Aurora James Blooms With Vulnerability In Debut 'Wildflower' Memoir
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Following the release of her debut memoir, Wildflower (Crown Publishing Group), Brother Vellies founder and CFDA award-winning designer Aurora James continues to tap into her refreshingly disruptive side.
Aurora James Photographed by Sebastian Kim
What is the biggest takeaway or advice you received from your grandmother?
My grandmother played a huge role in my life growing up. She was a white woman born in 1916, so we didn’t always see eye to eye, but she showed me a kind of unconditional love that I actively seek to replicate with friends and other members of my family.
How do you give yourself grace?
I give myself grace by taking days to wind down and self-care. I have to try to remember that I am only one person, doing the best I can. On days off, I still find my creative juices flowing as I exist in New York or L.A. From street fashion, architecture and art, it’s hard to not be inspired by all of the culture I am surrounded by.
Aurora James launched her luxury accessories line, Brother Vellies, in 2013. Photographed by Sebastian Kim PHOTO BY SEBASTIAN KIM/COURTESY OF CROWN PUBLISHING GROUP
In your memoir, you gravitated toward shoes like the babouche, vellies and mukluks. I’m curious to know if you think part of that allure is because of—aside from their designs—the connection between the shoes’ cultural histories and your own cultural exploration/love of travel.
It was these exact styles that inspired me to launch Brother Vellies! I was so inspired by the craftspeople I met during my first trip to Africa who have honed their craft for generations. They were building these shoes with sustainable materials and with such care that I couldn’t help but want to continue their legacy and work in the States.
The designer’s memoir is a vulnerable insight into her most challenging and rewarding life moments. Photographed by Sebastian Kim
What’s your take on making luxury accessible?
It’s interesting to look not only at price and size inclusivity, which are both majorly important, but also at where luxury items are sold and who they are advertised to. Part of making luxury accessible is showing various groups of people that these products exist and that they are worthy consumers to purchase these products. This is where representation in campaigns and e-commerce comes into play.
In 2015, James became the first Black female designer to win a Council of Fashion Designers of America award. Photographed by Sebastian Kim
Can you discuss the importance of community and extending support laterally?
I will always advocate for the importance of community and mutual support as I was once someone in need of that support. There are a plethora of people working in fashion, beauty and other creative industries whose potential is hindered by the lack of reasonable and accessible funding. My mission is to create change within the industry and give small-business owners, specifically women and people of color, a platform for their creativity. Talent is distributed equally but opportunity is not. We are actively restructuring avenues of opportunity with the Fifteen Percent Pledge (@15percentpledge).
In 2020, James founded the Fifteen Percent Pledge with the goal of getting big corporations to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. Photographed by Sebastian Kim