Since the launch of her popular clothing brand Hanifa in 2011, Anifa Mvuemba has established herself as a designer that can be trusted to bring something new to the table. Whether it’s chunky knits, bold colors, or sexy oversized shapes, Hanifa’s loyal customer base knows that it will always present new statement pieces that are as wearable as they are fabulously unique — a feat that isn’t always easy in fashion. Mvuemba’s forthcoming bridal collection is no exception. Launched appropriately at the close of Fall Bridal Fashion Week, the ready-to-wear line promises to change the face of the bridal sector as we know it.
On Sunday, October 15, Mvuemba gathered hundreds at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia for an exclusive first look at Hanifa Bridal. Held inside of a white tent that was covered in romantic floral arrangements and featuring a string quartet playing worship music instrumentals, the formal event felt every bit as sacred as a real wedding from the moment you stepped into the space. Hosting the fashion show at the Salamander Resort & Spa, one of the DMV’s most prominent luxury wedding venues, was a purposeful choice that set the stage for the latest chapter in the Hanifa’s brand rich legacy. Love, both romantic and divine, is at the center of this style story.
“I never shy away from talking about the fact that I’m a believer — Christ is the anchor in everything that I do,” Mvuemba spoke candidly during a press conference prior to the fashion show, drawing parallels between her spiritual walk and the process of building the Hanifa brand to this point. “Even that journey, it’s not like a straight path; you have moments where you fall from grace, and you go through all these different seasons. That aligns with [my path into] bridal. I’ve been talking about bridal since I started Hanifa, and we officially started designing and creating pieces three years ago. We met roadblocks the same way you do when you’re a believer. You go through that journey, and the end goal is to be with Christ.”
“So much passion went into this — into the garments and into this whole experience — and it just speaks to the devotion, to the grace,” she continued. “You’re going to see the grace [on the runway] in how everything moves. It’s a beautiful story altogether.”
Building on that poignant inspiration for the bridal collection was natural for Mvuemba, whose early years as a fashion designer included designing custom wedding dresses for clients. Through that experience, she observed how one-note much of the bridal industry felt at times; brides turned to her because there was no one else out there creating silhouettes that accentuated their curves in fabrics that complemented their skin colors and undertones. It’s well-known that the bridal space has historically been anything but inclusive, and with Hanifa Bridal, Mvuemba intends to change that for good.
The first peek at the collection makes good on those intentions. From looks that are perfect for a wedding ceremony and reception, as well as options that are bachelorette party and wedding night-ready, Hanifa Bridal’s debut is the stuff of bridal fantasy. Mvuemba and her team got bold with the runway looks — marked by an abundance of feathers, skintone-matching illusion mesh, barely-there cheeky lingerie — but also stayed true to some of the more classic shapes, zhuzhing up what some might consider more traditional bridal styles with sexy cuts and intricate beading. The models, hand-picked to represent a wide range of figures, were perfect representations of the endless breadth of customers that Mvuemba aims to reach with Hanifa Bridal. Like blushing brides on their special day (iconic Black-owned makeup house Fashion Fair was responsible for their makeup, and Mielle Organics products were utilized for their uniform slicked-back buns), they floated serenely down the runway, each decked out in a couture look that fit them to a tee, and the tent was filled with nonstop appreciative murmurs and impressed oohs and ahhs. (The closing piece, a gorgeous ivory asymmetrical tiered ball gown fit for a princess, prompted a collective gasp of delight so ridiculously dramatic that we could only laugh at ourselves after.) We were stunned. Mvuemba and Hanifa had done it again.
When asked whether she was at all worried about the wider reception of Hanifa Bridal by her peers in fashion, specifically by the old guards of bridal, Mvuemba shrugged. “I don’t care,” she said honestly. “But because this is the beginning, I am curious about how it’s received, and what happens after. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, because this is a first for me.”
What she really cares about are the brides (and the women, like me, who aren’t exactly engaged but absolutely have Hanifa Bridal on their “For When He Pops The Question” vision boards) who are already so excited about this new endeavor. The public’s reaction to initially hearing the announcement that Hanifa was expanding into the bridal scene was overwhelmingly positive, and Mvuemba is thrilled to see people’s happiness about the brand making bridalwear for their needs. All she’s ever wanted was to create beautiful fashion for everyone, and Hanifa Bridal is just a continuation of that mission.
“When you see those beautiful [bridal] shows, it’s hard to kind of see yourself in those pieces because it’s almost like you don’t have access to it,” Mvuemba, whose 2022 engagement has caused her to be rather introspective about the bridal scene, explained during the press conference. “We have a lot of brides coming to [the show] today — when they see these gowns coming down the runway, I want them to see themselves and know that this will be accessible to them. Eventually, I want to offer custom, one-of-a-kind pieces, but we’re going to do ready-to-wear and then do customizable options that can be tailored to your body. My big thing is giving people access.”
Mvuemba hopes to offer Hanifa Bridal at a larger scale at some point, allowing customers to try on her designs in person at boutiques around the country, but for now, she’s perfectly content to launch it the way she always has. Fortunately, she can take confidence in the strength of her brand and in the love its loyal customer base has for her pieces. If Hanifa is selling it, the people are buying it, bridal wear included. (Even if that means getting the dress before getting the ring.)
Hanifa Bridal officially launches on tktkt.
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