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For Aurora James, Brother Vellies Is Just the Beginning

In this series, Man Repeller shines a light on standout independent, Black-owned fashion labels we think you should know about (and shop from!). Today we have Aurora James, creative director of Brother Vellies and founder of 15 Percent Pledge.


The designer and founder:

Aurora James

The brand:

Brother Vellies, a luxury accessories brand founded in 2013 with an emphasis on keeping traditional African design practices and techniques alive. 

Partially as a response to changing needs brought on by the pandemic, Brother Vellies has expanded recently with Bodega, a collection of small-batch goods like Cloud Socks and handmade mugs made from Oaxacan clay, and Something Special, a subscription service that sends you something sustainably- and ethically-made for your home each month during quarantine.

If we drew a three-adjective Venn diagram, Brother Vellies would sit in the center of:

Spunky, decadent, textural

Fantasy scenario:

You always told yourself that if you hit this career milestone, you’d reward yourself with a pair of Brother Vellies shoes. The day has come, and as with most successes, it feels good, though not quite the way you’d expected. But you thought this might be the case, and that’s why you affixed this carrot to the stick, because now you’ll be reminded of what you achieved every time you glide into this pair of shoes.

Now the question is: how do you decide on one pair? Do you want to be reminded of your stellar accomplishment when you’re walking your dog every morning in the Greg sandal, an easy slip-on with crocheted flowers? Or when you’re getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party with a minidress and the jellyfish-adjacent Sahara Pompon boots? When you’re running to a friend’s art opening on a chilly night in the shearling 2020 boots? Commuting to work on the subway in the burnt orange Wilson loafers? Swinging by the bodega for a bag of pretzel sticks in the Jupiter Doodle boots? Officiating a friend’s wedding in the Stell Mule? You close your eyes and blindly fling your cursor around the website, Wheel-of-Fortune-style: Whichever way you spin it, you can wear these victory shoes with any outfit. Vanna White claps and smiles warmly.

Black entrepreneurship and the 15 Percent Pledge in James’s words:

“For me, being a Black business owner is really about solidarity first and foremost. The 15% Pledge Instagram account is currently rolling out a lot of statistics that show the discrepancies for Black business owners.

Our first ask is to large retailers. I’m asking them to come to the table and commit 15% of their shelf space and spending power to Black businesses. 

I’m also thinking about the Black people that helped power these businesses, and I want to make sure that they are treated fairly and that they are not the only Black face in a boardroom.

So it’s also about all of these businesses looking inward and thinking about how they can commit to the 15% Pledge in their own way. Because I am, yes, a Black business owner, but I’m also a Black human, and I really want to see change across the board for how Black people are treated, especially as it pertains to economic equality. That wage gap is also very real.”

How you can get involved now:

Sephora and Rent the Runway are the first major retailers to commit to the pledge, setting an example for brands like Target, Whole Foods, Ulta Beauty, and Shopbop to commit 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. In response to the movement, Man Repeller has committed to link at least 15% Black-owned brands and businesses in all of our shopping and market stories. 

To support, you can head to 15 Percent Pledge and sign up to Stand With Us, as well as text “PLEDGE” to 917-540-8148, and like, follow, and share on Instagram, @15percentpledge. Then you can incorporate the 15% pledge mindset into your regular spending habits.

Aurora James
I. Mumgry, (worth noting: Maggie McGlinchy’s Enjoy By newsletter compiled a non-exhaustive list of food, beverage, and wellness brands owned by BIPoC, organized by grocery aisle), II. Clare Paint, III. Lichen and Claude Home, IV. Wonderffle, V. t.a.

Want more? Check out MR Market Strategist Elizabeth Tamkin’s database of more than 600 Black-owned brands, along with some of her personal shopping recommendations. If you have a suggestion that you think should be added, please share it in the comments.

Team Repeller

This byline is used for stories that involved several Repeller team members, and company announcements.

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