Anifa Mvuemba, founder of fashion label Hanifa, was looking forward to holding her first runway show at New York Fashion Week this year. But when the coronavirus torpedoed those plans, she came up with a new way to unveil her latest designs to the world.
In May, she held a virtual fashion show, streamed over Instagram Live, in which each garment appeared in 3D against a black backdrop, as if worn by invisible models strutting across a catwalk, the garment hugging every curve. Tens of thousands of Hanifa’s quarter of a million followers tuned in.
The high-tech show was just the most recent manifestation of Mvuemba’s push to chart her own path in the fashion industry. She didn’t attend fashion school or apprentice for an established label, and she doesn’t spend much of her time networking with industry insiders. Instead, she’s leveraged technology and social media to build a thriving direct-to-consumer business that generated $1 million in revenue last year and has won over the likes of Lizzo, Kelly Rowland, and Kylie Jenner.
The 29-year-old Mvuemba, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was a toddler, was inspired by her homeland when she designed her current line, called Pink Label Congo. One backless mini dress is done in blue, yellow, and red—the colors of the Congo flag. A denim jumpsuit contains ruching and ruffling details that are commonly used by Congolese seamstresses. And the show’s stunning finale is a floor-length, asymmetrical silk dress that portrays the Congo River, blue skies, and rolling hills covered in grass. Like all of Mvuemba’s designs, these come in size 0 to 20, and are priced between $50 and $499. “I have black women in mind when I design,” she explains. “I create silhouettes that work for our bodies and complexions.”