Introducing: Brother Vellies
April 25 2016
Aurora James is one of those faces in Fashion that seems to suddenly be everywhere. Since founding her footwear line Brother Vellies in 2013, she and her brand earned a spot both in the 2015 CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund winners circle, and a prized position in the shoe closet of some of the worlds most fashionable closets. We managed to catch James during a brief stint in Palm Springs to chat with her about this season’s new offerings.
Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Current Location: BedStuy, New York
How do you take your coffee? Iced Almond Milk lattes, please
What’s your Sunday Ritual? Grabbing a coffee with a friend and taking a walk to the closest flea market or antique store
We’re catching you on the tail end of a trip to Palm Springs, and it seems you’re always on the move. Is there a place that you would call home?
It’s a little cheesy, but home is always where the heart is for me. It’s not so much the space as it is the person I am occupying that space with. Home can be a hotel room in New Mexico if you’re with people you care about.
What first inspired your interest in Fashion?
My mom and her exceptional closet
Can you walk us through your early career to the point at which you felt ready to launch your own company?
My career path was a series of being extremely obsessed with every job I ever had and then ultimately deciding if I’m pouring my blood sweat and tears into something it should be something that I am managing myself and am personally passionate about.
Since launching in 2013, Brother Vellies has worked almost exclusively with African artisans using almost all local materials. What inspired you to begin a company so deeply rooted in Africa?
The people. My grandmother always talked about the significance of uplifting other people through your work. I think there are incredibly skilled people in Africa and just felt inspired to help give their art a platform.
Brother Vellies is particularly notable for it’s dedication to ethical business practices, from a commitment to fair wages to being one of the less than .5% of US companies lead by a black female CEO. Do you have thoughts on the current proliferation of socially minded fashion businesses and how companies can continue to improve?
I think radical transparency should be a goal for all of us in the way we run our businesses. It’s also okay to not be perfect all of the time. Don’t be afraid to start by doing just a little bit. Are all of our materials entirely sustainable, no. But many, many many of them are. You have to do as much as you can but remember to keep the product first and just be honest with your customers. I do dream of a perfect world where not only is the fashion industry zero impact but that it actually makes a positive contribution above being zero impact. Clothes are the most beautiful when they make it onto a hanger in a beautiful and meaningful way.
Your designs are often based on styles that have been worn in communities from South Africa to Kenya for generations. What is it about these styles that hold such an enduring interest to you?
Classics are classics for a reason. I love history. Those shapes always feel more soulful to me.
What can we expect from the collection for Spring 2016?
Our Spring collection is really beautiful and a little romantic. It is the first season we have created heels. The wooden ones are hand carved. I create shoes for women who are comfortable and confident in themselves and who they are as women and what they want to give to the World. All ships rise with the tide. The Spring collection is called Great Heights. I love the idea of women rising up together – most of the people making our shoes are women.