Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Deconstructing Black Panther's scarf

American label Ikire Jones specialises in reworking medieval works of art to include people of colour

Zinzi Evans and Ryan Coogler at the Oscars on February 24, 2019. Getty 
Zinzi Evans and Ryan Coogler at the Oscars on February 24, 2019. Getty 

At the recent Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles, Ryan Coogler, director and co-writer of the smash-hit film Black Panther, wore a large patterned silk scarf over his grey tuxedo. Casually slung around his neck and over one shoulder, it was the same style Coogler donned for the film’s premiere in January last year, as well as the style worn by the main character in the film, Black Panther himself.

In the film, King T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) addresses the United Nations wearing a dark suit and lavishly draped scarf by American label Ikire Jones. The brainchild of Nigerian-born designer, musician and lawyer Wale Oyejide, the brand specialises in reworking medieval works of art to include people of colour.

Created under the tagline of “clothing for a higher calling”, the resulting designs are made into silk scarves and menswear, with an aim to “celebrate the perspectives of marginalised populations”. The designs put non-white folk front and centre of European art, rather than on the outskirts or, as is more common, omitting them altogether.

Raised in Philadelphia, Oyejide was named by US GQ as one of the best-dressed men in America in 2010. He can also be credited for starting the distinctive way of wearing the scarf – slung over one shoulder, with the other side tucked into his suit jacket.

Having founded his label and faced with a self-confessed lack of technical menswear knowledge, Oyejide enlisted the help of tailor Sam Hubler to create each piece. The designer also sent out a tweet as far back as March 2016, asking: “Seriously, @Marvel are you guys going to let @IkireJones do the wardrobe for Black Panther or nah?”

Seemingly, the film’s costume designer Ruth Carter heard, and the inclusion of Ikire Jones helped earn her an Oscar, making Carter the first black woman to win in that category.

Updated: March 7, 2019 06:36 PM

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