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When Black Panther released in 2018, it became an instant favorite of movie-goers and critics alike. From the writing and directing to the incredible acting performances—particularly by Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Letitia Wright—to the soundtrack, Marvel fans around the world were captivated by the world of Wakanda. While the film was enjoyed by people across the globe, of course the predominantly Black-acted and -led production had special significance to the Black and African American communities.
The fanfare continued in 2019, when Black Panther was nominated for seven Academy Awards, with several wins. Not only was Black Panther the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture, Ruth Carter became the first African American designer to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design.
Talks for a sequel started, and that’s where Eighth Generation came in…
The blankets Eighth Generation produced for Wakanda Forever can be seen on the characters standing behind the Merchant Tribe Elder played by Dorothy Steel
Louie Gong (Nooksack) is the founder of Eighth Generation, and was our CEO when the exciting (and secret!) phone call came in in 2020. “I picked up the phone on the weekend,” shares Louie. “And it was Stacy from Marvel. Of course, at the time she couldn't tell me she was from Marvel, she had to beat around the bush strategically. But I was able to deduce this was an important project she was calling about.”
Louie was actually on the phone with Stacy Caballero, a costume designer who was calling Eighth Generation for a special reason. “When I reached out to Louie Gong to talk about a potential partnership, he said he saw the blankets in Black Panther and wished Eighth Generation had been able to make those,” shares Stacy. “So hiring Eighth Generation to produce the blankets for Wakanda Forever was fate!”
That’s right: Eighth Generation produced the incredible blankets you see in Wakanda Forever, knitting them in our Seattle studio.
The blankets seen wrapped around the warriors in this movie still from Wakanda Forever were designed by Ruth Carter and produced by Eighth Generation
“Black Panther is one of my favorite movies—I had seen it three or four times by the time Stacy called,” remembers Louie. “I believe that the underlying philosophy of Eighth Generation—a Native owned business run by Native people serving Native artists—was the same as the idea behind Wakanda: that is that we should use our skills and our abilities to develop our own capacity.”
Eighth Generation invested in our own business and staff in 2020 when we began our Gold Label line of made-in-Seattle wool textiles. These blankets and scarves are made on state-of-the-art knitting machines in our Seattle studio, which is the first time a Native-owned business has produced Native-designed wool textiles on a commercial scale.
Gorgeous blue blankets Eighth Generation produced for designer Ruth Carter and Marvel—so exciting to see blankets we produced on the big screen
Louie modeling the longest of the blankets designed by Ruth Carter that Eighth Generation produced for Wakanda Forever
The knitting machines we used to create the blankets for Wakanda Forever are the same machines we use for our own Gold Label blankets and scarves. These machines are what set us apart: they allow us to use the state-of-the-art technology of a big brand while creating only products that match our small, values-based business model.
The process from dream to design to a Marvel-ous finished blanket is fascinating.
Our own Gold Label blankets and scarves also get a special gold label sewn on to them with the batch number and artist information. While Marvel is not selling the blankets we produced for Wakanda Forever, you can shop our Gold Label collection and support the technology and team that made them possible!
“When I saw Eighth Generation’s work on the big screen, my reaction was ‘Man, that is cool,’” says Louie. “But underlying that feeling is this sense of confidence that the decision to invest in our own capacity … was a good one. We had to believe in our art, we had to believe in our ability to sell that art, we had to believe in our ability to manufacture that art, we had to believe in our ability to learn new technologies: we did all of that. But most importantly we invested in our own team and our own capacity and the skills needed to be successful.”
Warehouse Manager Eric Alipio (Diné/Navajo) modeling a blanket after it came off the knitting machine
It was a huge honor to work with such an important and award-winning designer like Ruth, and the entire team at Marvel was wonderful to work with. “I’m super grateful to Marvel, to Ruth Carter, to our friend Stacey for giving us this opportunity to shine,” said Louie. On behalf of Louie, Kim, and the entire Eighth Generation team, thank you Marvel for letting us have
All images, screenshots, and sounds in this blog and on our Reel used with permission from Marvel.