Aurora James, the Creative Director at Brother Vellies, Is a Woman on a Mission—and She Wants You to Join Her
Here, the lauded accessories designer shares her story, and a few of her favorite things.
After meeting a variety of gifted craftspeople on a trip to Africa in 2011, Aurora James launched her accessories line, Brother Vellies, determined to keep traditions like theirs alive. Her debut design, the Vellies desert boot, which is made in South Africa, put the brand on the map; now her stylish kicks—preppy-chic loafers, buttery handwoven huaraches, and feather-plumed sandals—are beloved by well-shod fans like Beyoncé, Meghan Markle, and Zendaya. James's own wardrobe marries earthiness and glamour, and includes many a vintage find from Etsy. (A recent search: "Escada, suit jacket, pink.")
Her latest project is the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit she launched in June after George Floyd's murder. Because Black people make up nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population, it commits major retailers to stocking at least that much of their inventory from Black-owned businesses. West Elm, Sephora, and Rent the Runway are already on board. "A lot of times we let our differences divide us, and the 15 Percent Pledge is about celebrating them," James says. "Every time you make a purchase, you vote with your dollars. This is about having a diverse world and economy."
It's a movement we can all continue to shape, as well—shop at companies that have taken the pledge and demand (via social media, letters, and emails) that others follow suit. "If we want change in our communities, we all need to step up and be a part of it," says James. Here, the designer and activist shares a few of her favorite things that take her from day to day, including the Brother Vellies shoe she considers a forever staple, her favorite flower, and her go-to beauty and skincare products.
"You can find these all over South Africa. They're my favorite."
"I appreciate some around-the-house silkiness. The colors pick up my spirits."
Shop Now: Fe Noel Carenage Stripe Robe, $398, fenoel.com.
"I love the unexpected pop of green. It makes me think of nature."
Shop Now: The Last Line Emerald Small Biggie Earrings, $480, thisisthelast.com.
"I went to school down the block from GoldenEye Resort in Jamaica for a few years. The beach is absolutely stunning."
Cold Brew Concentrate
"I start my mornings with a liter of water, and then a mug of this New Orleans-style blend with nondairy creamer."
Shop Now: Grady's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, from $4, gradyscoldbrew.com.
"A glass of this with some friends and charcuterie inspires wonderful conversations."
Shop Now: Anders Frederick Steen "When a Piece of Pink Rice Paper Hits the Glow of a Cigarette" Wine, $72, zrswines.com.
All About Love
"This book helps me aspire to have as much love in my heart as possible, which is the epitome of happiness."
Shop Now: All About Love by Bell Hooks, $14.49, barnesandnoble.com.
"They're youthful, with collegiate energy. But they also exude the confidence of a successful woman."
Shop Now: Brother Vellies "Wilson" Loafers, $615, brothervellies.com.