Fashion Designer Aurora James on Blooming "In Unexpected Places" (2023)

Designer, activist, disruptor: these are just a few of the words Aurora James is often used to describe. The Toronto native and New York City newcomer is the founder and creative director of the celebrity-loved luxury accessories brand.Hermano Vellies, which he launched in 2013. Underlying the brand is an extremely important ethic and mission:has a purposeThrough its handcrafted offerings, "traditional African design practices and techniques are upheld while creating and nurturing craftsmanship." Her work is so popular that James became the first black designer to win an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. so was shechosen onesbecomes Vice President of the CFDA in December 2022.

With so much success and admiration for what he has created, it would have been easy for James to put his head down and focus on further growing his own brand. But in 2020, following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, James felt compelled to defend other Black-owned businesses. So she founded themfifteen percent commitmentwith theMetagetting big corporations to devote 15 percent of their shelf space to black brands. Thestartedas a call to action on Instagram in May 2020, he tells Oprah Daily, "is now the biggest booster for black entrepreneurs this country has ever seen." Retailers like Nordstrom, Sephora and Macy's have taken a leapam Board, pouring in billions of dollarsBlack-owned businesses. Put simply, James started a revolution.

Now James has published a paperFlor Silvestre, which shows you exactly how it became the force it is today. The book traces turning points and painful challenges, including childhood sexual abuse and an eating disorder, that she experienced while living or traveling in countries like Canada, Jamaica and Africa, and what she learned as her career gave way to activism we know. . for today. Here he tells us a little more about his journey.

What inspired you to write this memoir?

Social media has created something very special for women, wherever everything seems so perfect and life is just fine for people. And I know my life wasn't like that at all. As I spoke to so many young people, I realized that they felt that my life could have been like this. And that would then kind of keep them from being as successful as they could be because they felt like they weren't going to the right school or not getting the right grades. Obviously I didn't go to the right school, didn't get the right grades and didn't finish school. I thought it would be helpful to post my own story so people on my journey can also see parts of themselves and understand that they are exactly where they need to be to make a difference in the world.

How did you choose the title?Flor Silvestre?

When I was a little kid, my mother used to make seed bombs with me: you take seeds, put them in clay and dirt and roll them into a ball. While driving, if we saw an abandoned piece of land or a seemingly forgotten place, we would throw these seed bombs at it and shout "seed bomb". And [we] would just know that in a few weeks there would be a big patch of really beautiful wildflowers in its place. She always said to me, "Make sure you bloom in unexpected places." Make sure you show yourself, even if the environment doesn't support it the way it is now. And look at anything that might be a little mediocre as an opportunity for growth and a chance to make the world more beautiful.” So that's really what it's all about.

When you take the cover off the book, there's a poem that's one of my favorites that says, "You can cut off all the flowers, but you can't stop spring coming." And that's what I do I feel for so many of us in this country and in this world right now who are confidently pushing for change, acceptance and growth.

You say that your early life as a mixed-race child was largely about the coming together of two cultures. Looking back, what superpower do you think he gave you?

I think I actually encountered three different cultures because I also lived in Jamaica and it was a completely new environment. The Caribbean is very different from Canada or even Africa. And it was really fascinating for me (who had an African father) to live in Jamaica because everyone would assume I was from the Caribbean. Understanding the nuances of blackness and even whiteness really was a superpower of mine. In America, as people of color, we are often viewed as monolithic, even though there are so many unique experiences that lie dormant in that shadow or dome of blackness. There are so many different things that can be encapsulated in this dome. Being able to look at situations and ideas from multiple perspectives is my superpower.

Being able to look at situations and ideas from multiple perspectives is my superpower.

They talk a lot about the idea of ​​being in the book. How do you define what it means to belong?

First, you need to feel like you belong to your own skin and body. It took me a long time to trust myself. And a lot of us struggle with some of those things: self-love, self-confidence. Ultimately, I don't know if you can ever truly feel like you belong to the community unless you first feel like you belong in your own skin. This has really been a quest of mine because I know that the happier I am and the more open and confident I am about myself and who I am, the more I will develop a broader sense of community and a community that will truly benefit. me instead of just feedingvonMe. In the end, we all want more of that.

In the book you write about how you were arrested in connection with street racing as a child and how it changed your view of the world. How is that?

It helped me understand what a difference one day can make. [You] can go to school one morning and the next morning end up in a place you never thought you could be. It helped me understand at a very high level how quickly you can get sucked into the system, especially if you make a mistake at a young age. And it also helped me to understand that every decision I will make in my life will be important.

And if I get another chance, what do I do with that chance? I don't want to waste it. I often think about being [in prison], even if it was short-lived. I think about being there, how lucky I am not to be there, and other people who made choices and found themselves there, and maybe still are. And I don't know, often so many things force me to enter a room of gratitude.

What came out of the fifteen percent promise is nothing short of amazing. Where do you want to continue to see this growth and is 15 percent still the goal?

Yes, 15 percent is still the absolute goal. We now have over 600 black owned brands on our donor shelves, which is very exciting. For me it's really about, now that they're there, how can we support them? And as consumers, we also need to watch our own spending and make sure 15 percent of our money goes to black-owned brands by looking at what's in our pantries, refrigerators, closets, laundry rooms, really everywhere. . You can't just put someone on the shelf and that's it. They must be supported. It's been an incredible journey. As a black entrepreneur, I need to be able to get into certain spaces and not just sit down at the table [but] start building a bunch of different tables in that space and then the people that are already with me sitting at the table. I am also very excited to welcome other people into space.

You've been very successful in your life and career, but your book description states that none of it came from a drive to succeed. What is important for you?

It is a push to empower people who are not only underrepresented but historically excluded. Like the artisans in Africa who made these amazing vellies from the start. Like many of these black-owned companies, someone like longtime makeup artist Danessa Myricks is taking the company by storm now that it's on Sephora's shelves.

For me, it's about how we work to increase opportunities and access for those around me. That has always been my main “why”.

This interview has been abridged and edited for clarity.

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Fashion Designer Aurora James on Blooming "In Unexpected Places" (1)

Wild flower: a memory

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Fashion Designer Aurora James on Blooming "In Unexpected Places" (2)

Jane Burnett

editing assistant

Jane Burnett is an assistant editor at the Oprah Daily, where she writes a variety of lifestyle content for the editorial team. She's a journalist with a penchant for pop culture - when she's not catching up on celebrity news, she's usually listening to a podcast! Previously, Jane worked as an on-air reporter for local news at Thrive Global, Ladders News and Reuters. She also did an internship with CNBC through the Emma Bowen Foundation and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).


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