Hanifa Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Anifa Mvuemba is often described as an “emerging designer” for the simple reason that her

Anifa Mvuemba is often described as an “emerging designer” for the simple reason that her trajectory hasn’t followed the industry’s conventional track. Before her first show last night, she played a short film to remind us of Hanifa’s past 10 years, from her self-taught beginnings in 2011 to establishing her team in Washington, D.C., and creating her viral 3-D fashion show during the pandemic. Along with a growing list of retailers and celebrity fans—including Beyoncé, Zendaya, and Tracee Ellis Ross—that digital moment was the boost of confidence and support she needed to make her official runway debut.

Hundreds of guests gathered at the National Portrait Gallery for the occasion, many of them local friends and fans of Mvuemba’s; editors from New York made up just a tiny minority. It wasn’t the only deviation from the norm: The crowd was considerably more diverse than what you see in New York or Europe, made up predominantly of Black women and men in exuberant Hanifa originals: jewel-toned suits, slinky ribbed-knit dresses, and the label’s signature second-skin boots.

There were cheers and applause from the first look out: a glossy sapphire patent-leather trench worn by a curve model that was among Mvuemba’s new outerwear experiments—a leather coat and faux furs came later on. The collection’s asymmetrical shirtdresses, knit columns, and sculpted separates hit her sweet spot: They were audacious, yet truly wearable clothes. A curve-hugging jersey maxi could be glammed way up or worn with sneakers, ditto the belted saffron suit. A silvery button-down and patent trousers likewise captured the mix of serious glam and serious ease that Mvuemba’s customer is craving. As every look glided past, the quality of construction and fit—tailored to models of varying sizes—stood out. Backstage, Mvuemba explained that the pandemic gave her team extra time to refine and edit.

“Every look, every little detail reminds me of something we’ve done in the past 10 years,” she added. While those ribbed dresses and ruched shirts felt familiar, a burnout column with sheer panels tracing the body was a new development for her team. “We sampled that so many times.” It was a winning glimpse of her brand’s future, more so than the shaggy knit dresses with trailing threads or the more OTT eveningwear looks.

As with any debut, there were a few snags here and there, from the hour-long delay to the odd decision to style each look with a sheer, no doubt ineffective face mask. It emphasized another departure from the “main shows” in New York and Europe: Proof of vaccination was not required to attend, and most of the audience went mask-less. On a positive note, we also didn’t see the usual blitz of editors racing to the door after the finale; once Mvuemba took her bow, everyone hung around, clinked champagne, and discussed the pieces they’re saving up for. Many will be available on Hanifa’s website this Frida; the vivid knit dresses will likely be the first to sell out.

https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2021-ready-to-wear/hanifa