Kinshasa Backless Mini Dress COURTESY OF HANIFA
May 25, 2020
With the coronavirus resulting in the cancelation of many scheduled fashion events across the world and news regarding a great volume of large retailers filing for bankruptcy, the industry has been hit hard. And while fashion icons, designers, and manufacturers, in many ways, have scurried to transform given the evolving news of the pandemic, Congolese fashion designer Anifa Mvemba of the contemporary brand Hanifa Official was ready for action.
After sharing news regarding the launch of her collection with 3-D models, Mvemba’s new line streamed live on Instagram, Friday, May 22nd, as a virtual runway that innovatively raised fashion standards both nationally and internationally. As percussion-based music illuminated each moment of the show, in a masterful way, it challenged the norms that have traditionally been set for show delivery to date.
And as her showcase of the Pink Label Congo collection ensued, featuring vibrantly colored pants and dresses, fashion spectators could all agree that it was a great example of the future of runway fashion.
Prepared to Launch
Mvemba’s innovative show is very fitting given society’s current climate, however, the designer held plans to launch her show long before COVID-19 led the masses to stay at home. When speaking to editors, the designer mentioned that: “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.” Mvemba’s team encouraged her to persist nonetheless and the designer realized her ability to positively impact her community by sharing her new line through an immersive media mode that she was determined to see to fruition.
Although having used 3-D designs mockups for quite some time for samples, Mvemba expressed that the level of attention-to-detail was magnified when she endeavored to execute on a virtual show for an entire collection. Mvemba had been working to create the computer-generated models over a seven month period.
An Ode to the African Congo’s Seamstresses
As the live stream launched, a count downloaded, and the room filled with viewers. And when the video began, the show’s designer, Mvemba, shared her inspiration for the line prior to 3-D models eloquently gracing the screen covered in illustrious garments.
For the line, each outfit served as a representation of the Congo, a country in central Africa that is home to the brand’s designer. For example, as a 3-D model image of a backless mini dress ran across the screen viewers learned that this dress was made to represent the Congolese flag colors. Additionally, as a floor-length maxi dress in green and blue walked across the screen, the visual of the dress was said to be symbolic of the Congo River where the Atlantic Ocean and land meet.
Mvemba drew attention to these features within her designs as she shared that for African seamstresses great meaning can be found in the details of each fashion creation. The three things that Mvemba highlights are important are the detail, color, and prints. As a designer, she was very intentional about these elements.
Mvemba’s Homage to the Congolese Mines
In addition to raising awareness around African seamstresses, the Hanifa brand designer found it important to start the show with a short documentary shedding light on the Congolese mines. In the opening documentary, Mvemba illustrated the experiences of underaged children working in the mines to dig for cobalt under very harsh conditions.
Over 60% of the world’s production of cobalt occurs in the mines of the Congo. The chemical element cobalt is used to produce smartphones, electric vehicles, and more. In her pursuit to shed light on these conditions, the designer endeavored for the fashion collection to support and benefit the families most affected by dire mining conditions.
Mvemba’s Hope for The Congo
In her replay post for viewers following the stream Mvemba highlighted:
“Riddled with a painful history, the beauty of Congo is often untapped and overlooked. The gentleness, beauty, history, poise, majesty, strength, power, and hope of the Congolese spirit inspired this collection. When creating each piece, I was reminded of the stories my mother told me of the women she knew back home in Congo. Women who suffered a great loss but still, mustered every ounce of strength every day to show up.
My hope is that this collection inspires all women to stand tall in their power and like the Democratic Republic of Congo, to use their history, whether pretty or painful—to redesign their future. My country, the land of Congo, is ripe with an abundance of natural resources—the greatest of which are its people—its women.”