One of the most highly anticipated films of the year is without a doubt Marvel Studios’ Black Panther.
Alongside the obvious excitement for the storyline and star-studded cast, fans are equally excited about the film’s fictional, fashionable, African nation of Wakanda. Extraordinaire Ruth E. Carter was the costume designer for the film. Carter brought aboard jewelry designer and artist Douriean Fletcher to help create the unique style and looks of Wakanda. Disney and Marvel hosted their Welcome to Wakanda event during New York Fashion Week. The event featured one of a kind looks and pieces, inspired by the film, from 10 designers. Fletcher was amongst the designers and explained, “Marvel reached out and communicated that since I’ve been on the movie, and I’m an officially licensed jeweler for Marvel, it was fitting for me to be part of this project“.
Fletcher created 7 stunning pieces for the capsule collection. This was my first time being introduced to Fletcher and her work. With such uniquely beautiful, well crafted, quality designs I wondered why I had never heard of her before. “I’m an artist before anything else. I’ve been creating for eight years but you haven’t heard of me because I’ve been doing the artist journey. I’ve done art markets. I’ve sold on the street in New Orleans. That was the path I took from there, to get here”, Fletcher explained.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with her one on one. See more from my interview with this creative beauty below.
Tell us about this specific collection for Disney and Marvel’s Black Panther.
Douriean Fletcher: This collection is seven golden pieces created to reflect the energy and the vibe of the Wakandan woman. Working on the movie, I saw the variations of different attitudes and characteristics of the Ramonda, the queen, then Shuri the sister, and the vibe of the average Wakanda woman. I wanted to encapsulate that into the collection. Something that’s regal, some of the pieces are ready to wear, and some are more of a statement piece. I wanted to reflect boldness and create something that communicates who a person or woman is once they walk into the room. I wanted it to be an attention grabber.
What are some of your armor pieces, that you wear for protection, strength, and power?
Douriean Fletcher: I love that question because I actually have those. It’s very important to have and I have two. It’s either a pair of earrings or a big necklace. All my earrings are unique, even if it’s a pair of hoops. It has my aesthetic and little details that makes it unique. On a day where I’m just wearing jeans and a T-shirt, that thing is going to elevate the way I feel about myself, my energy, how I feel and how I’m perceived by others. A neck piece, does the same thing. Especially because most of my necklaces have crystals in them. So for me, that’s that piece that protects me from things, and lets people know who I am, and how to approach me.
Please tell us about your work on the actual film.
Douriean Fletcher: I was the actual specialty jewelry for the movie, so all of armor that you see, I made those by hand.
How did you come to be apart of the film?
Douriean Fletcher: You really want that story?
Yes! I want that story.
Douriean Fletcher: I’ll make it short. I created a few pieces for Ruth Carter for Roots. She did the remake of Roots a few years ago, and she saw my innovation, my creativity, and then my work ethic. I could create things quickly. One day I was having all these dreams of these dresses that I wanted to create, and they were like cowry shells and abstract wire and feathers, and I told her about it. I said, “Look, I’ve been having these dreams about these dresses, and I really want to make them. I’m tired of doing ready to wear simple, simple things.”
She said, “Well, I’m being considered for a movie. If I get it, you can do the jewelry for it.” At the time, I was in New Orleans. She said, “You’ll have to move to L.A.”
I said, “Okay. I’ll move.” And I did, and it just so happened to be Panther. I created the armor. That Ramonda (character played by Angela Bassett) piece that’s on the poster, with all the gold, I collaborated with a tailor, and we created that look through Ruth.
You had to move, packed up and got going. How has that experience changed you, personally, and career-wise?
Douriean Fletcher: I feel like my journey has been having to pick up and go. If there’s an opportunity and I have a desire to do it, when that door opens, I have to just let go of whatever I was doing and jump for it. It’s definitely changed me. Coming from selling on the street, taking risks, doing art shows, galleries, and festivals. Being aware that now, potentially, I’m going to be put in the public eye because of my work. It’s changed me a lot. It’s an honor to be in this position. It’s an honor that Ruth saw a talent in me. She is a legend in the industry for over 30 years. It’s an honor that she saw something in me to give me the responsibility to execute what she needed for the movie. It’s changed the way I’ve had to communicate with people. It’s changed my life. Everything about my life, how I see myself, how other people perceive me, it’s just changed everything. I’m really thankful.
Can you tell us a little bit about actually, physically manufacturing the jewelry, and about the materials you used?
Douriean Fletcher: For the movie, I handcrafted all the armor. The poster where Okoye (character played by Danai Gurira), has the armor on, I can see the hammer marks that I made. When I first saw that image, it made me cry, because it was a lot of hard work, making 11 pairs of armor. Having to do all the soldering. A lot of it was gold plated materials. Most of my work is 18 karat gold plated material. It was all handcrafted and I had some assistance from some of the team.
Did you know when working on the movie, that this capsule project was going to happen? How long did you have to make those 7 additional pieces?
Douriean Fletcher: No I didn’t know. I had maybe a month and a half. I took a few components from my own personal work, since that’s what Marvel and Ruth liked about me, my own aesthetic. I pulled a few things and actually put in some African aesthetic as well.
The event was sponsored by Lexus, Lancôme and benefitted Save The Children.
You can follow Dourien Fletcher on social media.
Be sure to see Marvel Studios’ Black Panther in Theaters now.