Another day, another dollar. That phrase can be taken quite literally when it comes to superhero film “Black Panther.” For the fifth straight week, the Marvel movie topped the domestic box office. (To put that in perspective, the last film to hit the milestone was “Avatar” in 2009, and that film went on to gross over $2.7 billion worldwide.)
Since its debut, “Black Panther” continues to cruise up the box office charts — now standing at No. 14 in all-time sales. The movie, though, isn’t just a moneymaker. It has become a cultural breakthrough as the first time a major studio has green-lit a black superhero movie with an African-American director (Ryan Coogler) and a primarily black cast (Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett, to name a few.)
“‘Black Panther’ is a movie that doubles as a movement, or at least a moment that feels groundbreaking in the same way that last year’s runaway hit ‘Wonder Woman’ inspired millions of women,” FN’s sister publication Variety wrote in a recent cover story.
And everyone is looking to get on board — specifically the fashion and footwear industry. Brands are using the movement of “Black Panther” to tap new consumers and enter a new narrative.
“These issues are important. Brands have a responsibility to more than just their balance sheet. Consumers want the truth, they want authenticity, [and] we want to share their beliefs and passions. We want to be a part of the global conversation around important issues,” Jason Beckley, Clarks’ chief brand officer, explained to FN on the importance of such collaborations.
The heritage British-based brand teamed up with Marvel to release a special “Black Panther”-inspired capsule collection, debuting a spinoff of its iconic Clarks Originals’ Trigenic Evo style that paid homage to the king of the movie’s setting of Wakanda.
The men’s shoes sold out twice within a week in the Americas, according to the company.
Beckley said, “There is definitely demand for these types of partnerships, but in a way that is relatable for our current consumers and attractive to new consumers.”
Clarks also released a special-edition women’s shoe for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” last year to celebrate female empowerment, which was also successful.
“Both collaborations were a natural fit for Clarks, as they tapped into culturally relevant moments in an authentic way for the brand,” he added. “By engaging in the conversation surrounding ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Black Panther,’ we are reaching new audiences who don’t expect that from a nearly 200-year-old brand.”
More shoe labels have also caught on to the power of “Black Panther,” including Puma, which teamed up with retailer Bait for a limited run of sneakers inspired by the film, as did New Balance and the store Jimmy Jazz.
Marvel Studios also celebrated the movie’s release during New York Fashion Week. Designers such as Brother Vellies, Cushnie et Ochs, Chromat, Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo, LaQuan Smith, Sophie Theallet, Tome and Ikiré Jones were tapped to create one-of-a-kind pieces that interpreted different characters and themes from the film. Looks were auctioned off to benefit the Save the Children humanitarian organization.
For Brother Vellies designer Aurora James, teaming with Marvel for the “Black Panther” collaboration opened doors into a deeper conversation, which was an inspiration for her capsule. She wrote on Instagram, “I realized that anxiety and creative pressure is something we all go through but rarely address publicly. I decided to focus on 4 main anxieties I was having and channel each one into the building of a new shoe.”
And it’s not the first time megamovies have had an effect outside of the silver screen. Brands are continually reaching new consumers by creating product that evokes emotion.
“As properties emerge, you grab different demographics,” said Ross Tannenbaum, SVP of product development at BBC International, a longtime licensing partner with Marvel for kids’ shoes. “’Black Panther’ is a great example. The resonation that’s helping in the industry is unbelievable. It’s opening a whole new demographic in who our customer can become.”