Fletcher, a Los Angeles-based jewelry designer and
special jewelry costumer, created the jewelry and
armor for Marvel's Black Panther movie.
creating the world of Wakanda, the fictional African
country that’s home to T’Challa, Shuri and the other
characters in Marvel Studios’ new "Black
Panther" movie, much care was given to special
effects, landscapes and spaceships. Even the seemingly
small details of the armament worn by the Dora Milaje,
the king’s guards led by Danai Gurira’s character
Okoye, and the accessories worn by Queen Ramonda (Angela
Bassett) and other members of the royal court required
the big-budget production to turn to someone innovative.
is where Douriean Fletcher, the jewelry designer for
"Black Panther," was able to thrive. Fletcher
had been making jewelry for less than 10 years when she
met longtime Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth E.
Carter at a jewelry show in New Orleans. Weeks later the
two crossed paths again while Carter was working on the
2016 adaptation of "Roots" and Fletcher was an
extra getting a costume fitting.
first, I didn’t even recognize her," Carter said
recently. "But when I did, I told her to take off
her costume and get to work creating pieces on my
Carter was later hired to work on "Black
Panther," she didn’t hesitate in bringing
liked how committed she was towards her craft,"
Carter said. "I thought her style — this sort of
handmade, seminal style — fit into the African
diaspora and ultimately what I considered to be the
artistic direction of the costumes. But mostly, I liked
her personality. We laughed a lot."
Fletcher, personality played a part in her on-set work.
Although she was shown images of what the production
wanted her to create, it took her a while to filter
those ideas through her own aesthetic and to choose
which materials and metals to use for the designs. She
wasn’t hired to create only jewelry, she also made
integral sections of some of the futuristic,
African-inspired costumes and armament the characters
showed me what kinds of things Wakanda reflected to her,
what it meant to her," Fletcher said recently.
"So I was able to go off and do some things and
bring them back to her. It was just a good match."
of the major costuming feats Fletcher assisted with was
in helping to create the look of the Dora Milaje. The
colorful costuming of the women warriors practically
jumps off the screen, and although there were
specifications in terms of the armored adornments she
was asked to make, Fletcher was still able to bring her
own flair to it.
feel like (with) my style … there’s been this type
of Afro-chic or Afro-couture (labeling)," Fletcher
said. "Or maybe even a primal chic or primal
couture. In the (‘Black Panther’) poster of Okoye
you can see — I don’t know if you’ll notice
because the average person won’t look — but you can
see the hammer marks on her armor. I like it to look
imperfect, to look homemade, like someone took their
hands and made it. You use gold or silver so that it has
that fine-art aesthetic, but it still looks like someone
made it from their heart and is based off of some kind
of ancestral DNA. I just call it art."
of the main characters in "Black Panther" are
royalty — not just Bassett’s Queen Ramonda and
Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, but the inventive
Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) — so what they wear in
the film could be considered haute couture in Wakanda.
Kings, princesses and queens communicate status with
what they wear, and Fletcher was also keenly aware of
me, couture for Wakanda would be anything that Shuri or
Ramonda would wear," Fletcher said. "Shuri has
a very upscale, contemporary look to her style. She’d
be more couture avant-garde. Geometrical. … Kind of
like Lady Gaga a few years ago.
like the (look) that’s on the poster, is very couture
and regal — a gold piece that is adorned by a lot of
crystals," Fletcher continued. "I tried to
make it look like (vibranium, the fictional metal that
powers Wakanda). The intention was to show something raw
— mixing jewelry with fine art."
on "Black Panther" was the culmination of a
dream, one Fletcher said she had unknowingly prepared
for when she began creating jewelry.
2008, I studied in Durban, South Africa, for a semester
before I got into jewelry," she said. "The
thing that got me into jewelry was seeing the Zulu
people. I stayed in Durban, and it’s predominantly
Zulu, so I was really intrigued by the functionality of
the jewelry. Everything they put on means something.
made me realize, ‘Oh, these things aren’t just
noncommunicative tools,’ " Fletcher said.
"You can tell someone who you are without having to
was given the license to produce "Black
Panther" lines of jewelry, and she said she feels a
responsibility to create pieces that will be universally
loved and will probably have more meaning to some fans,
including African Americans. The line is available on
Fletcher’s website, www.douriean.com, with more to be
really want to do something for the ‘Black Panther’
fans. After the first trailer came out (last year), I
got obsessed with watching reactions and YouTube
clips," Fletcher said. "I didn’t realize how
many men of color, specifically African American men,
had been waiting for something like this to happen. I
got really emotional watching them. I saw a lot of black
jewelry with comic-book culture might not appear to be a
profitable undertaking despite the clamoring for a
different type of action film and the glowing reviews
"Black Panther" has garnered. However,
Fletcher’s study of jewelry, YouTube videos and Black
Panther’s comic-book roots has helped her shape what
she believes consumers want.
did want to also create things for people who aren’t
avid fans but can still appreciate the idea and the
culture of Wakanda," Fletcher said. "There’s
a crossover between my aesthetics and Wakandan
years before "Black Panther," Fletcher posted
on her Facebook page a promise that came true: "One
day you will be wearing my earrings," she wrote
under a photo of Bassett.
set with Bassett, Fletcher said, "I put some
jewelry on her during a fitting for the movie and I had
to step out because I started crying." Bassett even
wore some of Fletcher’s jewelry to the "Black
Panther" premiere in Los Angeles last month.
forward, Fletcher has plans for other "Black
Panther" jewelry inspired by the Dora Milaje and
the film’s villain Erik Killmonger, played by Michael
B. Jordan. Fletcher has also secured the jewelry rights
to the upcoming Marvel films "Avengers: Infinity
War" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp."