8. Aurora James and her African-inspired design practices

Greenpoint, Brooklyn by the water.
James lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood known for creative artists who frequent nearby trending restaurants with live music.

Although newer to the fashion scene, Aurora James has used fashion as a “cultural tool” since she founded her brand Brother Vellies in 2013. Wanting a company based on the values of ethical production and sustainability, James pays attention to every step of the production process to ensure humane working conditions for her employees and environmentally friendly materials. Employees produce her designs in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Italy, Haiti and New York City.

With her luxury accessories, the New York fashion designer strives to honor African design practices. Along with leather handbags and purses, James designs shoes of many styles. These shoes include boots, loafers and vellies, a traditional South African shoe shape. She designs these products for a community, rather than a group of customers. It is this same love of community that drives the connections James has with her neighbors and local employees in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As she walks through the neighborhood, she often greets local postmen, wandering friends and local store owners with a smile. Behind that smile is a passionate woman who fights for Black designers and struggling artisans.

Next, check out the fashion history of New York City outlined in a documentary!