Hanifa: This Is What Happens When Fashion & Tech Meet Black Girl MAgic

Anifa Mvuemba and her team at Hanifa broke the internet when she unveiled her newest collection using animated 3D Models and the power of social media.

Hanifa collection
Source: hanifa.co

What were you up to last week? Can you remember?

Did it, by any chance, involve preparing for a groundbreaking fashion show that would cause a hell of a buzz all over social media? 

The Fashion Show that Shook the Social Media Scene

For Anifa Mvuemba, it did. This time last week, the Congolese designer was hours away from releasing her newest collection, Pink Label Congo, for Hanifa a contemporary brand that prides itself in glamour and inclusivity

But, this roll-out came with a twist. Instead of posting flat images of her design, or going the usual gallery route, Anifa debuted her collection on Instagram Live using live 3D-action.

Due to technical issues, the virtual runway show took place on the brand’s bridal page, but this didn’t hinder attendance in any way. Viewers crowded the platform to watch the 3D models, with striking, relatable curves, strut their stuff down the runway in elegant garments accentuated by their glorious curves. 

The Intersection of Fashion, Innovation, and Tech

This was a special moment and it received the attention it deserved. 

While some have dubbed this show as the perfect way to pivot in Covid-19 times, this actually wasn’t Anifa’s initial plan. In fact, she had been planning this virtual fashion show for seven months. A crazy case of stellar timing allowed for her show to meet the global conversation on digital transformation.

It’s because of this that publications like Elle and CNN have said that this fashion show has set the pace for the future of the fashion industry. 3D modeling is not new to the fashion space, and there were voices from the comments section that tried to make this clear.

Fair, but it’s clear that Anifa’s work stood out and served as a catalyst for the digital conversation. She put in the work, the timing was ideal (though I believe this show would’ve still received the same attention in time without COVID), and the work spoke to the audience.

Layers and Layers of Representation and Inclusion

This was a labor of love from an African woman to a world filled with African women who have often struggled with finding clothes, in mainstream spaces, that had their bodies in mind. The first time I saw the video of the fashion show, I didn’t have to do mental gymnastics to picture myself in the outfits. The beautiful thing about Hanifa is they don’t just sell the dream of offering their ranges to plus-size women, they follow through too.

What makes this moment even special is the fact that this show was led by a black, African woman. And she didn’t hide this. The Pink Label Congo collection was a tribute to Congo, particularly shining a light on the exploitation taking place in the cobalt mines in the country. 

This wasn’t just a fashion show. It was more than a digital innovation. It was representation on another level and a reminder to creators out there that there is space for us. There is space for our work. There is space for our causes. There is space for our work.

This event was the perfect combination of accessible, innovative, and inclusive.

Accessible because it was hosted on a platform that was easy to access – Instagram Live. There were minimal hoops to jump through and it was also very easy for people to access the show after it took place.

Innovative because of the tech used to make this happen, the skills, and the effort behind it.

Inclusive because the “models” weren’t sizes that were hard for many women to relate to. Curvy bodies weren’t an afterthought. They were a priority. In an industry that’s known for its taxing barriers on black women and their bodies, it is inexplicably freeing to see a production like what Anifa pulled off as a black woman. 

As a creator, I see the world of possibilities before me. This groundbreaking innovation with a black African woman as the brain behind it, speaks volumes for black women creators all over the world.

A Moment of Hope I’ll Hold on To

In a world where the work of black creators is often stolen, with the original creators having to fight for their credit, it was immensely refreshing to see this event being praised live and out loud. One could argue that this isn’t a race thing or an ethnicity thing, but it is.

I look forward to seeing more of Anifa’s work. I can’t wait to get to a point where I can purchase garments from Hanifa.

The trends that will come from this event in the fashion industry will be exciting and it makes me so happy that this runway show will forever be a point of reference.

I hope more creators like Anifa will get to receive the attention and praise they deserve.

It’s only right.

You can watch the Hanifa fashion show here.

Is this the ‘Digital Era’ we’ve been waiting for? I don’t know.

As the Covid-19 crisis has forced us to find new ways to carry out daily life, is it safe to say digital transformation is here to stay? I’m not sure.

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So, I know Tuesdays are meant to be for COVID-related topics, but I’m going to ride on the tail of yesterday’s post and discuss another aspect of the pandemic that is a part of our daily reality now.

#WorkingFromHome: The dawn of a new reality

The world we live in is not what it was late last year. Most parts of the world are going out less and using their PCs, tablets, and smartphones more. The pandemic has pushed us to rely on digital infrastructure in order to get things done. 

#WorkingFromHome is the new reality for many of us and as long as the pandemic continues to rage on, physical workspaces won’t be the go-to for a while. 

Remote work has been a hot topic for the last decade, but I don’t think we expected the situation to escalate this quickly. This wasn’t a gradual move that was openly embraced. We kind of stumbled into this situation and now we’re trying to make the most of it.

