Anifa Mvuemba Defies All Expectations Through her Fashion Brand, Hanifa
Seven years ago, when Anifa Mvuemba’s 21st birthday was just around the corner, she decided to mark the milestone occasion by creating her own dress using scraps of fabric she stitched together. Little did she know then, that this would be the start of a new career, the very beginnings of her own fashion label, Hanifa. “After posting a photo of myself wearing the dress, my friends and Instagram followers started requesting their own custom garments. I had about 40 likes – which was a lot of engagement in those days,” Anifa laughs. “When I saw that I decided to take designing seriously. I already loved fashion, but this made me realize that people actually liked what I created. My mom saw that too and encouraged me to design for others. I used that momentum to launch my first collection in 2012,” she told Fashionomics Africa.
Anifa’s roots are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where both of her parents are from. Her cultural background plays a major role in her love for fashion and informs many of her designs. “I remember how my parents would go to seamstresses and tailors growing up, and when I became of age my aunt taught me to sew. What you wear is so ingrained into our culture that I can’t exactly pinpoint when or where I was influenced, but I know that fashion is sketched in the earliest memories I have of my family and the places we’ve lived too,” she explains. Her mother, in particular, has been one of Anifa’s biggest fashion inspirations. “There’s a natural, out-going elegance to my mom that compliments her bubbly personality. Growing up I admired everything about her style – from her gold jewellery, to jewel tones and accessories. She’s my first “It” girl. My first understanding of what it means to be fashionable. She’s my cover girl and she knows it too,” she laughs.
In establishing the Hanifa brand, Anifa has always followed a clear intention: to create clothing for Women without Limits. “I never want to create in a way that is expected of me or feel as though I can’t do something outside of what I’ve envisioned for myself or my brand. I genuinely believe we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I want all women to believe in themselves too. Honestly, I just do my own thing. There was a time, of course, when I just wanted to belong. I never felt like I was a part of the industry in the same way the people I looked up to were. But I found community among my customers and I always vowed to create for them. Our sizing, colours, styling and cuts will always reflect them. To this day I feel most seen when our customers feel seen.”
This approach to designing is reflected in Hanifa’s new collection, Pink Label Congo, which is Anifa’s way of honouring Congolese women and all African women by highlighting the glamour of our clothing styles. “I wanted to showcase African fashion in an innovative way by emphasizing the tailoring and cuts of our clothing rather than using the traditional prints. Although our prints are beautiful and rich in culture, I wanted to show the vastness of our impact on the fashion industry by honouring the structured looks originating from African seamstresses,” she explains. “Through Pink Label Congo, I also wanted people to understand that we can’t appreciate our technology without recognizing the poor conditions of some Colton mines in the Congo. In order to improve these conditions for miners and their families, we have to bring awareness to the issue in the first place and value the people who uncover these minerals more than we value unethically made devices. We’re currently working with an organization on making a donation to support this awareness in 2021.”
Hanifa’s approach to debuting the Pink Label Congo collection established itself as one of the most innovative ways of showcasing fashion, namely through a virtual fashion show that has been dubbed “ground breaking”, the “definition of innovation” and as “raising the bar”. “Prior to the pandemic I had been exploring new ways to present our collections. I had been experimenting with 3D modelling when sampling my designs and felt it could be interesting to turn those models into real-time sketches. When the stay at home order came about, the timing aligned with some ideas I already had in the works and we decided to use these ideas to innovate and inspire our customers with Pink Label Congo. I feel the pandemic has forced me to consider what is most important in life at any given time. Creatively, I feel I’m designing more intentionally than ever before and that is translating into our business as well.”
Hanifa is one of the most exciting fashion brands of the moment and is set to continue surprising its community and customers. “We’d love to launch new lifestyle focused collections this year, including those that may not be expected from us. I’d also love to work with and seek out more meaningful ways to send a message with each collection. Messages that support our community, especially Black women, who have supported us from the beginning.”
Stay up to date with all of Hanifa’s latest collections and projects by following this unique and innovative brand via Instagram.