Invisible models wore 3D-rendered garments in a virtual display that has been kept on Instagram Live by Congolese company Hanifa to showcase their new fashion line.

By Balthazar Malevolent


On 22 May, the digital catwalk show was live-streamed via an IGTV video, as Hanifa's founder Anifa Mvuemba showcased the looks of her ready-to-wear Pink Label Congo clothing line in the form of 3D renders draped on "ghost" models.

Hanifa 3D collection.

While many would assume that the virtual catwalk was a result of the current Covid-19 quarantine conditions, Mvuemba said that during the sampling process of the brand she has been using virtual figures in her work for quite a while as mockups.

"I wanted all of this to be part of our marketing campaign," she explained.

"When the Covid-19 stay home orders unexpectedly occurred I was already working on these creations and saw it a chance to innovate and inspire given the constraints."

"During those times, the 3D designs kept me sane and intrigued," the designer added.

While Mvuemba did not disclose the exact method of development, she compares the framework of working with a 3D model to work with a human model.

"I'm always wilful about the model's shapes and curves," she said. "Same as our garments, our 3D models are inspired by women because we are designing for women."

Mvuemba also mentioned that she was initially afraid to go through her virtual fashion show in the light of the pandemic.

Hanifa 3D collection.

"News came out about how bad things were and I started to feel very depressed about how everything is going on," she said.

"I began to feel like maybe making and posting a new collection online would be disrespectful when people were facing very challenging realities."

Despite her doubts, Mvuemba agreed to go ahead with the virtual display – in which more than 10,000 spectators tuned in – to make her work more open by giving everyone "a front-row seat"

"We understand that some people may never experience a week of fashion or a showcase of Hanifa, so we wanted to make a show for our audience on a daily basis," she said. "It was then that Instagram was the obvious alternative."

Soon after the show, Twitter and other social media platforms shared clips of the virtual garments, so they went viral, hailed as "groundbreaking."

Mvuemb's capsule collection was inspired by her hometown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and more specifically the "majestic women" who live there.

She incorporated the country's elements into the detailing, stitching, and color of the garments.

"The red symbolizes suffering, the blue symbolizes peace, and the yellow stands for hope, both Congo flag colors," she said.

The ribbed Kinshasa Backless Mini Dress – named after the capital of the country – features a tritone palette taken from the Congolese flag, designed to "mirror the strength of the Congolese people's past."

"The A-Line silhouette personifies releasing past pain and our backless design invites future peace and hope," the product description reads. "The exaggerated sleeves lie for an added layer of tension over your fingertips."

Other important pieces included a wide-leg denim jumpsuit, a white stretch-satin skirt designed to highlight "the strength in the hips of a woman," and the floor-length silk Mái gown printed with a Congo River image closed the show.

"I expect women to gage meaning from every collection," Mvuemba said. "Hanifa is about more than just clothing. We are creating women who aspire to be limitless."

"When each piece was created, I have been reminded of the stories my mom told me about the women she knew back in Congo," she said. "Women who suffered a great loss but still, gathered every ounce of strength to show up every day."

"My hope is that these garments are going to inspire all women to stand tall in their power and use their history, beautiful or painful, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, to reshape their future."

Mvuemba often refers to her research on the colonial inequalities in Central Africa, and to raise the consciousness of the corruption, bribery and forced labor of illicit coltan mining in the DRC – a mineral used as a condenser in electronics such as mobile phones and laptops.

She hopes that her job will be "part of the solution".

In collaboration with Responsible Sourcing Network, Hanifa released their Collette t-shirt, which will see 20 percent of the proceeds donated to organizations that combat illicit coltan mining.

Coronavirus has affected many fashion brands, unable to host any physical shows in which to showcase their collections. Big fashion houses like Celine, Courreges, Mugler, Rick Owens are among those.

No results

Shop now