Designer Anifa Mvuemba is a trailblazer in the fashion industry, known for her innovative approach and dedication to inclusivity. Her brand, Hanifa, has not only gained popularity among A-list celebrities but has also challenged traditional fashion norms through groundbreaking digital presentations.
In 2020, Anifa Mvuemba’s Pink Congo Instagram Live runway show made waves by featuring 3D models showcasing her curve-friendly silhouettes. This virtual show not only generated excitement around her brand but also sparked a broader discussion in the fashion industry about the potential of digital fashion presentations. It was a pivotal moment that showcased Mvuemba’s forward-thinking approach.
A year later, when in-person events became possible again, Mvuemba transformed the National Portrait Gallery into a whimsical reality for her first-ever in-person show titled “Dreams.” This show celebrated her career journey since launching Hanifa in 2011 and emphasized her commitment to the Washington, D.C. area, where her brand is headquartered.
Mvuemba’s exploration of the digital realm in fashion began before the pandemic. She had a vision of combining her love for graphic design with technology. This forward-looking approach paid off tremendously. Following her 2020 Instagram show, Hanifa experienced increased sales and expanded its audience base.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mvuemba moved to Washington, D.C., with her family in 1993. Her passion for fashion started taking shape during her time at Gaithersburg High School, where she participated in a fashion program. However, it was in Baltimore where she truly honed her fashion skills, enrolling in fashion courses at Morgan State University and learning to sew.
In 2011, shortly before her birthday, Mvuemba couldn’t afford a new dress, so she decided to create one herself—a chartreuse tube dress. She shared her creation on Instagram, and the response was overwhelming. Her friends and followers expressed interest in owning Mvuemba’s designs, and that marked the birth of Hanifa.
A decade later, Hanifa is making a significant impact on the fashion industry. It’s not just about who wears her designs, which now include A-list celebrities like Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, Ashley Graham, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Hanifa stands out for its inclusive sizing and accessible price points, with pieces ranging from $179 to $2,400. Mvuemba’s commitment to considering the fit and lifestyle of everyday women is evident in her collections.
The summer 2022 collection, “Live Out Loud,” comprises 28 pieces that embody Hanifa’s signature style—ultra-feminine, bold in color, and approachable in design. With ruffled and feathered dresses, baggy cargo pants, and enticing cutouts, the collection empowers women to express themselves freely and authentically.
In June, Mvuemba presented “Live Out Loud” through Hanifa’s YouTube channel, marking another milestone. The digital show, complete with a green screen catwalk, was shot over a week in a Brooklyn studio. Mvuemba believes in flexibility and chooses the platform that best tells the story of her collection while celebrating the women behind the clothes.
For Mvuemba, the women who wear Hanifa are multifaceted, passionate about life, and go beyond celebrity status. Her brand ethos reflects the spirit of women who are limitless and bold in all aspects of their lives, not just their fashion choices.
As she explores themes of women’s empowerment in her collections, Mvuemba’s designs are an explosion of color, texture, and movement. The warmer months symbolize growth and blossoming, mirroring the evolution of millennial women in their lives and careers. Hanifa encourages women to pursue more and be unapologetically themselves.
Mvuemba’s commitment to empowering emerging designers is evident through her mentorship program, “Thoughts by Anifa M.” This program aims to equip young designers with the tools they need to launch and build successful brands. As she continues to expand her fashion empire with Hanifa, Mvuemba has plans to introduce collections in bridal wear and beauty.
Growing up in the D.C. area and making Baltimore her home base is a testament to Mvuemba’s belief in the potential of building something meaningful in your own backyard. She wants emerging designers to understand that they can launch and scale their businesses from where they feel grounded and inspired.
Anifa Mvuemba and Hanifa are reshaping the fashion industry through innovation, inclusivity, and a commitment to empowering women. As her brand continues to evolve, Mvuemba’s influence reaches far beyond the runway, inspiring the next generation of designers and celebrating women who live out loud.