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Hanifa’s Debut Runway Show in Washington D.C.

Designer Anifa Mvuemba debuted her Black-owned clothing line Hanifa for the first time in her hometown of Washington, D.C., at the National Portrait Gallery.

Photo: Getty Images/Shannon Finney

Designer Anifa Mvuemba debuted her Black-owned clothing line Hanifa for the first time in her hometown of Washington, D.C., at the National Portrait Gallery. The highly anticipated event showcased Hanifa’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection and consisted of a 35-look collection throughout the live runway show. 

The show titled “Dream” featured whimsical and imaginative pieces that left attendees anticipating her first drop of the collection. The line consists of Hanifa’s signature pieces, paired with new styles and textured materials such as structured denim, bold colors, fringe and dramatic flared sleeves.

“It’s a small community of us in New York, and we stick our necks out for one another. The show was amazing; the pieces were extremely wearable. It’s amazing what she’s doing in her hometown,” founder and creative director of New York-based label Pyer Moss, Kerby Jean-Raymond said.

The runway show in the historic National Portrait Gallery was staged in a stunning showroom with white walls accented by vibrant greenery and pink soft luminous light that reflected perfectly from the clear chairs marked with the “Hanifa” logo. Upon entry, guests were met with water-paneled floors and the angelic music of an enchanting orchestra that played renditions of pop and hip-hop hits from artists like Drake and Beyonce. 

To ensure inclusivity to all fans of the brand, Mvuemba streamed the event on Youtube for everyone to be able to witness the 10-year anniversary of the brand.

“Honestly for a young black girl that was partially raised in PG County it is so impressive to see so many Black girls, Black women and Black looks in this room,” Bacon Bear, an On-Air Personality and DJ, said.

“To see a new fashion to the National Portrait Gallery just feels so black and right like it feels right it feels like this is the beginning and this is the ushering in of that era.”

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To open the show, Mvuemba narrated the journey and inspiration of the brand with the documentary-style video that pointed out her efforts to make an impact beyond the clothes. 

As the models began to showcase the new line, it was evident that Hanifa remained dedicated to inclusivity and made sure to create clothing that is meant for every woman to feel her best.

“Hanifa reinvigorated my love for style and fashion, especially being a plus-size person. I think like I was tired of the fast fashion brands, I was really trying to find a black woman fashion brand,” influencer and content creator, Simi Moonlight said. “To be able to kind of witness this brand come from the ground up, I’m obsessed with her. I’m so proud of her. I’m so thankful for her. I feel like she really introduced me to a new way of expressing myself.”

The designer dropped a model call for D.C. residents only a few days before the show and featured an inclusive representation of those selected to walk in the runway show. Among the models was a Howard University senior legal communications major, Belema Derefaka. Derefaka reached out to the brand once realizing there was a show coming up and attended the casting call once it was announced on social media. 

Photo: Getty Images/Shannon Finney.

“The moment I got on the runway, I put it all beside me even though this was my first time in a real show. Unlike some of the other models I’m not signed to an agency so for me it was really about putting my all out there so I was able to show that I can do this,” said Belema Derefaka, a Howard student and Hanifa “Dream” model. “I was literally like for my first show to be Hanifa, it was magical to me.”

Mvuemba, the self-taught designer is well known in the industry not only for her vibrant designs but also for her virtual 3D fashion show that debuted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The 3D design concept went viral once streaming on Hanifa’s Instagram Live and has since been modeled by other designers and clothing brands in the industry. 

Hanifa’s designs have been worn by many celebrities, including Ciara, Lizzo, Cardi B, and Real Housewives of Potomac star, Karen Huger who attended the D.C. fashion show along with her fellow cast members. Among the stars, other attendees consisted of fans, influencers, family, friends, and fellow designers in the industry. 

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“This is one of the most inspiring things I’ve witnessed in a long time. To see the black people and the amount of fashion that was in this room tonight was overwhelming. So she represented so well for the culture and it was an unforgettable night,” said multimedia journalist Gia Peppers.

As of last Friday, many of the pieces from Hanifa’s 35-piece collection are available for purchase at

Copy edited by Jasper Smith


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