Together for tomorrow


Q&A: Anyango Mpinga unveils real life truths with a digital fashion campaign

by | Dec 4, 2020

On her twitter feed, Nairobi-born designer Anyango Mpinga referred to her latest campaign as having its roots in a crazy idea. She wrote, “I had this crazy idea for a campaign to dress women in virtual 3D garments remotely and all they had to do was send me their photos in swim suits. I collaborated with a 3D digital artist called Yifan Pu and this is the result.”
Craziness is sometimes a necessary condition for a brilliant outcome. ‘The Pupil’, Anyango’s digital fashion campaign, is magnificent for many reasons. It’s strikingly beautiful, with women from across the globe who work in different creative professions wearing Anyango’s new creations. It communicates the opinions of these women on diversity and inclusion; on how and if the fashion industry has changed and what they would each do to make the future better. For instance, Donna-Marie Mason says, “The most shocking thing about diversity and inclusion in this particular industry is that it still doesn’t exist, there is still tokenism, however it now needs to be integrated within the system and there definitely needs to be more diversity and inclusion in the rooms where the big decisions are being made.” This sentiment is repeated by most of the women who Anyango invited to join the campaign.
Anyango founded her eponymous contemporary, sustainable brand in 2015, which has become known for its reimagined white shirts; bold prints; balanced between androgyny and a bohemian aesthetic that is also size inclusive. Earlier this year she participated in the Helsinki Fashion Week held in cyberspace, and took part in a HFW residency.
Her latest collection is a reflection on oneness and its importance in social justice and inclusion. It features bold prints inspired by Swahili architecture on the Kenyan Coast, more specifically “Zidaka” niches, which are signature wall carvings traditionally used to display lamps and ornamental objects in Swahili Architecture. On her website, she writes, “I’m making clothing even more accessible and size inclusive to customers through an AI powered digital tailor App developed by one of my partners Size Me Up. The App will help consumers select the right sizes by taking their measurements virtually with an option to have each garment customised for larger sizes.”
We asked the designer a few questions via email.

How did you get onto the Helsinki Fashion Week residency programme?

I had been in contact with Helsinki Fashion Week in 2019 when they extended an invitation to me to participate at their fashion week. I couldn’t make it to Helsinki as I was already committed to a project for the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan so when the invitation was extended to me this year by HFW’s founder Evelyn Mora, I took up the opportunity to be part of the week-long residency.

What did it involve?

I had to design the dress and have the patterns made in the traditional way and then digitised it to make it easy for the 3D artist to stitch the garment virtually on a computer. Prior to this experience, I had underestimated just how long it could take. However it was also cool discovering just how much you can do in digital design without wasting material resources, which normally happens in the initial prototyping stage of any collection.

What did you learn?

Ahead of the residency, I had the opportunity to work with Balmlabs with whom I created some digital looks and the founder Baboa Tachie-Menson taught me about rendering 3D garments and how the physics-based models within CAD systems for garment design can give you a highly accurate garment shape. After that, I was paired with the Berlin-based digital artist Yifan Pu to create a digital look for my Helsinki Fashion Week Residency. I learnt a lot about how garment shapes can be accurately predicted by including the material properties of each textile to model complex shapes and assemble the finished garment. I also collaborated with Paola Pinna, another digital artist who created my virtual Avatar twin, wearing one of my dresses from the collection.

Has working with HFW changed your approach to design?

It inspired me to continue designing my latest collection in 3D and to find a creative way to launch it. I’m launching a new collection and continue my collaboration with Yifan Pu. Instead of using digital avatars for my look book, I figured it must be the same process to render clothes on an avatar as it is on real people. I brought together a selection of some amazing women based around the world and asked them to send me photos of themselves in their homes or taken at a studio observing social distancing. I then dressed the women in virtual clothing from the collection and created a campaign where each woman shares her insights on matters of social justice for my collection “The Pupil”.

Has sustainability always been inherent in your work?

Sustainability has always been inherent to my design process. When I launched my eponymous brand, I already had a system in place to ensure that I could operate my business in an environmentally-friendly way by incorporating upcycling, biodegradable materials and sourcing only from certified suppliers committed to upholding the values that are important to my brand.

Tell us about the collection you created.

In other words, the “pupil of the eye” is a mirror of social reality. It’s a reflection on the meaning of oneness and pays attention to this year and our collective desire for unified, positive action.This collection features bold prints inspired by Swahili architecture on the Kenyan Coast, more specifically “Zidaka” niches, which are signature wall carvings traditionally used to display lamps and ornamental objects in Swahili Architecture.

What are your thoughts on our current state: do you feel hopeful?

Optimistic is how I feel about the world. For every unpleasant thing that has happened this year, there have been some triumphs, whether it’s in seeing humanity extend random acts of kindness or people being introspective and making a commitment to be better global citizens. We have to appreciate the little things. My latest collection is inspired by this Abdu’l Baha quote: “The reflection of a person is seen in the black pupil of the eye.”

What do you hope people will do to make things better?

Focus on the good in each other. If we go back to using the eye as an example, you need the cornea and the pupil to work together to give you vision and clarity. If we can grasp this and apply it to how we relate to each other, we will make better decisions for humanity and for the environment.

Lastly, where is your studio and how do we buy your clothes?

My collection is available to pre-order online. We’re integrating a sizing app that uses AI tech to help customers predict their sizes if they are in doubt. My clothes are only available on pre-order. I’m currently running an online trunk show from November 20th that allows customers to place an order in sizes UK 8-30. The current trunk show will be open for a few weeks and after it closes, we put all orders into production and deliver the items to customers by the end of March to beginning of April 2021.

Included in the “The Pupil” campaign are the following women:

Monisola Omotoso, a multi-talented creative with a 20-year portfolio career amassed from working in the fashion industry as a fashion designer, lecturer and creative pattern cutter/draper whose career has seen her work as a pattern maker for clients such as Alexander McQueen. Read the opinions of each women here.

Aja Barber, a writer, personal stylist and style consultant living in South East London whose work focuses on sustainability, ethics, intersectional feminism, racism and all the ways systems of power affect our buying habits.

Tamu McPherson, a Jamaican-born, New York-raised author and founder of digital Magazine “All the Pretty Birds” currently residing in Milan. She’s a street style photographer, former Editor In Chief of Grazia Italia, editor of magazines such as Harpers Bazaar US, Glamour US, Refinery 29 and Metro.

The Japan based duo of Bukky Adejobi and Seiko Mbako who are founders of Awatori, a platform bridging the gap between African Designers and the Japanese market having been the first duo to bring African fashion designers to Tokyo Fashion Week in partnership with the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

Nyawira Mumenya, a Kenyan content creator and body positivity advocate.

Trinidad born Donna-Marie Mason, one half of a top London-based photography and film making duo specialising in editorial, advertising, portraiture and moving images with a cross-section of clients ranging from celebrities to fashion and luxury industries.

Achieng Agutu, a Boston-based Kenyan content creator who’s currently a Masters student at Hull International Business School specialising in Marketing and Digital Analytics.

Kalekye Mumo, a Kenyan media personality, strategic marketing professional and Founder of KM Network.
To read more about Anyango’s work visit her website. 
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