costume designer Ruth E. Carter
Arts & Entertainment Lifestyle

Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Speaks at Oakland University

April 5, 2019

The Academy-Award winning costume designer of “Black Panther” visited Oakland University, where she shared insights on her career and costumes.

By Hannah Owen

Photography by Alyssa Lopatin

Oscar winner Ruth E. Carter stopped at Oakland University this week to share lessons learned in the costume design industry with students and Metro Detroiters.

The costume designer spoke to hundreds in the audience about her career and experience creating costumes for Ryan Coogler’s Academy-Award winning 2018 film, “Black Panther,” at OU on Wednesday.

costume designer Ruth E. Carter

Carter, 58, received Oscar nominations for her work on Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad.” She became the first African-American woman to receive an Oscar for Best Costume Design in 2019 for her work on “Black Panther.”

During the talk, Carter said it wasn’t so much a love of fashion that led her to become a costume designer as it was a love of playwrights. She named Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin as her inspirations. “Those are the people that ignited that fire in me to create something,” Carter said.

Ruth E. Carter

She said she has a passion for researching black history and shared her thought process while designing the superhero costumes for “Black Panther.” She wanted the people of Wakanda, the fictional African country in which much of “Black Panther” take place, to dress traditionally, but with a modernized twist, she said. The style is known as “Afrofuturism.”

“They honor their tradition, but they’re still moving forward,” Carter said. To accomplish this, Carter said she and her team studied multiple groups in Africa, including the Maasai tribe and the Tuareg people.  

costume designer Ruth E. Carter

Destinee Rule, a 21-year-old political science major and OU student body president, appreciated Carter’s visit. “I thought it was beautiful,” Rule says. “I was really happy to see a black woman come and talk at a huge event like this at OU.”

Toward the end, Carter spoke about dealing with adversity and how she rises through it. “I like to ignore people,” she says. “When someone says something to me that I feel is coming from a dark place, I just keep on going. I’m going to meet you where you think I can’t rise up to, and I’m going to rise past that.”

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