The Goal Is To Feel Strong, Says 'Black Panther' Jewelry Designer
Douriean Fletcher is Marvel Comics' first licensed jewelry maker. She's behind the powerful adornments worn by the women of Wakanda in Black Panther,which helped pull audiences into an imagined world where power and societal roles are based on expertise and ability. On Sunday, she's giving a talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts about the aesthetics of gender equity in Wakandan society.
Fletcher designed strength head-to-toe in the signature pieces she created for Black Panther —necklaces, earrings, cuffs, buckles, armor for shoulders and adornments for feet. "I was representing what African-inspired jewelry looks like ..." Fletcher says. "I just wanted to make sure that the pieces that I created were bold and that they were feminine — yet they definitely told a story of royalty and had connections to the spiritual aspect of African belief systems."
Fletcher says she's recently felt a shift in the messaging of the jewelry she designs. "As a new mother, I just need something to make me feel good sometimes, and make me feel powerful, and make me feel capable with all of the new things that I'm learning," she explains. "I want to make sure that I can give that to somebody else. Not just because it looks pretty or for aesthetic purposes."
The goal, she says, is for "people to feel really strong within themselves."
On one of her favorite pieces from Black Panther
It is the piece at the scene at the very end of the film, Black Panther,and then it also makes another appearance at the very end of Avengers which was exciting for me because I didn't know that it was going to be filmed. When I saw it in the theater, I screamed because I was so excited.
That piece: it was a gold-plated metal piecethat was put on a beautiful black dress, and what the vision was — because she is the queen mother, she is the feminine, and strong, and powerful voice and the voice of guidance and comfort for T'Challa, Black Panther — Ruth really wanted something that was very, very strong.
The metal piece is gold. And behind the gold there's this plate that looks like a tuning fork. And initially, when I made it, I had just finished making all of the armor pieces. The designs were quite streamlined and pretty simple. And when Ruth saw it she said, "You need to make this more Wakandan, you need to add more of your flavor." So then what I did was I added amethyst pieces to it, and my own aesthetic and my own wire work to give it more of what I would consider a spiritual narrative. ... It was definitely a piece of power for Angela Bassett's character.
On the shifting role of jewelry for women
My grandmother had given me a piece of jewelry and the story behind it was that her husband had given it to her for their anniversary. I'm very interested in asking people about their jewelry. I love to hear the stories. ...
I feel like people are being inspired by indigenous cultures, and using it to share who they are. ... I know the set designer for Black Panther, Hannah Beachler, who won the Oscar — she wore a face piece that I had created for her and she really wanted to send this message that she's highly feminine but very strong and bold at the same time. So, I definitely think that right now there's a shift and I think people are taking chances as well, breaking away from the traditional heart necklace or a dainty pair of hoops.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.