The “Black Panther”-Inspired Lexus RX 500h “Vibe-Branium,” Designed by adidas SEED Students

An all-woman team unites the Marvel Cinematic Universe with automotive and footwear design

To celebrate the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Lexus partnered with adidas, Calty Design Research and 3D-printing company Carbon on the Lexus RX 500h “Vibe-Branium,” a custom RX F Sport designed by women students from adidas’ School of Experiential Education in Design (SEED). Over the course of four to five weeks, the students—who have never designed a vehicle before—collaboratively created a bold and nuanced Black Panther-inspired car, as well as an adidas performance line: the Wakanda Forever Collection.

Tasked with the challenge of creating a design that not only nods to the new Marvel movie but also unites the values of the luxury automaker and sportswear company, the students first had to find a through-line that married cars, footwear and the film. After researching materials, lighting and fabrication and virtually attending workshops from Calty, Lexus, adidas and Carbon creatives, the all-woman team found a unifying concept: innovation and empowerment. “Our tagline,” says Luwam Gezai, one of the students at SEED, “is empower—educate a woman, educate a nation.”

From there, the students created a mood board to see how to best realize their theme, divvying up the car by sections to each work on. Another student designer from the project, Deziah Green, tells us, “We could have went in any direction with this, but we wanted to create an overall feeling, and we did that through color and material. Seeing the presentation from Lexus and Calty—their brand values, their process, their mood boards—we wanted to evoke that same thing.” The car’s black and purple colors are a direct nod to the movie, while gold accents, traditional prints and striking patterns lend the car sophistication and an air of regality.

Everywhere the vehicle blends subtle and direct allusions to the film. On the exterior, a customized wrap is suffused with clean, modern lines, imagining a print that could have come from Wakanda. Inlayed across the hood is a diamond pattern that mirrors the claw necklace worn by the film’s hero. Inside, natural materials merge alongside the technological, including laser-cut wood, ballistic nylon and traditional quilting.

“We wanted to tie in natural elements from the film into the car, because a lot of the film is taking in nature, a lot of it is outdoors. The wood feature represents a tree and its roots and going back to the roots. That’s what we wanted to emphasize in the car by bringing in some of those natural elements. The artisan patterns you see are engraved with technology, so it’s merging technology and natural elements,” continues Green.

“Another thing that led us to that,” adds SEED designer Caleb Williams, “is seeing that theme in the first film of tradition versus the progression of technology. We translated that story when it came to materials.”

The steering wheel pad and front and rear headrests feature the innovative 3D-printed material that makes up the adidas 4DFWD mid-sole, a technology that uses five million lattice variations to evenly absorb pressure and return it as energy. 4DFWD, much like Wakanda’s energy-absorbing, fictional metal Vibranium, represents the brands’ and movie’s themes of progress and momentum. It also alludes to the brains behind technological innovation in the movie, the sister to Black Panther and Princess of Wakanda: Shuri.

As a car built around empowerment, and conceived by an all-women team, it makes sense that Shuri’s presence surrounds Vibe-Branium. “There was a scene where she took the Kimoyo Beads from T’Challa and he’s like, ‘There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re fine.’ She’s like, ‘There’s always room for improvement,’” says a student designer at SEED who worked on the project, Casmin Paul. It’s no coincidence that the sneakers Shuri wears in Wakanda Forever are also the 4DFWD.

In the custom car and sportswear collection, concept mirrors practice. Conceptually, the pair embodies the power and innovation of women, and through the realization of either, it does the very same. “Given that this is the first project we worked on, it really gives confidence to the designs that you’re working on. It’s knowing that you were given this project, you deserve to be here,” continues Williams. Providing young and often overlooked designers the opportunity and resources to showcase their work, Lexus and adidas SEED aptly honor the Black Panther films.

Images courtesy of Lexus and adidas

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