Meet the Woman Making Ethical Fashion Cool

Jessica Schiffer

About a year ago, I started hearing about a shoe brand called Brother Vellies everywhere—from a friend in the industry to a cousin living and working in Africa (where the company makes its shoes). The consensus across the board was that this was a brand to watch, not just for its on-point aesthetic but for its admirably ethical production methods, too. Put simply, it was thought to be the best of both worlds, which is not always easy to come by in the sustainable fashion space.

A little research confirmed this for me (and had me suddenly craving far more shoes than I needed) but also led me to a serious crush on the brand’s founder, Aurora James. Beyond being drop-dead gorgeous in the most natural way, she has killer style and—judging from her current endeavor—a really good heart.

Inspired by the traditional veldskoen (“vellie”) desert boots she kept seeing on her travels in Africa, James founded Brother Vellies in 2013 with the goal of creating and sustaining jobs throughout Africa. She has done exactly that—her products are handmade in South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia—and wooed the fashion world on top of it all. When she was announced as a finalist for the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition on July 15, I was not surprised in the least.

I hopped on a call with James to discuss that experience and everything leading up to it, and was met with one of the sweetest, smartest ladies in the biz.

Scroll down to hear James’s amazing advice for getting into the industry, and the hilarious way she found out about being a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist!

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