A designer’s inaugural show is an important milestone in their career. It establishes their presence and helps set the tone for the trajectory on their career (see Lee McQueen’s senior thesis show). Well, let’s just say that designer Anifa Mvuemba, now has not one, but two iconic runway debuts under her belt. Fresh off last year’s impressive digital runway presentation, Pink Label Congo—one of the most innovative digital shows in the history of fashion—she’s done it yet again with last night’s Hanifa Fall/Winter 2021 Collection unvieling. An iconic venue, a string quartet fusing rnb and hip hop with classical instrumentation, “Hanifa” adhered to Philippe Starck ghost chairs, the ladies of The Real Housewives of Potomac flicking it up in the front row, contemporaries Kerby Jean-Raymond and newly cemented CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year recipient Theophilio in attendance cheering her on, and a room full of Black women all dressed in Hanifa—this show was quintessentially Hanifa!
This was Anifa, doing what she does best—making ALL women feel seen, beautiful and luxurious. No gimmicks, theatrics or fluff here, just honest ready-to-wear at it’s finest. Tailoring, knits, dresses, suiting, even a denim ballgown (which I never knew I needed until now)—with this collection, Hanifa stayed true to her vision, to the brands’ ethos of dressing women for everyday life and most importantly, stayed true to her loyal fan-base of customers, and that is something that is so beautiful in this industry. She could have easily veered off in another direction, played into trendy tropes and detoured completely from what the world over has come to love from the brand but instead she leaned further into the brands’ ethos—delivering a complete wardrobe for the everyday woman.
From the moment the opening look came out, a beautiful sapphire patent leather trench shown on a model with curves, it’s evident that we were in for a treat. We saw Anifa deliver her signature house codes—like ribbed-knitwear, color exploration and exaggerated flaring, right alongside presenting new offerings like Hanifa outerwear (seriously, that blue patent leather trench coat is truly stunning) and footwear. Anifa also debuted her new exploration into footwear with the beautiful “Zoe” boots—that everyone will be coveting soon—and the spiral “Zeta”. As with everything the brand does, the casting was thoughtful and intentional, showcasing the full scope of body frames. This is what real diversity and inclusion looks like. Looking out into the crowd, there were a ton of Black women, of all sizes, wearing a piece or a full look from Hanifa. This speaks to the organic relationship she has with her customers, as every-time the brand stocks, they sell out in minutes. I attribute this to how Anifa and her team have marketed and broken pass a facade often seen in the industry, to reach the customer directly and let them know they’re seen. She’s dressing women in general—regardless of body type, height etc, she’s honing in on super-serving factions of the design industry that are often overlooked. “There was sizing for every size and shape, allowing every woman to feel seen” says RHOP star Candiace Dillard. “I saw me—because as a petite woman, I can’t always find my size but with Hanifa—she makes sure the petite girls can find their sizes right alongside the curvy girls.”
Entitled “Dream”, the show marked the ten year anniversary of the brand and what better place to celebrate than Anifa’s old stomping grounds of Washington D.C.? Hanifa and her phenomenal team, took over the prestigious, Renaissance Revival style, National Portrait Gallery, filling it with beautiful topiary statues, an orchestra and a pink carpeted runway—pink has become a Hanifa signature. Using this space as a venue alone, was such a powerful message; A Black women designer taking up space at such a traditionally white institution, sending out her own works of art on a sea of models of color, with a room full of Black women decked out in Hanifa—this was history in the making. Anifa Mvuemba is a testament to hard work, perseverance and the power of divine manifestation. She established Hanifa in 2012 after dropping out of a fashion merchandising program, then putting it on reserve while working in high-end fashion retail, never losing sight of her love for fashion and end game. With “Dream”, she is physically putting to paper (or the runway rather) all the countless nights of unrest, self count and determination. This moment is truly full circle for her as she steps into her rightfully owed place within the industry. This is her moment, this is her time—and we’re just happy to be along for the ride.
See some of our favorite looks from the show, below:
Select pieces from the Hanifa “Dream” FW21 collection will be available beginning Friday, November 19th on hanifa.co.