A designer’s only craving is to watch their clothing line sashaying the ramp-walk but with the pandemic restricting anything and everything, one might just eagerly wait for the moment while a rare-few just casually conquer the history of fashion.
Can a digital fashion-show ever match up to the thrills of a LIVE one? It can, if you think and act like designer, Anifa Mvuemba.
Her 3-D fashion show looked frightening, graceful and by far the most brilliant display of clothes. She altered people’s imagination of a model with no physical form.
Anifa, the founder of ‘Hanifa‘ debuted with her collection, ‘Pink Label Congo’ and transformed them into a 3-D image, which then had to be fitted into the body of an avatar. “If the garment wasn’t perfectly tailored to the avatar, it would slide off while in motion. It was incredibly painstaking”, said Anifa to Fast Company.
It was easier said than done, after all on the verge of making history, the path isn’t tranquil.
Anifa’s fascination with 3-D animation goes way before the pandemic took over. She was intrigued by the animation that appeared in movies and kept wondering if animation and fashion could meet. Technology has played a pivotal role in Anifa’s fashion growth since she launched her brand in 2012. Her fascination to technology comes mostly from its necessity.
The origin of the brand, ‘Hanifa’ dates back to Anifa’s childhood. Hailing from a typical family that wished to secure a lucrative career for their kids either in medicine or law, Anifa’s parents weren’t pleased with the idea of fashion. She went to Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she ended up taking fashion classes. Using cloth purchased from craft stores like Jo-Ann fabrics, she learnt how to sew form her aunt.
Once when she didn’t have enough cash to purchase a party dress, she designed one on her own. Her friends were drooling over this marvellous creation and asked her to do the same for them. This is how ‘Hanifa’ was born.
“My father gave us all Arabic names,” she said to the New York Times. “Anifa is pronounced Hanifa, which means ‘True believer.’ And Anifa lives up to the meaning with pride and elegance.
A self-taught Congolese designer based in Maryland had planned a conventional runway show for New York Fashion week in September.
“Then Covid-19 happened. Everyone was home, on their phones. I thought, ‘We gotta do this now’ and it’s how we were able to keep going.”
While people were confide to their homes, Anifa made use of this online surge to host a virtual fashion show, putting her XXXS to 3X on the fashion globe, aesthetically and technologically. Her show didn’t blatantly start off with showing her collection but preceded by featuring a mini-documentary that depicted the exploitation of child labourers in the mineral-rich Congolese mining industry.
Her collection was never just about fabric but wholeheartedly inspired by those many mini-mine stories that needed a platform to cherish. In a talk with The Atlanta Voice, Anifa stated, “Growing up, I heard so many stories about the cobalt and mining issues in Congo…a lot of times, there are children at these mines, a lot of them are losing their lives and a lot of families are affected. “I really wanted to shed light on their conditions.”
Her onscreen avatar, Imani flowing like the river stream, curvy and iconic flaunted through a black box theatre wearing a backless mini-dress called, Kinshasa (named after the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo). A plissé pleated trapeze, reminiscent of what Diana Ross boasted in the 1975 film, ‘Mahogany’.
Her May 2020 digital figure was not for the sake of feeling nostalgic but to make a difference for the core of Black Lives Matter.
“3-D isn’t anything I created, but the process and presentation is unique,” said Anifa. “For Black people globally, it was a hard week. You wake up, you feel empowered, you see the unity, then you see the news: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, then you’re angry, upset and want to cry.”
In 2004, one of Anifa’s brothers was stabbed to death at 17 by a younger boy. Post which, a family friend invited her family to live abroad a year in Dubai. Her father worked for the United Airlines and they often visited Dubai. This is where it all started, she began sourcing material for the dresses she’d sew and the rest is history.
Although only five fresh looks featured in her digital show, it was just enough to steal a million hearts. A 10-minute live stream lead to an increase in the brand’s production run with more than 500 units per garment sale. Every viewer watching through the smartphone was attracted to the curvaceous and corseted fabric that glowed like the sparkly waves of the Congolese rivers.
Presently, Anifa is all set to launch a line of size-inclusive swimwear and shape wear pertaining to Black women. Not just a swimwear, the ideal bridal collection is soon to make its grand release in the shop’s showroom. Anifa’s loyal customers will get to embrace this once she re-opens the shop in its original location, in Kensington MD after the pandmeic ceases.
‘Hanifa’, a brand that holds on to the sentiments of its ladies is not hoping to succumb to the invisible models for long. “I’ll never exclusively use technology to replace people. I like working with real models too much,” said Anifa.
Her motive to empower her fans was successful without a physical form and the purity of the clothes but she believes that the feeling is complete only when a model walks with their style and attitude that validates the sole existence of the clothes.
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