From Brother Vellies to the 15% Pledge: Aurora James is Making Meaningful Change


(Image credit: Martin Romero)

Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and stay tuned.

To own a brand in 2020 goes beyond just selling a product—you have to sell a purpose. Consumers are now synergistically aligning themselves with brands that share the same core values and are purchasing with mindfulness, from ethically-sourced materials to charitable donations, to ultimately contribute to a greater good. At the forefront of this movement is the beloved founder of sustainable luxury accessory brand Brother Vellies, Aurora James. As a brand built on supporting global artisan communities who hand-make each unique design, James is changing the definition of a luxury item. "What does luxury mean to me as a woman right now in 2020? Luxury is a brand that is founded by a woman, funded by a woman, and made by women,” states James. Brother Vellies’ shoes and handbags have become a symbol of luxury through integrity and solidarity that honor cultural histories. 

As this year unfolded, becoming increasingly devastating—in more ways than one—James found herself at a pivotal moment: how to support her artisan communities who need it the most during a global pandemic, and her cash-strapped customers who she wouldn’t dare push to purchase a $500 pair of boots. Thus, James came up with a genius solve by launching the subscription Something Special, furthering her ability to support local artisan economies around the world through made-to-order comfort items. But that’s far from all—in June, James also started the 15% Pledge, a nonprofit organization pushing for racial and economic equality by urging companies to commit 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. With partners like Sephora, Yelp, and West Elm already onboard, James is changing the landscape of the American economy—one that has underserved minorities for far too long. 

As a leading voice in the industry, it’s no surprise that James was featured on the cover of Vogue’s iconic September Issue and is being honored as this year’s Person of The Year at the Footwear News Achievement Awards—be sure to watch live on December 8th. Head to Apple Podcasts or Spotify to subscribe to Second Life and to listen to our second interview with James and hear how she is continuously inspiring her community to find their voice and use it in the most meaningful way. And keep scrollgn to discover Brother Vellies' latest offerings. 

Freelance Editor