Janelle Monae wanted her 'Antebellum' character's wardrobe to champion Black-owned brands, and the film's costume designer delivered
Janelle Monae wanted to shine a spotlight on Black designers with her character's outfits in her latest film, "Antebellum."
In the 2020 horror movie, Monae plays Veronica, a successful author who ends up in a Civil War-era plantation under mysterious circumstances. While she's on the plantation, where she's forced to go by the name Eden, she is treated horribly by the white owners but doesn't give up on trying to escape.
Before she started filming, Monae spoke to costume designer Mary Spheres about the importance of including clothes by Black designers in her character's wardrobe.
"It was super beautiful working with Mary," Monae said in a YouTube video shared with Insider. "I'll never forget her."
"She worked hard to figure out how to get local, Black-owned designers to contribute," Monae added, speaking of the costume designer. "She went out of her way to make sure that we were highlighting Black designers because this is a film speaking about Black life."
Costume designer Mary Zophres says Janelle Monae's 'Antebellum' character would want to promote Black designers with her wardrobe
Zophres told Insider she was excited to execute Monae's idea because she felt that her character would also want to champion the work of Black designers.
"I was determined because I really felt it was something Janelle's character would actively pursue and promote," she told Insider. "Veronica would help empower Black businesses."
While Monae wore a number of clothes by Black-owned brands in the movie, Zophres said she wasn't able to incorporate Black designers for head-to-toe looks as she originally wanted, because she couldn't find heels in Monae's size.
"Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, it is an underrepresented area," she said about the number of Black designers she found in her research for the film's wardrobe.
Still, Monae wore a number of outfits in the film from Black-owned fashion brands, including two custom jumpsuits from the Los Angeles-based brand FKSP.
The brand's founder, Folake Kuye Huntoon, who is from Nigeria and is now based in LA, has been working in the fashion industry for 20 years and manufactures all of her designs locally, according to FKSP's website. Kuye Huntoon wrote on Instagram that "Antebellum" is the first movie to feature her designs.
In one scene of the film, Monae wore a bright-orange jumpsuit from the designer.
And in a different scene, Monae wore a FKSP print jumpsuit with beaded and shell bracelets from another Nigerian brand, Minku.
The leather goods, jewelry, and clothing company was founded by Kunmi Otitoju in 2011. In 2014, Otitoju was listed on Forbes' 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa. Minku's products are handmade in Spain, sold in high-end stores in Nigeria, and on the company's website.
Minku wasn't the only Black-owned accessories brand Monae wore in the movie. She also wore a laptop carrier from ZAAF. The luxury brand, which was founded by Abai Schulze in 2014, specializes in handmade handbags and accessories.
In another scene, Monae wore jewelry from luxury accessories brand odAOMO, created by Dr. Sophia Aomo Omoro, with a green Christian Siriano dress.
The accessories brand, which Omoro started in 2014, uses sustainably sourced materials, according to its website, and sells items out of its flagship store in New Orleans and a second location in Nairobi, Kenya.
Monae wore designs from big names like Ozwald Boateng and Beyoncé in the film
To take the stage for a conference in the movie, Monae wore a beautiful custom maroon pantsuit from British-Ghanaian fashion designer Ozwald Boateng.
He made history in 2003 when he became the first Black head designer to take on the job of creative director for menswear at Givenchy, according to Vogue. Boateng made a name for himself in the mid-'90s thanks to his bright suits and bespoke tailoring but stopped doing fashion shows in 2013.
In 2019, Boateng came back on the scene with a runway show at the Apollo Theater in New York City to honor the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. The occasion marked the debut of his new work and first womenswear collection.
For another scene in the film, Zophres had Monae wear a teal 2-piece yoga outfit from Beyoncé's Ivy Park x Adidas line.
In 2014, Beyoncé co-founded the athleisure line with Sir Philip Green in partnership with Topshop. The first official launch was in 2016 but in 2018 Beyoncé's management company, Parkwood Entertaiment, bought the entire Ivy Park brand back after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against Green, according to the BBC.
In 2019, Beyoncé announced she was collaborating with Adidas for the relaunch of Ivy Park. Since partnering with Adidas, Ivy Park has had two releases of athleisure clothes— the most recent being in October, which sold out in less than a day.
Zophres' loves the colorful outfits Monae's character Veronica wears
The costume designer described the wardrobe in part of the film as being "super bright and positive" because they wanted to show the extreme difference between Veronica's life before and after she was living on the plantation.
"I'm hoping that the clothes help tell the story that her life before she was kidnapped was one of a very positive influence and a person that promoted being true to oneself," she said. "Veronica's purpose and what she's doing in her life is helping the race of her people. I wanted to reflect that and I hope her clothes do."
"Antebellum" is available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Redbox on Demand, and Google Play. On Tuesday, the film was released on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD, and Digital.
Representatives for FKSP, Minku, Boateng, and Ivy Park did not respond to Insider's request for comment.