'Black Panther,' 'Star Is Born' Costume Designers Talk Homages and Influences

Black Panther Still 3 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Candidly Costumes panel moderated by THR's Booth Moore also features designers for 'Mary Queen of Scots,' 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' and 'Mary Poppins Returns.'

From the hand-painted looks of Mary Poppins Returns to Lady Gaga's pop star transformation in A Star Is Born, film costume designers discussed their favorite looks, tips for breaking into the industry and more during a panel discussion hosted by The Hollywood Reporter on Friday at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

"It would be nice if we got a little cut," three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell said during a discussion about commercial royalties. "We design costumes for the films, and then those costumes are used, and it would be nice if we got a little bit, wouldn’t it?"

More than 200 guests from the Costume Designers Guild and the Motion Picture Costumers Guild, as well as Beverly Center VIP shoppers and THR & Beverly Center VIP guests, attended the event, which included a postpanel dinner at Cal Mare.

Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born is more of a modern-day departure than an homage, said costume designer Erin Benach. But there are a couple of pieces inspired by Judy Garland's original turn as the story's diamond in the rough that fell short of the final cut.

"We were definitely paying homage to Judy Garland at times," Benach told The Hollywood Reporter. "There was a vintage T-shirt we created that has Wizard of Oz on it, and then at some point we had shot the red slippers. It never made it into the cut, but Jack went and got her the ruby red slippers, and we had played with that."

Booth Moore, THR's style and fashion news director, moderated Friday's Candidly Costumes panel celebrating costume designers in film, including Benach, Black Panther's Ruth E. Carter, The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns' Sandy Powell, The Girl in the Spider's Web's Carlos Rosario and Mary Queen of Scots' Alexandra Byrne. A cocktail reception preceded the discussion at the newly renovated Beverly Center's Grand Court.

Benach wasn't the only designer who had predecessors to consider. For Mary Poppins Returns, Powell was tasked with resurrecting Julie Andrews' beloved character for a new generation, played by a new actress, Emily Blunt. But as far as remaining faithful to the 1964 musical, Powell told Moore that Mary's look — especially in her arrival scene — "really was the closest that I got to the original."

Rosario also pulled inspiration from past looks, but not in the way one might expect. When crafting the fabric for the new Lisbeth Salander, played by Claire Foy instead of the original Rooney Mara, Rosario said during the panel that he and director Fede Alvarez aimed for a departure from the "much more contrived and serious" original. He was, however, influenced by another female film assassin for Foy's final motorcyclist look.

"It is based on the tracksuit that Uma Thurman wore in Kill Bill because Fede Alvarez, our director, wanted something for that last outfit that was going to be very dramatic," Rosario told THR on the carpet. "It became this graphic leather tracksuit version of the tracksuit that Uma Thurman wears."

Some of the other designers had more room to play, building the never-before-seen fictional world of Black Panther's Wakanda, for example. Ahead of the panel, Carter spoke with THR about how she created Wakandan style using Afro-punk and tribal references.

"It definitely reclaimed a lot of identity in [the Afro-punk] movement, and that was the thrilling part of it, too, so we definitely wanted to put that in," Carter said. "But we also wanted to put royalty and respect and honor and just elevate the images of African-Americans in a story that could be told — that was positive, had a positive message, talked about building bridges, not barriers,"  she said of designing Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, who "needed to not only be a superhero — he also needed to be an African king."

One of the threads to which Carter returned when considering how to convey the power of Wakandan culture is the kingdom's most coveted resource: vibranium, which she imagined would be woven into fabric of the clothing. "Not only does it mean strength, but it also means power, and it means being together as a culture, being together as a community, being together as a world force."