If Zamunda was a real nation, it would probably be Africa’s headquarter for fashion just like Paris or Milan. From the Zamunda Royals to the palace guards and the town’s people, every single character in this movie was a representation of cultural class and high fashion. I am watching the movie for the fourth time today and I notice the clothes and the beautiful costumes every single time.
Meet the Designer
Ruth Carter is the costume designer behind this movie. She has over 60 years of experience and worked with a team of other talented designers to bring these dapper fashions to life. And on the world stage once again.
Carter is the brain behind those beautiful clothes and the first black woman to win the Oscar for her Afrofuturistic Designs. A round of applause for her!!!
Have you seen the movie? What is it for you? For me, It’s the fashion, hilarious storyline and the entire people of Zamunda. But the storyline is another topic.
Let’s talk about the Outfits
I would describe it as high fashion and contrary to what most people think, the items of clothing are not entirely African. It is a combination of different cultures of the world even as far as India. For eg, this red and gold ball dress that was worn by the Rose Bearer.
Carter said she bought the dress off the rack from an Indian designer even before she started planning the costumes for the movie. It was lying there occupying space in her office and when she saw that role of a grand entrance in the movie, she knew she had the perfect dress for it already.
But it was meant to be representative of African fashion because Zamunda is an African nation or supposed to be. (the real set of the movie was in Atlanta).
That being said, here are the 10 Impressive ways the movie “Coming to America” put African’s fashion on the world’s parade.
Collaboration with South African Label, Maxhosa.
South African Designer, Laduma Ngxokolo’s Maxhosa knitwear label was spotted on King Akeem.
and the Prince’s love interest, Mirembe
and the other maids
Use of African Fabric popularly known as Ankara
Did you notice Mary’s attires especially the yellow and the blue ones? The blue one was the Queen’s dress she took and wore on her grand entrance with her son to meet the king’s family. They are made of Africa’s fabrics called Ankara. Down here in Nigeria, this particular yellow one is called “One thousand blocks”. Carter said she took the fabrics to India for embroidery and beading just to give it a different and more luxurious ethnic feel. She constructed the headgear at the scene to look like South African Izicolo hat style.
Mali”s Cultural Fabric, Bogolan in Zamunda
Zamunda’s royal priest was seen adorned in Mali’s cultural fabric. He wore this during the ceremonial circumcision. This fabric is called Bogolanfini or simply Bogolan. It is a mud cloth that is traditionally dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has more recently become a symbol of Malian cultural identity.
More Collaboration with Black Designers
Mary was again seen in a colourful African shawl on an off-shoulder Brocade Dress by Los Angelos based designer, Sergio Hudson.
Ankara For Zamunda’s Princesses.
The king’s last-child, Tinashe was spotted wearing an Ankara print dress. The fabric design is called “Electric bulb” here in Nigeria. It sure looks good on her. Did you know the second princess is Eddy Murphy’s biological daughter, Bella?
Use of Ancient Africa Money.
Cowrie shells were used for centuries as African’s currency before the invention of notes. Queen Lisa’s dress was seen adorned with cowries in a very beautiful sequence.
Ghanian’s Cultural Fabric was in play
Did you notice General Izzy’s Kente outfit? Love how he wore it. Typical of a Ghanian man with a European twist. Kente is a traditional Ghanian fabric. Made of handwoven cloth strips of silk and cotton. Before now, the fabric was worn by royalty ethnic groups only but in modern-day Ghana, the wearing of Kente cloth is for everyone especially for special occasions.
East Africa’s Fashion Was On Display
A lot of Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal fashion with a European twist were also seen in the movie. Lots of embroidery and patterns as seen on King Akeem and his “bastard son”Lavell.
Collaboration with African Costume Creators
Last but not least, Ruth Cater said did not create these costume was alone. She took inspiration and worked with other African designers like Palesa Mokubung of Mantsho, House of Deola, Ikire Jones and custom jewels from Khiry, TruFaceByGrace, Aphia Sakyi and Sewit Sium. Not just them, she worked with over 40 other independent designers to create these looks.
Did you like this? Click here to shop African prints like the ones worn in this movie.