Interview with Yamaia Faye, fashion designer, model, public speaker and entrepreneur.
At the young age of 17, Yamaia was already making strides in the fashion world, taking part in fashion shows and representing the island of Lanai as a Hawaiian Tropic model. Since then, Yamaia has shot up the ladder of the fashion industry, going on to live in key fashion locations like New York, Florida, Milan, London and Dubai. She’s worked in her career as a designer, a TV show host, a modelling instructor and founded her fashion house – the Yamaia LUXX Showroom. Needless to say, Yamaia hasn’t had it all on a silver platter. Her story shows that with determination, every Black dreamer can make it to the top in any industry – even in fashion. She shares her story and inspiration today with us on Your Voices.
Can you tell us about the key stages in your life that led you to become the fashion designer that you are?
My mother was a self-taught pinstripe and interior decorator. So were a long line of my family history – my grandmother was a sewer. So from me helping my mother as a young girl with her sewing, I developed, of course, the design aspect for it and could mix and match fabrics quite well. It kind of went from there and I started modelling.
What special things do you bring to the fashion industry in your own opinion?
When I started modelling, of course, the color of our skin wasn’t very appreciated in any capacity. There were very few jobs for the Black model. I had to learn how to deal with going to castings and also realize that I needed to know how to do my own hair and makeup, and still raise it to a standard in which the industry or the associations of people would be able to appreciate. So I’ve had to learn from scratch many of these elements. In today’s time, women tend to be able to just get onto Instagram, show their body and become instantly famous. So for me, what I bring to the fashion and image world is the solid foundation and being able to create my own identity, being able to love and embrace fashion but at the same time, understanding what it takes to get there and what it takes to maintain yourself.
Do your fashion creations have any African related attributes?
Only based on the colors. I have previously done a collection that was with fabric from Africa, Nigerian fabrics, but it was only based on the colors and what they mean.
Let’s talk about Black Fashion Week USA. Did this event give you any kind of inspiration, new contacts and other things of the sort?
What Black Fashion Week USA did was give me more insight into the depths of how we can grow and advance as an industry, because we are one of the most, if not the most, creative beings on this earth. We buy together, so if we could collectively come together and create multiple platforms, that would be great. Of course, it gave me a better sense of self and what my purpose is – to spread through fashion a solid foundation of embracing these things in true essence for what they are and at the same time, the networking of seeing the empowerment of each other. Whether you are a model or designer, makeup artist or retailer, we can all fuse together and present something that can be greater than ourselves. We can pass something on to the next generation.
I’ve had the chance to look at some of your collections and I must say that your dresses are amazing. They’re very beautiful.
Thank you. I appreciate that!
How do you see the clothing that you make? Are they for special occasions or are they casual wear?
Well, the couture that I do is definitely for special occasions, and generally, we have some ready-to-wear. But when I put myself forth in doing something, it’s generally on the couture side and it’s for special occasions. What I mean by that is that it can be won for a dinner, a wedding, things of this sort. But it’s something that I believe that a woman can wear again. In the general sense of fashion, people would say, “Oh you can’t wear that again!” But I don’t believe that. I believe that clothes actually get their life through the people who embody them. So a special occasion to me is all about how you feel about yourself. When a woman wears a dress of mine or something that I have designed or styled, I need her to be who she is because that’s the reason why I create.
Do you have any special collection in anticipation for the Christmas holiday season?
No, I’m not doing anything for the Christmas season per se. If someone wants something from me, of course, I would design something for them and have it made. I prefer to have somebody who wants something specifically for themselves. Outside of that, it’s just buying the regular ready-to-wear type of clothing that you may or would just provide, whether it’s t-shirts, hats, that type of thing.
Do you think there has been any point in history where Black fashion has set the rules or standards for world fashion?
No. We haven’t been able to set a standard in world fashion and be the recipient of the business. Not at all. We’ve been able to set a precedent of what fashion should look like, but we have no control over that. So basically I must say no, not at all.
Do you have any works that have been influenced by some of the things that Black people go through?
The issues that Black people face have influenced my creativity. To me, fashion is what I am. I fashion myself. I’ve been made and created by God, and there’s God’s love in me. So anything that I embrace and put on is fashion. To be able to use fashion in a way that would actually be able to help a movement means that it would have to be on the front line. I’ve created something that hasn’t come out yet because even with a talent and a gift, it must be positioned properly. Last year, half of the collection that I showed in Black Fashion Week was the Black rose. It is very much a symbol that embodies some of the struggles which the African American community is going through. People normally look at a rose and say it’s red. I believe that there are a lot of black roses standing and we should be able to embrace the duality of who we are. We are spirit and flesh, we are beautiful and powerful and we have a presence of love, energy and a love for life that has been covered by the stereotypical things we do or say. But we are the light and energy.
From your website I can see that you are an advocate for women empowerment. Do you have any other social projects or advocacy that you do?
I do women empowerment and I also do for the men, which is beyond generation, and I call it FashionBOII. It is strategically for men who have already been positioned and who have positioned themselves to be able to teach the next generation.
What would you say to young people who have dreams of becoming fashion designers and changing the world with their art?
I would start by saying they should know themselves and really know from where they are and who they are. Because when they start to step into the realm of imagery, they must understand the ramifications of you posting your image or putting your presentation of what you believe an image should be. Know yourself, do your homework, don’t allow your closest associations to damper or slow down your process of growth. Think, act and move beyond your own limitations, because this is truly who you are. Being in fashion, whether it’s to be a model, a designer, there are so many realms of that particular place that you have to go through, and much like myself, I had a lot of nos. “No, you’re not this. No, you’re not that.” Until I got a yes. So you have to really have some self-endurance, self-preservation about yourself, and then you take it outside. I would also suggest that they understand the game and embrace it and not always put everything they’re doing right up front until they’ve already made the deal happen. Stay guarded because that’s your gift, that’s your talent. That’s something that’s going to move you from the next level of who you are, of growth and development, to be able to pass it on to other people.
Yamaya Faye Lifestyle Brands: Your tools to discovering your purpose in life and achieving success.
Become a member of Yamaia Faye’s lifestyle brands and get exclusive access and benefits to her life-changing seminars, VIP events and more.
Yamaia: Yamaia’s showroom is a physical and virtual entity, showcasing original bespoke designs by Yamaia and other up and coming fashion designers, and soon to be available in the soon to be launched ‘Y Fashion’ online boutique.
Fashiongyyrl: Comprehensive image consulting service designed to educate, coach and help women and young ladies to succeed in the fashion industry and everyday life presented by Yamaia and various guest speakers.
YLUXX: Interested in a career in fashion design, modelling, retail management, sales, beauty, hair or makeup? This is your opportunity to meet Yamaia ‘on the road’. Receive Yamaia’s invaluable experience and advice…and soon you could be following in her footsteps, while creating your own.
CYOI: Join Yamaia’s empowerment community and lifestyle centre to take the first step in changing your life. Learn how to achieve your goals … no matter who you are or what you want to do, you should always strive to be the very best – you.
FASHIONBOII: Complete life coaching services, strategically providing men and boys the knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed in life. Presented by Yamaia and various guest speakers.
fgTV: Discover all things fashionable by subscribing to Yamaia’s YouTube channel. Apply to become an FGTV correspondent to report of food, fashion, modelling, locations and interviewing successful people.