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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A Fashion Model For the Moment

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A headline in Teen Vogue blared: “Hanifa’s 3-D Digital Fashion Show Just Changed the Game.” CNN, Harper’s Bazaar and Essence also celebrated the virtual collection presentation. Then, less than two weeks after that, Forbes excluded Ms. Mvuemba from a related story that claimed a Prada-backed start-up, called Bigthinx, was making “the first live streamed 3-D fashion show.”

For Ms. Mvuemba and her supporters, it was like a slap in the face. An outcry on social media, where the story was seen as another example of the widespread erasure of Black women’s contributions to arts and culture, gave Ms. Mvuemba “so much anxiety” she removed the Twitter app from her mobile phone home screen.

“I see how much genuine support I have from people that have watched this journey from the beginning. But the fashion industry doesn’t consider us,” Ms. Mvuemba said. “Even now I feel like an outsider.”

Following the outcry, Forbes amended and then deleted the article. An editor’s note on the original article read: “Update, June 4, 2020: This post was edited to reflect that Bigthinx was not the first company to host a 3D virtual fashion show. Anifa Mvemba’s Hanifa hosted a 3D fashion show on May 22, 2020, and you can read more about it here.”

Shortly thereafter, Beyoncé added Hanifa to the singer’s “Black Parade” Juneteenth e-commerce directory.

“3-D isn’t anything I created, but the process and presentation is unique,” said Ms. Mvuemba. “Putting the article out — especially at a time like this in the heat of Black Lives Matter — was so tone deaf. For Black people globally, it was a hard week. You wake up, you feel empowered, you see the unity, then you see the news: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, then you’re angry, upset and want to cry.”

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