Granted, this is only applicable in situations where companies understand why their employees can’t commute to work. There are organizations that are trying to find loopholes in the restrictions, because who needs their employees to be safe when capitalism must go on?

It is notable to mention that there are a few big companies like Google and Twitter, whose employees are to work from home until further notice.

Is this the transformation we’ve been waiting for?

People have tried to use this present situation as proof that “Digital is the Way”. It’s understandable why this conversation has come about. 

The consumption of in-house media has increased at a notable rate, now that a significant part of the population – with internet access – is spending most of the time at home. From more news to more social media, more streaming, and even more audiobook consumption, it is clear that the digital infrastructure that has been set up in the last decade has allowed us to function the way we are now.

Gatherings that would have taken place in conference rooms, boardrooms, or community halls, are now taking place on video-calling platforms like Zoom, Meet, and soon – Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram “rooms” (I see you, Mr. Zuckerburg).

Bridal showers, baby showers, house parties, weddings, and even funerals have found their place on these platforms as well. Social distancing has stopped us from connecting on-ground, so we’re now forced to create and maintain these connections through the internet. While some may hail this as innovation, the sentimentalist in me can’t help but mourn this grayscale reality.

Some moments were designed for community – physical community – and no amount of pivoting will fill that gap. I know that these contingencies have been put in place because, right now, we don’t have any other choice. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though.

It’s bittersweet, honestly. 

“Yay, we’ve managed to find a way to still hold these meaningful events. But, it still hurts that it has to happen like this.”

I think this is proof that digitization doesn’t need to take over everything, and it’s better to remember that. When this pandemic ends, and we try to find a new “normal”, I hope we get a chance to restore meaningful gatherings. There is power in human connection – even for the introverts.

While we think about what comes after this pandemic, I think it’s also important to evaluate the structures we are currently using. An honest look needs to be given to the digital move because while we may think the world is ready for a total digital economy, I would beg to differ.

So, what is the digital economy?

Digital transformation is a constant we have come to accept. New innovations appear daily and are gradually replacing the former structures we once knew as “normal”. 10 years ago, did you think you would be able to use one app to order food or catch a lift? But here we are.

The global economy is undergoing a digital transformation as well, and it’s happening at an even faster pace. Right now, however, it’s more about survival and less about the bells and whistles that come with innovation.

The term “digital economy” refers to the economic activity that is a result of billions of daily online interactions with consumers, businesses, devices, data, and processes. Another important term you need to know when discussing the digital economy is “hyperconnectivity”.

Hyperconnectivity is at the center of the digital economy and it refers to the evolving interconnected states of people, devices, and organizations. This cannot happen without the Internet, mobile technology that drives it, and, of course, the Internet of Things. Okay, tech talk aside.

The proof is in the threading

Everything we do online, from the $10 transaction on AliExpress to the long-winding rants we leave on Twitter, and even the occasional IG selfie, are threads that have woven the digital economy together. We’re all a part of it and every action we take online adds another piece to the puzzle.

The digital economy is taking shape and redefining “normal” when it comes to business structures, the interaction between firms, and how consumers access services, data, and goods.

This isn’t a sudden thing, however.

Concepts of a digitized future have formed core parts of 90s film plots, sci-fi book theories, and expert predictions. Do you remember when everyone thought computers would explode on the 1st of January 2000? (I just showed my age).

But here we are, alive with computers that talk back to us now.

In the last four to five years, digitization has taken over major industries and has also left some without options for growth – the print industry, for example. Streaming wars is another example of the rapid change in how we consume data. In the early 2000s, you couldn’t imagine anything besides cable. Now? $7 can give you access to thousands of movies, series, and documentaries you once had to wait patiently to see on TV. Once they come up with a solid, Netflix-like platform for sport, I think it’s over for cable. 

We’re already on the brink of redefining financial transactions. Digital currencies are a growing reality and, whether we like it or not, we may see a cashless economy settle in faster than we thought. Again, another byproduct of the pandemic. The discouraging of paper money transactions, and using swipe machines, is pushing online transactions to the forefront. At a time where digitization is the main topic.

Some may argue that this pandemic has brought out necessary advancement, but I think we need to view this very carefully. The transition to digital processes has not been seamless for everyone. There are barriers to entry for multiple groups of people and more light needs to be cast on that.

We have taken big steps in the direction of a totally digital world, but it’s important to ask ourselves, “What do we want this world to look like?”

How far do we want to let technology take over? Where do we draw the line?

There is much more to consider about the digital economy before we can make declarations with our chest. I’ll touch on that more next Wednesday.

For now, there is more thinking to be done.

 

This was the first piece for Wednesday Topics: Digital Media & Tech. Do you have any thoughts to share on the digital economy?

Let me know in the comments.