In the final scene of Marvel’s epic superhero flick Black Panther, King T’Challa addresses the United Nations in a fitted black-on-black suit. Loosely draped over his left shoulder is a dynamic, burgundy print silk scarf.
And that maxi scarf — a sartorial homage to the beauty of black people — was designed by West Philadelphia’s Wale Oyéjidé, founder of Ikiré Jones.
“It’s definitely been amazing,” Oyéjidé, 37, told me about his red-capet-worthy Wakunda experience. “Certainly from a commercial standpoint, the only thing that could be better is if Beyoncé and Jay-Z gave me a call.”
Panther has been killing it at the box office for five weeks — it had raked in $1.2 billion worldwide as of press time — and Oyéjidé wouldn’t be specific about the number of scarves, which retail for $285, he’s sold but says he fields orders every day. And even with Ikiré Jones’ international sales, the show of Panther love has been the biggest and best thing to happen to Oyéjidé’s six-year-old fashion line so far.
About two years ago, when Black Panther was still in production, one of costume designer Ruth Carter’s assistants called Oyéjidé and asked him whether he wanted to have some of his work considered for the film’s wardrobe.
That was a no-brainer.
Oyéjidé sent several pieces from his Ikiré Jones collection, including the silk scarf he designed for the movie, which he called “From Wakanda, With Love.”
Oyéjidé’s scarves are among the hallmarks of his fashion line, which is known for bringing an African aesthetic to Westernized silhouettes. Scarves have been a part of the Ikiré Jones brand since Oyéjidé, a former attorney, started it in 2012. Each season, Oyéjidé designs about a half dozen prints in his West Philly studio and sends the designs to Como, Italy, where they are printed and manufactured. Oyéjidé releases about four such scarves for Ikiré Jjones each season. He also designs a complete menswear line, including full suits and blazers.
“For those who haven’t seen them, it would be like if Hermés met Africa,” Oyéjidé said.
Oyéjidé learned that “From Wakanda, With Love” made Black Panther’s final fashion cut around this time last year, when the trailer was released amid major hype.
He immediately unleashed a social media firestorm. During the film’s opening weekend, pieces from the Ikiré Jones collection found their way onto several Panther red-carpet premieres. In February, Oyéjidé was part of a collective that held a Black Panther-themed fashion show during New York Fashion Week.
Though grateful for the Panther publicity, Oyéjidé says he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. His ultimate goal for his brand is to show people of color — from all continents — in a positive light.
“[Ikiré Jones] is more than a brand,” he said. “It’s a vehicle for social inclusion and upliftment for people who haven’t been presented in a fair and nuanced light historically. It’s about building cultures.”é