The homepage of Hanifa.co. The clothing label was created by Congolese fashion designer, Anifa Mvuemba. SCREENSHOT OF HANIFA HOMEPAGE

Even without an audience, Congolese fashion designer Anifa Mvuemba successfully hosted one of the most captivating fashion shows to date. 

On Friday, May 22, Mvuemba showcased the latest collection of her clothing label, Hanifa, on Instagram Live. The collection, inspired by Mvuemba’s African heritage, was presented using a 3D model format and viewed by about 10,000 fans. As digital models strutted across the virtual runway, Mvuemba featured eight vibrant pieces from her new Pink Label Congo collection. 

The new collection featured tops, pants and dresses with unique, eye-catching patterns. They were displayed on invisible models that were meant to represent women of various shapes and sizes. In an interview with Vogue, the 29-year-old designer explained, “I really wanted to show a diverse range of models and do it a little different from what we typically see on the runway.”

In addition to highlighting curvy bodies that are not usually represented in the fashion world, Mvuemba has made it a point to use her work to pay homage to her Congolese roots. One of the dresses featured on the virtual runway last week was created as a tribute to her birthplace. The backless minidress displayed colors of the Congo flag – red, blue and yellow. The clothing designs in Mvuemba’s collection were intended to underscore the issues prevalent in Central Africa — from child labor to the dangers of cobalt mining. 

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Mvuemba spoke with CNN about the importance of bringing awareness to the mining problem in the Congo. “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. And I want this collection to support and benefit the families that are affected,” Mvuemba said.

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has undoubtedly affected the fashion show as large gatherings like photoshoots and traditional fashion shows have been postponed. The success of Mvuemba’s digital showcase indicates what spectators are describing as “the future of fashion.”  While Mvuemba is no stranger to the idea of digital fashion shows, the interruption to everyday life by COVID-19 provided the perfect time for the designer to reveal her ground-breaking and innovative work. 

The fashion industry, like most of the artistic world, is working to adapt to the new normal, and creators are forced to draw more inspiration from within themselves rather than the outside world. Mvuemba encourages up and coming designers to “carve out time to discover their voice before sharing it with the world. Creating is fun and we all love to do it, but the real work is in identifying who you want to be in this industry and whether or not your collections speak to that.”

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