In a world where we don’t know what the future holds for the fashion industry or fashion shows, Anifa Mvuemba is at the forefront of changing the game. On Friday, May 22, the Congolese designer of contemporary brand Hanifa debuted her latest collection on Instagram Live via 3D models.
The innovation behind her digital show is very telling of the times we’re in, but the Teen Vogue Generation Next alum actually tells us she had plans for a digital show long before the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 were in place. “The news came out about how serious things were and I started to feel a bit anxious about everything going on. I started feeling like maybe it would be insensitive to create and share a new collection online while people were facing very difficult realities,” Anifa tells Teen Vogue.
The designer has been using 3D mockups for a while to convey ideas to her team during sample-making, but says “designing content using 3D models and now an entire collection has been a complete game changer for me. It actually requires an even greater amount of attention-to-detail for the clothes to fit and look just right.” After meeting with her team, she decided to follow her purpose and go along with the show. “My decision to keep going could impact our customers for the better in ways I never imagined. That’s when I knew it was time,” Anifa said — and she was right.
On Friday, after technical difficulties on her main page @hanifaofficial, fans of the brand flocked to @hanifabridal and awaited the digital show. As the room filled up with “guests,” the countdown was on, and the second the show began, the bar was instantly raised. Inspired by her hometown in Congo, Anifa was intentional about shedding light on issues facing the Central African country with a short documentary at the start of the show. From mineral site conditions to the women and children who suffer as a result of these issues, Anifa’s mission was to educate before debuting any clothes. “Serving was a big part of who I am, and what I want to do,” she said in the short documentary.
Following our journey to Congo via Instagram Live, the fashion show commenced. 3D models “walked” eloquently down the screen with garments draped on their three dimensional curves. From a colorful backless ribbed dress representing the Congo flag colors, to a curve-hugging maxi dress completed with detailed pockets and side ruching, to the finale’s floor length silk gown emblazoned with grassy hills and rivers, every piece told a story. “I want these pieces to tell a story of meaning. I want them to remind us to be intentional about what we create. Not for clout or for Instagram likes, but for the sake of meaning what we say by storytelling through our designs.” Anifa says, adding that she wants to pay homage to all African seamstresses with her work, not just those from Congo.
The designer selected Instagram as her platform in order to create access and give everyone a front row seat to the detail and delicacy of the clothes. “We know that some people may never experience a fashion week or Hanifa showcase, so we wanted to show up for our audience where they show up for us on a daily basis. That’s when Instagram became the obvious choice.” Shortly after the show, screen recordings quickly made their way to Twitter and went viral.
In addition to creating a possible blueprint for the future of fashion, the show’s use of 3D models offers a different way for consumers to access clothing. “With a digital model you’re determining the measurements and what would cause the model to look most realistic,” Anifa says. “Without real women to draw inspiration from there could be no 3D models to emulate our beautiful skin tones, curves, and walking patterns. For me the biggest challenge is making sure that the beauty we display in real life is well represented on the screen.”
As the fashion industry continues to navigate life in the coming months and digital shows potentially become more common, Anifa is paving the way for true innovation and change. She challenges other young designers to “carve out time to discover their voice before sharing it with the world. Creating is fun and we all love to do it, but the real work is in identifying who you want to be in this industry and whether or not your collections speak to that.”
Unlike brands who use full-figured models on the runway, but don’t sell a variety of plus-sized clothing, Hanifa’s offerings truly reflect what is seen on the 3D models. As a curvy woman, it was my first time watching a show where I could picture myself in the clothes because it was evident that Anifa cared enough about the beauty of a real body to showcase her clothing.
The eight-piece capsule collection is available now on Hanifa.co with prices ranging from $115 to $499, and sizes starting at XS and extending to 2XL. Shop the collection here:
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Teen Vogue Generation Next Designer Anifa Mvuemba Is Dedicated to Creating Space for Young Black Women