On November 16, Anifa Mvuemba, the visionary behind the incredible clothing line Hanifa, debuted her first in-person runway show in her hometown of Washington, D.C. The event, which took place at the National Portrait Gallery, showcased the designer’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection. Its title, “Dream,” was fitting. Attendees—consisting of fans, family, friends, celebrities, and fellow designers—were no doubt captivated as models sported the brand’s imaginative yet wearable looks.
In May 2020 (in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic), Mvuemba shook up the industry with her 3D fashion show. It went viral, and Hanifa has now become a household name. But the designer says the road hasn’t been easy. “To be honest, it’s been a challenge because I never felt seen by the fashion industry,” she says. “I know I’m talented, and I know I have a gift. The most important thing for me was to continue to perfect my craft, to keep working hard, and to allow my work to speak for itself. That’s how it’s been, that’s what we did, and that’s what has been happening for us and I’m grateful. I’m just grateful people see my work and they love my work, and I’m so happy to share that with them.”
For the past 10 years, the self-taught designer has been selling her clothing in her Baltimore boutique. Real Housewives of Potomac star Karen Huger, who attended the D.C. fashion show along with her cast members, often frequented the establishment. “Everyone doesn’t know it, but Hanifa dressed me for season four," says Huger. "The orange dress with the big sleeves? I was rocking Hanifa when she was in Baltimore. I knew the young sister had something special then, and I was right. I felt honored that she didn’t forget her roots. She’s home tonight in D.C., shining the light on D.C. and saying thank you from whence she’s come, and I’m just proud of her.”
Another way Mvuemba pays tribute to her roots is by honoring real bodies and every shape and size they come in. Her apparel offerings are size-inclusive. “I used to be afraid of wearing color, believe it or not, and now I make so many things with color," she says. "It was really important for me to show that because this is my first physical show and I wanted people to see what they’ve been seeing online all these years in person.” Some of the standouts from the show included a striking royal blue patent leather trench; a cutting-edge mustard yellow cutout knit turtleneck, which was paired with a strapless bustier and an asymmetrical skirt; and a stylish orange structured belted two-piece pants set.
This Friday, many of the selections from the 35-piece collection will be available for purchase at hanifa.co.
Below, check out some of the brand’s runway looks.