Hanifa’s Groundbreaking Digital Collection Launch

Editor’s Note

Anifa Mvuemba is the designer behind the brand Hanifa, who launched her Pink Label Congo collection on 23rd May. We were blown away by the digital innovation that she used to introduce her work, which included 3d rendered models on a virtual runway. An incredible digital display of flowing fabrics.

Sophie Stamford wrote this blog all about the show, but when it became time to share the blog, things had changed, and our social media was dominated by the BLM Movement. Black Lives Matter is an incredibly important movement to us and we didn’t want to dilute peoples social feeds.

But now we’re ready to share, and can’t wait to tell you about this phenomenal designer. A talented creative who through fashion, has spoken out about injustice in Congo.

The coronavirus has brought a time of challenge and uncertainty, and all kinds of industry, everywhere, have been hugely affected. The world of fashion is no exception, with the current pandemic posing a great number of questions across a number of issues arising within the industry. Conversations are being had, louder than ever before about sustainability and waste in the fashion industry, the stifling of creativity due to the intense and ever-growing fashion calendar and the inaccessibility of both products and events to the wider audience of the fashion community.

As York Fashion Week, the discourse taking place under the current climate of the pandemic will surely affect us, especially given Gucci’s recent announcement to scrap the fashion calendar altogether and limit themselves to just two fashion seasons each year.

At the start of the UK’s lockdown, Conde Nast assembled a team of experts as they discussed the future of fashion shows. Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director of Balmain was particularly vocal about issues with the current fashion calendar, the challenges and stresses designers face as a consequence, and also of the ever-increasing movement towards virtual and online fashion shows. He explained that “virtuality gives access in a very democratic way”, as it provides the opportunity for everyone to be involved and to enjoy a part of the industry that has always been very exclusive and closed-off from the greater public. In fact, Balmain has addressed issues of exclusivity previously, having put on numerous public facing shows. Olivier highlighted how this can be taken further; with digital being in our world more than ever, it is time for fashion to create its own digital world.

Congolese fashion designer Anifa Mvuemba has done exactly that, revealing her brand Hanifa’s latest Pink Label Congo collection in an IGTV video.

Photo Credit: Andre, Dream In HD
Photo Credit: Andre, Dream In HD

Anifa is based in DC, designing “edgy, feminine, size-inclusive clothing that compliments the natural curves of a woman’s body”. Her work is dedicated to “creating space for young women, especially women of colour”. Being a ready-to-wear brand, Hanifa’s items are designed for everyone, and therefore it seemed only fitting that the first full collection was launched in a way that was accessible to everyone.

This first-ever live-streamed digital launch has been commended as “groundbreaking”, with many praising the initiative as the solution to restrictions caused by the pandemic for the foreseeable future, but also as a feasible option for designers beyond Covid-19.

The new Hanifa collection sought to interpret the spirit of African culture and disparities within it, particularly Congo. Featuring prints of picturesque landscapes and colours taken from the Congolese flag, Anifa explained that “the red symbolises the pain, the blue represents peace, and yellow stands for hope”. The collection pays homage to the issues within the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a montage of clips that showed these, raising awareness “on the abuse, extortion, and forced labour of illegal Coltan mining”. These symbolic references added to the overall impact of the digital show, as well as the strong sense of female power that was conveyed – despite no female models actually being used!

Instead, the virtual clothes were ‘worn’ by 3D renders of invisible bodies, showing a diverse range of models beyond those that we typically see on a runway. The ghost-like bodies, of different shapes and sizes, were meticulously adorned with pieces from the 6-part collection. The incredible attention to detail demonstrated as the clothes creased and moved perfectly with the natural movements of the body.

 

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One of the greatest concerns of many designers when considering digital shows is that some of the impacts of a live runway might be lost. Understandably, it is crucial that the same atmosphere, feeling, and effect on the audience is retained, albeit achieved in a different way. Mvuemba has said that her biggest challenge was making sure that the beauty displayed in real life shows was well represented on the screen, and safe to say, it is clear that she was able to do so.

Over 10,000 users tuned in to watch the show live, with many videos of the showcase circulating on social media after. In fact, after the show’s debut, the Hanifa Instagram account achieved a huge increase in followers, with viewers, fans and industry experts singing praises for the designer’s brilliant insight into the future of fashion.

It’s important to note that this show was not a reaction to Covid-19 though. Anifa had already conceived a way to ‘put on’ the digital runway and was planning to do so alongside the fashion calendar. However, with the pandemic causing life to almost entirely shift online, the Hanifa team decided to use this moment and brought the release forward.

The digital show was an incredible success and has since received a great amount of coverage. It is clear that by launching the new collection in such a way, not only has Anifa been the one to pave the way for the rest of the fashion world, she’s truly set the bar for what we want to feel when we experience digital fashion.

Written by Sophie Stamford.

Photo Credit: Andre, Dream In HD

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