Costume designer Ruth Carter spoke at A&O Productions’ Spring Speaker Event at 3 p.m. about her artistic process, black memory, and what it takes to design a Marvel movie behind the scenes.
The event began with a screening of “Black Panther,” which won Carter the Oscar for Best Costume Design in 2018. Communications professor Miriam Petty hosted the event, and members of Stitch Fashion Magazine and other students asked about Carter’s methods and experience. .
Carter has worked on over 60 film and television projects. Her interest in costume design began at Hampton University when she began sketching characters for the school’s theater department.
“Most people don’t realize how many people it takes to make a Marvel movie,” Carter said. “We are a machine behind the camera.”
Noah Rabinovitch, speaker manager and communications junior at A&O, said A&O chose Carter to speak because the group wanted to feature a designer in the film.
Many NU students are interested in film and production, so A&O wanted to shine a light on what happens behind the camera, he said.
“(Carter) tells dynamic and interesting stories that shine a light on the black experience, and we want to have speakers and performers who share student identities on campus,” Rabinovitch said.
After designing for dance companies and theater productions in Los Angeles, Carter began his career in the film industry working on “School Daze” with Spike Lee in 1998. Recent works include “Selma”, “Dolemite is My Name” and “Coming 2 America. Carter said she has an interest in avant-garde fashion and likes to push boundaries with her designs.
Carter grew up with a single parent and eight siblings. So she said she draws inspiration from her upbringing and approaches costume design with her community in mind.
“If you’re part of an fringe community, you always think about dressing presentably,” Petty said. “A way that is respected.”
Every story Carter works on is also rooted in researching the world she builds. His costumes for “Black Panther,” for example, featured elements from 12 different African tribes that his design team researched.
Although the event was not co-sponsored with Stitch, the fashion magazine submitted questions to Carter beforehand. A&O members wanted to include organizations interested in the content of the event. Rabinovitch said Stitch’s response was engaging and A&O was happy to have them.
Some students asked Carter about her experience with impostor syndrome as a young professional. Carter reminded students to prioritize their own aesthetic vision when working on a project. She said if they started feeling like impostors, they might play tricks on each other.
Reflecting on his work with Marvel, Carter expressed interest in pursuing future dark memory projects. She is interested in telling stories about family and overcoming everyday dysfunctions.
“This world isn’t perfect,” Carter said. “I would like to sell the imperfect stories of life.”
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