Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba staged one of the most groundbreaking runway shows last Spring. Picture it: curve-hugging dresses, waist-cinching tops, and floor-sweeping pants sashaying down an invisible catwalk — but make it 3D. Mvuemba’s futuristic and captivating showcase of the Pink Label Congo collection for her Hanifa brand aired on Instagram and put her on the fashion industry’s radar.
Since, Mvuemba’s stunning, sophisticated designs have been worn by stars like Zendaya and Beyoncé, and on fashion magazine covers, including InStyle. Though she hasn’t quite caught up with all the attention she’s received from her first big moment in the fashion spotlight, she’s vigorously working to outdo herself.
“There are still so many things lingering from last year,” she says. “My team and I are just starting to breathe again. I’m always challenging myself to elevate my brand and to be a step ahead.”
AfroTech caught up with Mvuemba to discuss tech in fashion, advice for emerging designers, and why she looks up to Pyer Moss.
AfroTech: How do you stay inspired, especially during this time when so much is going on in the world and creative inspiration is somewhat lacking?
Anifa Mvuemba: It’s hard because I used to travel a lot. We transitioned our office into a creative space, so lately I’ve been spending more time there, shooting pieces, getting into a zone, looking at magazines and books for inspiration to stay in the state of being creative. And then, I also sketch on my iPad and go with the flow.
AfroTech: Your virtual 3D show was a great way to utilize the latest trends in tech. What other ways do you incorporate tech into your fashion brand?
Anifa Mvuemba: I started to teach myself Photoshop and graphic design, just a lot of cool different things. To be honest, Photoshop led me to teach myself 3D. I’ve learned so many different tech skills so that I can push my brain forward and be creative as possible. Technology is a limitless world and there are still things that I want to do and try.
AfroTech: Your presence in the fashion industry contributes to more representation for Black female designers. In turn, who do you look toward for constant motivation and representation?
Anifa Mvuemba: Pyer Moss. I really like what Kirby is doing because it’s so disruptive in a good way. He breaks barriers, and he’s genuinely for the culture— where we stand, who we are, and where we come from. It’s just so inspiring to watch. His impact also goes beyond fashion, and that’s something that I’m starting to understand is really important to me. Fashion is cool, but ultimately, it’s about the message and the purpose. We’re not going to be here forever. What’s our legacy? What are we leaving behind? And I think he’s doing a really good job at that right now.
AfroTech: What women designers do you feel that the Black community should be aware of right now?
Anifa Mvuemba: Fisayo Longe of Kai Collective. She has a lot to say and I’m really excited to see where she’s going to be headed in the fashion industry. I see a lot of myself in her and how she’s just kind of creating, doing what she wants to do, and figuring it out.
AfroTech: What advice do you have for Black women designers who are looking for resources to get their start in fashion?
Anifa Mvuemba: It’s really important to align yourself with things that mesh with what you have going on. And for me, I think for emerging designers, Black designers, I think it’s really, really important to know. How you want your brand to be perceived? Who are you as a brand? Who are you as a person? It’s important to understand what you have and really think about where you want to go in the fashion industry as well. And another thing is to network with other Black designers, connect with people, and create a community around you, because that support is important.
This led me to start an initiative called CBYAM — Concepts by Anifa M — to teach emerging designers everything I know, from business to samples, how to find manufacturers, how to do my photoshoots for websites, get a lawyer, Instagram, everything. It’s hard for Black designers. There are so many things that we don’t have access to, and I want to help others in those areas.
AfroTech: How do you maintain your confidence as a Black woman in an environment that I’m sure doesn’t always inspire that feeling?
Anifa Mvuemba: All my life I’ve always found myself trying to fit in. But right before the digital show, I was just like, you know what? God didn’t give me the gift for no reason. I have so many supporters and an amazing team, and I’ve accomplished so much without the acknowledgment that I was seeking from the fashion industry. At that moment I realized that trusting what God has given me and knowing that He’s with me during this journey is really where that confidence comes from. There are so many great things that are coming, so I’m trusting the process and allowing the Lord to lead me through it all.