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Local Fashion Designer Anifa Mvuemba Knows No Limits


The internet might be fashion designer Anifa Mvuemba‘s greatest asset. In 2020, her Pink Congo Instagram Live runway show sent 3D models, mimicking femme bodies, down the runway wearing her curve-friendly silhouettes. The show went viral, turning the fashion industry on its head. Not only did it create greater excitement around her Hanifa brand, but it also encouraged the industry to rethink digital presentations of fashion collections. A year later, once the ban on in-person events was lifted, she did it again by transforming the National Portrait Gallery into a whimsical reality for her first ever in-person show. The show, titled Dreams, offered a meditation on her career journey since launching Hanifa in 2011 and showcased her commitment to the D.C. area.

Always ahead of the curve, Mvuemba was exploring the digital world of fashion prior to the pandemic and was seeking out the ideal situation to combine her love of graphic design with technology. The 30-year-old always enjoyed exploring the many facets of design, and virtual reality, she notes, was naturally the next realm to conquer. And conquer she did. Following her 2020 Instagram show, Hanifa saw increases in sales and an expanded audience base.

Although New York is considered America’s fashion capital, Hanifa is headquartered in Baltimore. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mvuemba migrated to the nation’s capital with her family in 1993. While attending Gaithersburg High School, where she took part in a fashion program, Mvuemba began to develop her fashion point of view. Today she credits her high school program director for inspiring her career in the fashion industry. But her study of fashion truly took flight in Baltimore, where she enrolled in fashion courses at Morgan State University and learned to sew.

Shortly before her birthday in 2011, Mvuemba tells City Paper she was unable to afford a new dress. Instead of wearing a recycled outfit for her party, she made a chartreuse tube dress. She shared—and modeled—her work on Instagram, and suddenly requests started flooding in. Her friends wanted Mvuemba dresses and Hanifa was born. 

A decade later and the brand is shaping the industry, from how collections are showcased to who wears Mvuemba’s designs. Today, Hanifa is worn by A-list celebrities like Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, Ashley Graham, and Sarah Jessica Parker. However, women of all body types and economic classes are wearing her designs, thanks to its inclusive sizing and accessible price points. The prices of her latest collection range from $179 to $2,400. “We consider the fit and lifestyle of everyday women for each of our collections. We have more in common with each other than social media may portray,” she says.



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