For this month’s fashion story, we feature Amina Ladymya, a rising talent and social impact entrepreneur writing her story in Milan. Amina’s editorial signals my return behind the lens after a very long break, and I am overjoyed to click the shutter button alongside our collaborator, photographer and video maker Imad Skhairi, with whom we are building a special portfolio. I hope that you enjoy our team effort throughout these images and fall in love with Amina through her words, as told to All the Pretty Birds.
I'm Amina Ladymya. I was born on January 20, 1997 in Senegal, and I've been living there for my entire life. I am from Dakar, and my parents are from a small city that is two or three hours from Dakar. I moved to Paris three years ago, and that was the first time that I left Senegal. I had a very difficult background when I was a kid, as I stopped attending school at 16 to work to pay for the education that I desired. I was sick the year before I stopped attending school, so I didn't go to school for six months and had to repeat the entire year. My dad offered to pay, but as a proud person, I declined. It didn’t seem right that he had to pay my school fee during the year that I was sick, and also for the year I had to repeat. In addition, my dad, who is a traditional Senegalese parent, wanted me to pursue journalism, which is considered a prestigious profession in our culture. As a child, I had been interested in journalism, but by the time I was a teenager, I became interested in fashion. So rather than repeating the year at my original school, I actually applied to a fashion institute and started working to pay for my tuition. I attended classes from 7am to 4pm, and after school I would go to the fabric market to buy material to make clothes for the artists and singers with whom I began to style and collaborate. I was creating outfits for people working on TV. Some were friends. I was also pursuing a career as a singer at the time, so I used the occasion to also push the design skills that I was learning over those three years.
My father was the director of a psychiatric hospital in Dakar. We lived at the hospital, and as a little girl and teenager I observed the patients daily. When I would wake up in the morning someone would be screaming or someone would be breaking a chair. What I learned from these experiences is that unfortunately, a lot of people are experiencing a lot of trauma. We all hide our emotions, we all try to be normal, but everyone has some problem inside. Witnessing these events helped me to be strong, because I've seen all the worst situations you know. When you’ve seen some of the things I've seen, your struggles don’t seem that bad. Everything that happens to you, it's okay. There is a Senegalese saying that comes from the Baye Fall movement, which states that when you are experiencing a bad emotion, you just keep your feet on the ground and live life as it is. The Baye Fall claims complete disinterest in worldly affairs and, for this reason, lives detached from all material possessions.
I married when I was very young. I met my ex-husband when I was 20. It was a kind of first love, because in our culture, you cannot live with the person if you are not married. So the temptation, the love and the feeling was so high that we didn't want it to stay far away from each other. We got married one year after meeting. Then things went bad. I learned a lot from that relationship. I've grown up a lot also, because if you never live some situation, maybe after you are not able to manage them when you are in front of the situation. So before, I was just the nice Senegalese girl, really educated, like maybe the couple tried to do everything, and the man is the top of the couple. You know? And you are running to make him happy? Because culturally, this is what they teach you. But it's bullshit. Yes, you become subservient to men because this is your culture. And this is how women act in the culture. So men profit in that, yes, they take advantage of this situation. So from that, I just said, Stop. I don't want to live this life anymore. So I close my eyes. And in that moment, for me, it's like rebel, you know, and I didn't care about the approval of the parents, the approval of the people. I just closed my eyes and tried to choose the life I want for myself. So then the marriage finished and yeah, I just wanted to leave, because I had many ideas. Many projects on my mind, many things that I would love to do, but in the context that culturally we are a little bit behind, unfortunately. So the idea was I just need to go somewhere where my idea and this need to express myself maybe can be welcomed. So I traveled. First of all, travel was, for me, like a therapy to forget all the bad things that I experienced in the marriage, but then you know, you go out and all the doors open to you and things keep growing, and also you work hard, you take advantage of the situation that present in front of you to grow and to express yourself until now, I'm good.
At first I moved to Paris, stopped designing and styling and focused on modeling. It was ok for me to take a break from the work I had been pursuing in Dakar. For me, you are reborn when you come to a city where you have never lived before and you don't know what it's like. You're recreating yourself from zero and you don't know anyone. You want to use all your skills and try to do something, but it can be really difficult. Sometimes it's better to go step by step, and modeling was the easiest thing for me. Working in the fashion industry as a model, you meet other people and through those connections you slowly start to rebuild yourself and your dreams.
I worked in Paris for three months then went back to Senegal, returning to Paris subsequently for work. Later an agency in Milan contacted me about a client who I would travel back and forth to work with over a period of time. At a certain point I became tired of traveling back and forth and decided that I would relocate to Milan. I’ve been here for two years and 7 months and everything is falling into place nicely, and I am planning my moves for the future.
Over the next few years I would like to express myself as a talent. I mean to see, at minimum, some fruit of the work that I've been doing. I would love to expand my social impact organization Fashion 4 Homeless by collaborating with an NGO and traveling around the world to help homeless people. Growing up at the psychiatric home that my father directed influenced me to create Fashion for Homeless. Seeing the struggles of the patients, during and after treatment, and being exposed to the poor people who would come to the center or who lived in the area created a desire inside me to help however I can even if I don’t have a lot.
I started the organization in December of 2020 with my own resources. It was during the Christmas shopping season, and I was affected by the contrast between people shopping in Milan’s fashion district and the homeless. Seeing families celebrating in the street enjoying Christmas vibes. But in all the movements, there is one point that doesn't move, where the homeless sit with their things frozen in time and forgotten. I just wanted to do something. I know I can’t change everything. I don't have the resources. But with the little I have and with the help of friends I was able to get the organization going. We provide blankets, outerwear, clothes and other accessories. Some brands have donated to the cause and local officials have intervened when possible. This year was the second edition.
One of the most important successes that we have had so far involved a homeless woman who had undergone 3 stomach surgeries and who was released on the streets because she didn’t have a home. When I saw her she was lying on the street in front of a shop with all the bandages. Her daughter was by her side. After listening to her story, my friends and I contacted the country office who arranged housing for her. Of course we can’t do this for everybody. Because you know, the bureaucracy in Italy is so complicated. But the little we can try to do? When we can.
I would also like to develop Fashion 4 Hope, a new organization we are working on at the moment. The objective is to bridge a gap between Africa and Europe through fashion, charity, and education. As I used to say, it's beautiful to always try to bring help to Africa but in this era fulfilling basic needs is a good start, but we need more education, leadership and empowerment for young people to learn how to create a better future and not only always waiting for help, the time has come to create it.
That said, I have other projects I am willing to bring, I just launched a brand totally made by me named the BoGo Atelier, a brand where my African culture and European experience match perfectly.