Yesterday, Black-owned athleisure brand, Actively Black announced a new collaboration with Marvel in celebration of the highly-anticipated Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Actively Black is a global sportswear label disrupting the athletic fashion world with premium athleisure and sports apparel that celebrates Black style and culture. As part of the Marvel collaboration, the apparel brand released an inspired capsule collection, aptly titled Wakanda Forever, across three drops — the first edition was released yesterday on their website. The second and third collections will release on November 12th and 25th.
“The Black Panther franchise has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon and has served as a constant source of inspiration in developing Actively Black,” says Lanny Smith, founder of Actively Black. “We strive to recreate that same empowerment Black people felt after watching Black Panther for the first time — so the opportunity to work alongside Marvel to create this collection has been a dream come true.”
Actively Black was created to uplift and reinvest in Black communities globally, so it made sense for the brand to partner with Marvel to celebrate Black Panther’s cultural influence. “We hope consumers feel a sense of strength and pride for our community when wearing and interacting with the brand. Black Panther has had a profound and lasting impact on Black culture, and we are humbled to be a part of the film’s second chapter,” Smith says.
Marvel believes in Smith’s influence and positive impact on the Black community. “We’re excited to bring the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever capsule collection to life with Actively Black,” said Paul Gitter, Senior Vice President of Marvel Licensing. “Lanny Smith is a true trailblazer, and the impact that he’s made through the creation of Actively Black, and its philanthropic work in the Black community, is hugely admirable. Through Lanny’s innovative vision, this unique lifestyle collection reflects the creativity and authenticity of this partnership.”
The Wakanda Forever capsule collection features sleek athleisure styles with unisex designs modeled after Black Panther’s Vibranium suit. The line includes performance shirts, tights, hoodies, and joggers in black, purple, and gray, embellished with official Black Panther artwork, and sizes range from XS-4XL, honoring body diversity.
Tastemakers, influencers, and executives gathered last Sunday to celebrate the new collection at an exclusive collaboration release party. The fête, modeled after an African metropolis, had Black Panther-themed food and drinks, a fashion show of Actively Black’s latest line, and several performances. There, ESSENCE caught up with Smith to speak about the creation of the Wakanda Forever line and its inspiration.
Smith revealed to ESSENCE that the Marvel partnership idea was a blessing that came out of the sky. Originally, Actively Black was slated to partner with FUBU, and when Daymond John, CEO of FUBU, approached Lenny for ideas, the rest was history. “I showed him a deck with some mock-ups of what I envisioned as a potential collaboration between Black Panther and Actively Black because it’s my favorite movie,” he said.
John ended up loving his ideas and decided to pick up the phone in the middle of their meeting to call the head of licensing for Disney and Marvel. According to Smith, he told Disney executives, “I’m sitting here with a young man who has a brand that’s going to be bigger than FUBU. You need to see what he just showed me.”
Although it may seem like a quick launch to gear up for Black Panther’s sequel, Smith’s vision for this capsule collection began a year and a half ago. “To be honest, we had the deck done a year and a half ago. When I launched Actively Black, Black Panther was one of the inspirations behind me creating this brand, to begin with,” Smith told ESSENCE.
When Smith initially launched Actively Black, he had this concept called “Wakanda Athletics,” as he tried to imagine what his clothes would look like if worn in the fictional country Wakanda. For this collection, the Actively Black team mainly paid homage to Vibranium, given their brand tagline, “there’s greatness in our DNA.”
“When I think about Vibranium, it was a special thing that the Wakandans had that the rest of the world didn’t know of. That’s how I feel about us [Black people]; as a culture, we have this greatness in our DNA. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t know about it, it’s time for us to know and accept it and start acting in that greatness,” he shared.
Watch the full stream of Actively Black’s Los Angeles Marvel collaboration release party and exclusive interview with Lanny Smith above.