We caught up with the film's specialty jeweler costumer to get all the details on what you saw in the movie — and what it really means
Black Panther continues to break records. At this point, it has grossed over $700 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest box office smashes ever. One person who is particularly thrilled: Douriean Fletcher, the L.A. jewelry designer behind some of the film’s most visually gripping pieces.
“I never knew or understood what kind of impact it would have on the world,” Fletcher tells PEOPLE over the phone after learning that millions of people have viewed the Marvel movie—and her pieces—thus far. “It’s a great feeling. I’m just really honored and thankful.”
Fletcher has been working toward this moment for her whole career, starting from when she launched her line eight years ago with the idea to create jewelry that captures femininity, cultural identity, spirituality and divine power. “My goal is for people to be bold and feel beautiful in what they wear,” she says of her approach to design. “Don’t be afraid to let people know who you are.”
Therefore, as the specialty jeweler costumer on the film, she wanted each design to “play a major role in being able to communicate who the nation of Wakanda is, their culture and their pride simply by the way they adorned themselves,” she says, noting that a lot of careful thought and planning went into the looks. Scroll down to discover all the cool details about the film’s jewelry, including the painstaking process behind some of the designs and how her pieces are hitting the red carpet—plus how you can channel the Black Panther look yourself.
1. The goal was for the costumes and jewelry to look Afro-futurisic.
Starting in July 2016, Fletcher worked with costume designer Ruth E. Carter to create what Carter called an “Afro-futuristic” look throughout the movie. “We talked a lot about vibranium, and how Wakanda is the wealthiest country in the world,” says Fletcher. “So we wanted to create something that showed that they were very ahead of their time, yet still held on to visual qualities that people are already aware of when they think of African culture.”
2. Each of the Dora Milaje’s neckpieces, belts and anklets were handmade — and the process was intense.
There are 11 primary Dora Milaje on screen throughout the movie, and most of their armor pieces were created by Fletcher. “I had to sketch each one out, saw each one out with a jeweler saw, hammer them, sodder them, heat them up, and drill all the holes,” explains Fletcher. “I worked long hours and long days for two weeks to produce 11 sets, which included the neckpieces, the panther buckles and shoe jewelry. It was hard to see in the movie, but they all had shoe jewelry. It was a really long process.”
The process itself placed intense demands on her body as well. “It was quite challenging to work with metal on a daily basis, so there were times where it was physically challenging,” she says. “But I had to keep reminding myself that my participation in this is bigger than myself.”
3. Okoye’s neckpiece had to be the most special — she’s the General, after all.
Let’s dig into those stunning neckpieces a little, shall we? To break it down, there were two pieces to each look—the neck rings themselves and the prong-and-cone piece that sat below it, the latter of which Fletcher created. And for those with sharp eyes, you’ll notice that Okoye’s (Danai Gurira’s) was the only gold one, while the rest of the Dora Milaje’s looks were silver.
Fletcher says the storyline dictated this metal-plating difference. “Danai is the head of the Dora Milaje as the General, so they wanted to separate her from the rest of the group,” explains the jewelry designer. “Plus, gold seemed like a dominant image or royalty, value and luxury.”
4. Take a closer look at the Dora’s belt buckles — they’re panthers.
Did you notice the Dora’s supercool belt buckles? Neither did we at first. But upon closer inspection, these medallions are actually all hand-carved panthers, done by Fletcher herself. Because they’re hand-created, each one is slightly different, though they’re all about five-inches long and carved from metal. “It took me a long time, but I sawed them all out!” she says.
For a similar look, Fletcher designed a pin for her licensed Black Panther x Douriean collection, which is available for $72 at douriean.com.
5. One of the biggest pieces created did not get screen time.
The posters created for the film are as much a part of the movie’s message as the film itself, which is why Fletcher created one of her biggest adornments for Angela Bassett’s poster. The metal piece that goes around the star’s neck was done by Fletcher, in collaboration with the designer of the dress. “It was challenging because we actually merged jewelry with fashion,” she says. “But it was phenomenal to see it come together.”
6. Okoye’s necklace was actually three necklaces put together.
When Okoye (Gurira) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) wore their striking black looks, they also wore stacked gold and silver chokers. Not only was the color choice a conscious one—gold for Okoye, the general, and silver for Ayo, a Dora, which matched their armor—but the pieces themselves were from Fletcher’s eponymous jewelry collection. “It’s two or three necklaces stacked up on each other and combined,” says the designer. As for Nakia’s (Lupita Nyong’o’s) look? It’s from the Douriean brand, too—which means superfans can score it on douriean.com.
7. Pieces from the movie translated to the red carpet.
Black Panther stars Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett have worn Douriean pieces both in the film and on the red carpet, much to the delight of the designer (shown above with Nyong’o in a Douriean necklace). “They are women that I’ve always wanted to create for and adorn—and I’ve been writing about them in my journal for the past four or five years!” she says excitedly. “I want to create for visionaries and women who are really unapologetically being themselves and creating change in the world, and that’s who they are—strong, intelligent and beautiful. It’s an honor to see them in my work.”
8. Now you can get the Black Panther look yourself.
Fletcher partnered with Marvel and Disney to launch her own line of licensed products “for the fans,” says the designer. “I wanted to make a line that was really simple and of quality that someone could take as a reminder of the feelings they experienced in the movie,” she says. “My intension is always to create something so people can be reminded of who they are, the excellence that they carry with them and how beautiful they truly are.” Check out these pieces and more on douriean.com.
9. And, if you feel as powerful as T’Challa, you can get his look, too.
While Fletcher did not create T’Challa’s claw necklace for the film, she did interpret it in her own way for the licensed collection. The $453 necklace hangs on a 20-inch chain and features a two-inch claw surrounded by six one-inch claws. “Anyone puts on something they really love, they feel good about themselves and they carry that into the world,” she says. “People can tell, they can feel it. So be bold.”