Ruth Carter’s new clothing line at H&M inspired by 80s and 90s fashion

Ruth Carter, the Oscar-winning costume designer for Black Panther, is now partnering with H&M to roll out her first fashion collection. 

Ruth E. Carter
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: Ruth E. Carter attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards - Nominees Luncheon on February 01, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Ruth Carter, the Oscar-winning costume designer for Black Panther, is now partnering with H&M to roll out her first fashion collection.

The fun, 11-piece Ruth Carter x H&M collection harkens back to the late 1980s and early 1990s era and seems to draw inspiration from Do the Right Thing, Carter’s 1989 film with Spike Lee. The Ruthless collection, brimming with the red, black and green colors of the African liberation flag, will be available at and in select stores on Feb. 13.

Carter said she named her line Ruthless because that’s her on-set nickname, which she calls a “double entendre.”

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“I’ve always wanted to turn that around and say, ‘Yeah, that’s right!’ It’s kind of giving you a charge to be ruthless and just go for it!” Carter told The Hollywood Reporter.

Carter noted some color similarities in the outfits that Black Panther’s T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) wore in the movie’s casino scene to the symbolism she is hoping to achieve with the H&M collection. Still, Carter said she had to seriously consider whether she wanted to move in this direction because “fashion was not on my radar.”

“People think that I got into costume design because of fashion, but it was really the vivid stories that I was reading by poets and playwrights that made me want to get into storytelling through costume design,” Carter told The Hollywood Reporter. “Fashion was not on my radar. I was, rather, introduced to fashion through costume design. I started to understand how to use color and fashion and direct it to character.”

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Carter said developing the H&M fashion line made her worry that “all of a sudden” she might be considered a fashion designer. “I still wanted to be a costume designer, inserting myself into the fashion world, so I really had to think about how I wanted to communicate that.”

What evolved was an ode to African culture. Such clothes looked so good on items like football mannequins.

“I’ve always been drawn to the Afro future,” Carter said to THR. “It’s been called different things throughout the years; back in the ’90s it was ‘neo-soul’ and there was a lot of interest in colors of the liberation flag (red, black and green) and color-blocking. It’s made a comeback today, which is exciting, because I was always inspired by the messaging that the liberation colors represented — being independent and strong, knowing about the authenticity of your culture.”

“I am reintroducing the big, strong, saturated liberation colors and the idea of learning to trust my voice as an African American woman who went the distance creatively,” Carter added in the interview. “I feel very strongly that trusting my voice is what got me to the Dolby stage to win the Oscar.”

Carter is a 35-year costume design veteran who was also nominated for a costume design

Oscar for Spike Lee’s Malcom X and Stephen Spielberg’s Amistad (1997). Her most recent film work, Coming 2 America, can be seen in December.

Get a sneak peek of the collection below with a little help from social media personality Jay Versace: