SIGNATURE BRIDE sits down with top fashion bridal designers to get a glimpse into the creative mindset. This month, we had the opportunity to speak with Anifa Mvuemba, the founder and fashion designer of the Hanifa and Hanifa Bridal labels.
A Congolese American self-taught designer, Mvuemba is dedicated to creating spaces for emerging designers through her platform CBYAM. She was the first designer and brand to livestream a virtual runway show—Pink Label Congo collection—on Instagram in May 2020. Her designs are worn by Beyonce, Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Hanifa Bridal launched its debut collection outdoors at the Salamander Resort and Spa, a Black-owned, women-owned luxury resort in Middleburg, Virginia, during Bridal Fashion Week, which took place October 10–12, 2023, in New York. The collection is an invitation to redefine what it means to be a modern bride.
SIGNATURE BRIDE: Who is Anifa Mvuemba?
Anifa Mvuemba: I was drawn to fashion at a young age. As a child, I remember watching my mom get dressed for work in the mornings and waiting to raid her closet. She was my introduction to style, and I took inspiration from her well-tailored suits that later inspired some Hanifa pieces. Although I never went to design school, I embraced the fashion all around me and started working through my passion to build a brand that reflects that. While working in retail and learning the fashion business, I was compelled to start my brand for what I felt was missing at the time: bold, sophisticated silhouettes for women of all sizes.
SB: Since your launch of ready-to-wear clothing line Hanifa in 2012, the brand has consistently been a trailblazer in terms of size inclusivity and innovation for women. What makes Hanifa resonate with women? And will that resonate with Hanifa Bridal?
AM: I’ve always tried to reflect our customers’ needs and where I am in life as well. I’m always thinking about new ways to connect with the Hanifa woman by first connecting with myself. I really wanted this collection to focus on self-love and self-worth above anything. Our collection aims to empower brides to embrace their own unique radiance, celebrating the limitless woman within. We’ve always focused on being size-inclusive, so that will remain true throughout our bridal designs and for this collection. I also really wanted to incorporate skin-tone mesh pieces that can be customized to each bride’s complexion.
SB: You have been quoted as saying you “design luxury for everyone.” What is it about luxury that speaks to you?
AM: The curation, attention to detail and the emphasis on self-worth. I want to encourage our customers to envision their highest, most authentic self, and I’d like to think that we’re leaders in the space of helping women to feel seen.
SB: On October 15, 2023, you launched the Hanifa Bridal collection in Washington, D.C. How did Hanifa Bridal come about?
AM: Launching Hanifa Bridal has truly been a full circle moment. My brand began by taking custom orders, making some bridal looks for clients, and I have been looking forward to the moment when I could produce an entire collection. It’s fitting that Hanifa Bridal launched while I am a bride-to-be myself. Over the years, I’ve challenged myself to reach for more while embracing the ongoing changes of life.
SB: Your IG page says Hanifa Bridal “offers both couture and ready-to-wear collections.” Tell us about the collection?
AM: The collection is classic yet modern. It has a timeless and minimalist design aesthetic with an appreciation for feminine silhouettes of all shapes carefully crafted with the finest of fabrics, elegant gatherings, drapes, delicate feathers and more to enhance the allure of each look. There is more of a clean and understated elegance over elaborate embellishments. I wanted something simple yet sophisticated with attention to timeless silhouettes and impeccable tailoring. There’s a focus on quality and craftsmanship that reflects the modern bride. The collection also features accessories and headpieces to pair with different looks. Brides can shop our RTW pieces online, but soon they’ll be able to book an appointment in our bridal atelier to find the perfect made-to-order dress for their special day.
SB: Is the bridal line size-inclusive?
AM: Yes, most looks go from size 0 to size 22.
SB:Describe your style.
AM: Bold and sophisticated.
SB: What is your favorite part of the design process?
AM: This collection has been years in the making. We wanted to challenge ourselves by using different techniques and materials than our typical RTW pieces. I think I was most excited to see our beaded pieces come together. Several of our looks feature hand-beaded crystals and sequins that really elevate the collection.
SB: What (or who) influences your designs?
AM: My mother was my original inspiration, but the driving inspiration behind all our collections have always been our customers. Each of our pieces tells a story, and bridal is no exception.
SB: What makes your wedding dresses stand out from other bespoke and ready-to-wear dresses?
AM: Our hope is that brides will feel seen in our intricate designs. The essence of Hanifa isn’t only in the garments we create but also in the relationships we build with our customers. We understand the significance of each moment in their lives, and we strive to design pieces that accompany them every step of the way. We are honored to be a part of their special moments, and our debut bridal collection is only the beginning of this commitment.
SB: Describe the Hanifa bride.
AM: She is drawn to timeless and minimalist design aesthetics. She prefers clean and understated elegance over elaborate embellishments. She embodies someone who admires the brand’s ability to create simple yet sophisticated wedding dresses, with attention to timeless silhouettes and impeccable tailoring. She appreciates the focus on quality and craftsmanship and desires a wedding dress that reflects the modern bride.
SB:What is next for Hanifa Bridal?
AM: Soon customers will be able to book an appointment in our bridal atelier to find the perfect made-to-order dress for their special day.
To see more of the Hanifa Bridal Collection, click on the gallery.