Congolese designer, Anifa Mvuemba, gave a preview of what catwalks might look like in a post-pandemic world with a collection using virtual models.
Mvuemba released the latest collection for her fashion brand, Hanifa, on Instagram live on Friday. During the show, the digital models sashayed down the runway with the designer’s outfits draped on headless, three-dimensional bodies.
The Pink Label Congo collection featured pants and dresses in vibrant colors and was described as the future of runway fashion by spectators.
Mvuemba, whose previous designs have been worn by celebrities such as rapper Cardi B, told Teen Vogue, she already had plans to go digital with her collection before various Covid-19 restrictions were put in place around the world.
She said in the interview with the fashion magazine that she had been working for seven months to create the computer-generated models, “Designing content using 3D models and now an entire collection has been a complete game changer for me. “It actually requires an even greater amount of attention-to-detail for the clothes to fit and look just right.”
Hanifa’s virtual collection is part of a growing trend of fashion houses increasingly embracing technology to showcase their designs. Last year American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger used an Instagram influencer Noonoouri created by a graphic designer to promote their products.
Hilfiger’s CEO said at the time, “they shape consumers’ purchasing decisions, inspiring them in more relevant ways, further blurring the lines between digital and reality.”
A tribute to African seamstresses
Mvuemba said during the launch that each of the outfits represents Congo, the central African country where she is from.
One of the outfits was a backless mini dress in red, blue, and yellow, representing the flag of Congo. And a maxi dress in blue and green representing the point where the Congo river meets land.
Congo is one of the world’s leading producers of cobalt, accounting for more than 60% of the world’s production. Cobalt is a chemical element used in producing smartphones, tablets and electric vehicles.
“I am so intentional about everything I do with this collection,” she said. “If you’re African then you know about African seamstresses and how detail is so important and the color is so important and prints are so important. I really just wanted to use that in this collection, just to give tribute to African seamstresses,” Mvuemba said during the launch on her Instagram page on Friday.
Congolese cobalt mines
The Pink Label Congo collection is not just about fashion going digital. It’s also about raising awareness for Congolese mines, the designer said.
Inspired by her hometown in Congo, 29-year-old Mvuemba started the fashion show with a short documentary on the experiences of children working in cobalt mines.
Underaged children and women work in these mines under harsh conditions including physical abuse.
Sometimes they are forced to dig for cobalt with nothing but their bare hands.
In 2019, Tech giants like Apple, Google, Dell, and Tesla were sued for their alleged involvement in using children to mine cobalt in the country.
Raising awareness on mines
Mvuemba said the Pink Label Congo collection was inspired by these mine stories and she is using it to bring awareness around it.
“Growing up, I heard so many stories about the cobalt and mining issues in Congo…a lot of times, there are children at these mines, a lot of them are losing their lives and a lot of families are affected,” she said.
The documentary showcased multiple reports from media organizations about the current mining conditions in Congo and the dangers of including children in the process.
Everything about the collection is related to Congo to serve as a reminder of these mine conditions, Mvuemba said.
“I really wanted to shed light on their conditions. And I want this collection to support and benefit the families that are affected,” she added.