels. Items were set to be auctioned on Charitybuzz.com in support of the humanitarian nonprofit Save The Children.
Despite the NYFW presence, the talk wasn’t all fashion. Granted, the film has been on fashionistas’ lips for months, with moviegoers strategizing what they’ll wear at cinemas (a question that prompted countless memes on social media, from actual 1960s Black Panther looks to “Coming to America” garb).
Chatter at the “Panther” party was also, at times, political, with many in the crowd in seeming agreement about one topic: One of the film’s biggest boosters may in fact be President Donald Trump.
“I think definitely he’s affected the response [to the film],” said Carly Cushnie, co-founder of Cushnie et Ochs, who designed a gold-embellished gown on display. While there are other compelling reasons to buy a ticket, she noted, administration backlash may translate into big bucks at the box office.
Up-and-coming designer Larissa Muehleder agreed.
“With everything Trump’s said,” she said, “I think the black community really wants to be understood and seen and valued, and the movie couldn’t have come at a better time.”
This boomerang effect is surely unexpected, noted Washington Roberts, a young Nigerian-born designer. “Everybody feels they’ve got to speak out against power. It’s almost like a rebellion.”
Interest in the film may also, for some, be a reaction to Barack Obama’s departure.
“I remember when Barack was in office — he’d do so many things that inspired me,” recalled Atlanta-based stylist Dallas Wright. “When you can’t look to your president, you have to look elsewhere,” he said. “Now we have a superhero — even if he’s fictional, it’s still someone to look to for inspiration.”
True, “Panther” is, first and foremost, an action movie fueled by Marvel, a comic-franchise powerhouse. That alone will drive ticket sales, noted Yegide Matthews, a magazine marketing associate. She’s been following news of the film’s international publicity on Instagram, where it appears just as popular in South Korea, or the United Kingdom, as it does here.
“It’s not just about America and Trump,” she said.
“It is, and it isn’t,” suggested Demetria McKinney. The “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” actress and singer pointed out “there was a lot going on before Trump — he just put a spotlight, a neon light, on the problems.”
Black History Month also fuels enthusiasm for the film, and its affirmation of black culture.
“It’s also a celebration of women,” added Cushnie, who saw an advance screening of the film. “They’re such badass warriors in the movie — they really are — and they’re Black Panther’s equals. They work alongside him, not just supporting him. So this movie represents a lot for a lot of different groups right now.”
“Black Panther” will hit theaters on Friday, Feb. 16. According to Variety, it’s projected to bring inasmuch as $170 million in North American ticket sales during Presidents Day weekend alone.