Screw Power Lists. Here’s a pick ‘n’ mix selection of some young people who are actually doing things. In this #EyesOn2016 series, they tell us what’s going to blow up in 2016.
Aly Ndiaye is a Senegalese-American model represented by Red Models in New York and Major Models in Milan. He’s walked for the likes of Abasi Rosborough and Kanye West.
What’s your background and how did you start your modeling adventure?
My name is Aly Ndiaye and I am originally from Kaolack, Senegal. A region that is still developing as we speak and culturally a beautiful place I am proud to call my home. I am someone my friends would describe as charismatically timeless! It is important to ask because you want good company around you. By the same token, the friends who I surround myself with, I value.
I enjoy being outside and feel most inspired when I am. Any chance I get to be outdoors I will take. I enjoy spending my time being as active as possible. During the last year, I have picked up playing tennis as a hobby… nowhere near a pro like Williams or Čilić – I am still very fresh at the game. I play at the Chelsea Piers here in NYC – it’s great! Being tall, I like to use my body and limbs as much as possible to improve my stages of life.
I have a deep appreciation for the arts from dance to illustrating. Being African, dance is a huge part of me and what my people stand for; we come out of the womb dancing. Any chance I get to move, I will take it. From Senegalese musician like Youssou N’dour to just jamming here to good bands and DJs like Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki, the rhythm is in me. You need a good dance partner… catch me on the dancefloor!
During fashion week, there is so much happening at castings and backstage downtown before the shows. In order to keep myself sane and defeat boredom, I started carrying my sketchpad and pencils with me and a good book. Growing up, I went to a very intense academic high school that had a small art programme. That is where I discovered the power of the pencil. So this year my forgotten skills came back and I found myself backstage at shows just whipping out the pad and focusing now more on fashion illustration; I guess it goes well with this business.
When I got signed, it was right before the SS2013 shows by my post-mother agency Boss Models. It was a sigh of great relief and happiness that a journey had started. Before coming to NY, people in Maryland (which is where I was raised for the rest of my childhood going into adolescence) would always tell me to try out modelling. I was very hesitant because I did not know much about this business just what I had seen in magazines and bus ads. But when I continuously kept hearing it, I figured why not?
Thankfully at that time, I had friends at college in NYC that were generous enough to let me crash on their floors for two to three nights, just so I could make it to the open calls (you guys know who you are). I did this for about five months busing back and forth from New York to Maryland. For someone that was working part-time, it got crazy expensive. It was a draining journey for a twenty-year-old who had no idea what he was doing. I remember getting the email from Boss Models NY in November of 2013 saying they were interested in representing me!
I remember my first show like it was yesterday. It was for Vantan Tokyo Eisunoge at the Lincoln Center. I had on these cropped canary yellow trousers and a complimentary blue varsity jacket. I have always heard of the famous venue, so the pressure was on. This was my first show and had no idea what to expect. I was so nervous that, thank goodness, the look I wore had sunglasses to cover my face. I survived my first-ever fashion week and am still here!
Tell us about your relationship with Senegal and African fashion.
I lived in a household dominated by women. My grandmother, mother and aunt were women of a particular character. To them fashion was cultural. It was the manner in which you did things and approached life. But they still enjoyed every moment to get dressed up for parties! When it comes to our traditional wardrobe called the ‘Grande Boubou’ which derives from our word in Wolof, my mother especially made a full-on effort to make a statement.
Coming in various textiles made from either silk, cotton and synthetic blend to resemble silk, it is decorated with intricate embroidery with seamless wide sleeves. And all styles of boubou have a strong eye on the detail. Both men and women wear the Grande Boubou on occasions like ceremonies, graduations, weddings and going to mosque, especially on Eid holidays. It comes in a full three-piece matching set. Men, of course, will wear the pants under the boubou and women will wear the skirts underneath.
Africa has a strong presence in fashion and is continuing to flourish.
There is no greater pleasure than going to a West African party, and seeing as I like to call it ‘The Battle of the Boubou’. You see so many beautiful styles and everyone in their mind at the party knows they look better than their friends. My mother said to me one day, ‘This is what it is’ (in our language Wolof)… HILARIOUS! Africa has a strong presence in fashion and is continuing to flourish, we even see it now in the demand of African models.
What are you going to remember 2015 for?
Oh 2015, you have been a pleasure this year! This year for me was the year of growth as a model. I got the opportunity to work with great clients from photographers like Gerardo Vizmanos, to shooting the lookbook for Thom Browne SS16 to being a part of the Kanye West Yeezy Season 2 collection.
They are all very much different in their style but what they have in common is the appreciation of diversity in their work, especially for us as black models. To be in the same room as my brothers and sisters, especially the black models before me is such an inspiring feeling. We can only move forward from here and I wish for more moments like this in 2016.
What or who do you think is going to blow up in 2016?
Have you heard of design duo Abasi Rosborough? Well if not, you must check them out. Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough have rebuilt menswear; it’s not about fashion anymore. When it comes to menswear, there is an unexplained vocabulary that they both use in order to achieve their collection successfully each season. With the birth of their first collection in 2013, AR has implemented a military aesthetic to their collections.
AR believes that it’s the function of the garment that matters and how it works with the body. And I agree because even when we are shooting the AR lookbook collections, restriction is not an option; especially not in the suiting. They used minimal scales in white, grey, navy, black and most recently a camel colour in their FW15 Orison collection. Taking risks in design is an element of menswear they are not afraid of.
In true AR style, their signature reversible blazer with angular seaming, adding a knit underarm panelling this season allows for easy movement – no need to feel restricted here. With their uncomplicated approach to design and relaxed tailoring, Abasi Rosborough are the designers to watch out for.
What’s keeping you busy in 2016?
Recently I just became a part of the ‘Big Brother, Big Sister’ programme in New York. Developing and empowering our youth is what I am passionate about and I think it stems from the independence I had to learn at the age of 10. Not having a strong male presence can have a life-long impact on a child, especially those living at or below the poverty level. Currently, there are over one hundred boys on an extensive waitlist seeking for the right male mentor.
I would like to get our youth mentored to help them realise that the universe has a bright future ahead for them.
My goal in the year 2016 is to motivate and coach the kids on acceptance through a series of team and leadership activities. And also, I would like to wipe the slate clean and get our youth mentored to help them realise that the universe has a bright future ahead for them. I have been fortunate enough to be exposed and working in an industry that connects with other industries where you are accepted and told its okay to be proud to be who you are you, and I strongly believe these kids can benefit from that.
Yoga flow and gym workouts are some of the physical exercise I do that makes me strong and helps me continue to stay lean.
I am excited to have become a ‘BIG’ because I grew up as an only child so I did not have the luxury to bond with siblings but I always wanted someone to take notice of me. With Big Brother, Big Sister being such a successful and high-rated programme in the US. I would like to partner and start one in Senegal with a strong art programme with the proper resources in the near future.
Another thing that is keeping me busy in 2016 is continuing to live a physical and balanced lifestyle through functional training: yoga flow and gym workouts are some of the physical exercise I do that makes me strong and helps me continue to stay lean. This year I realised the importance of physical fitness because it combines my total body to improve my form through extensive movements. This comes in handy because as a model you go through a series of jobs where you need your body to work with you and not against. The year 2016 will be the ‘Year of the Gym Rat’.
Follow Aly on Instagram @Aly_Ndiaye
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