The pandemic has left the fashion industry distressed. Powerhouses like J.Crew and Neiman Marcus are filing bankruptcy and summer menswear and couture shows have been “postponed.” Over the past few months, think pieces and deep dives have been discharged along with the question, “Where is the fashion industry going?” Well, DMV designer Anifa Mvuemba answered that question yesterday. It’s going Black.
Mvuemba is the founder of the luxury label Hanifa. Her clothes have been worn by Kelly Rowland, Ciara and Vanessa Simmons, to name a few. Since COVID-19, the designer has premiered 3D Models in replacement of real models to adjust to the period we’re in. In response to stay-at-home orders and social distancing, she came up with an innovative and safe way to showcase her pieces.
To take it up notch, Mvuemba presented her Pink Label Congo collection on Instagram Live Friday evening. After a few technical difficulties, the show kicked off on the @hanifabridal channel. “We create for women without limitations. I found that the 3D world gave me a place to innovate,” Mvuemba tells ESSENCE. “It’s important to believe in yourself, love what you do and let the passion inspire you.”
The show started with the designer speaking about her journey from Hanifa’s official launch in 2012. Mvuemba explained how the brand has given her validation: “Growing up I always felt like an outcast. I always felt like I wanted to be ‘in’ or be a part of something, and I find that I actually have a voice in Hanifa. That’s what fueled the passion.” The designer goes on to explain how Africa stood as an influence for her latest project. “This is the right time to do a collection inspired by Congo,” she says. “I’ve heard so many stories about the coltan and the mining issues.” The country has one of the world’s largest reserves of coltan, but the mining practices are known to be controversial. “I wanted this collection to support the families that were affected and the organizations that are doing the groundwork,” she concludes.
Considering African fashion is eclectic, Mvuemba took those traditions and incorporated bold prints and bright colors into her collection. Sending pieces down the runway like the Kinshasa Backless Mini Dress, which features the colors of the Congo flag, or the Mái Maxi Dress and Mini Skirt, which resemble the Congo skyline. “Every single color palette we used in this collection has meaning to it,” says Mvuemba. The collection also features the Pink Label Congo Colette T-Shirt, in partnership with the Responsible Sourcing Network. Twenty percent of this classic summer tee will support Congolese families against illegal colton mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mvuemba has continued the conversation that Black women can weather though any storm. While prominent designers have been scrambling to figure out ways to present their collections after COVID-19, Hanifa just set the bar. From the beginning of the pandemic, the designer has been testing digital activations. While many brands may follow suit, it’s important to note that a Black woman did it first.
The Pink Label Congo Collection is available for purchase here.