Monday, January 11, 2016

Aurora James: Creating Jobs One Shoe At A Time

When was the last time you thought about where your pair of shoes came from before you bought it? Or when was the last time you considered the process and time it takes for your shoes to land in your hands? Though many may not think about these things, there is one designer that not only does, but also is helping to provide jobs—one shoe at a time.

Growing up, Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies, a handmade shoe company derived in Africa, traveled often. It wasn’t until James spent countless hours watching behind the scenes footage of interviews and fashion shows where she saw how fashion operated and she knew that she wanted to be apart it.

When James moved to Los Angelas, California, she became a freelance worker. “While I was never designing, my work always related to growing and developing ideas and identities. I spent a lot of my spare time trying to find a larger way to explore my own creativity and still give back in some capacity,” she says.

Her sense of creativity and longing to do something more, became the driving force for Brother Vellies, which she founded in 2013, on a trip to Morocco, Africa. Velskoen, pronounced “fell-skoon” and known commonly as “Vellies,” are the ancestors to the modern-day desert boot. Vellies were first made in the 1600s, simply inspired by the footwear of the Khoikhoi tribe and crafted using raw materials. Later on, Vellies were impacted by British travellers and were renamed to the household name it is today.

“I founded Brother Vellies with the goal of preserving the shoemaking craft in Africa and creating new jobs for the artisans in our workshops,” she says.

Each shoe, made in the coastal town of Swakopmund, Namibia, contains raw organic materials, such as Kudu leather, vegetable dyes and beads from ostrich eggs and seashells. Brother Vellies includes options for men, women and children, while each shoe is delicately made from local artisans. Relying on local artisans within Africa to craft each shoe allows artisans to receive fair wages and skills training.

It is important for James to be able to empower people within Africa by giving them jobs instead of handouts. She believes that this is the best possible way to ensure long-term growth and development on the continent. Through each shoe, Aurora’s approach creates sustainability for all by reusing materials and reducing carbon footprint, for example.

According to the Brother Vellies site, 33 million primary school-aged children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not go to school. 18 million of these children are girls. However because of her incredible efforts, Brother Vellies works with a local school in South Africa, and a portion of their Brother Minis for children helps support the local kids’ education.

Brother Vellies for women range from $195 to $700, but can depend on the style. Although Brother Vellies may seem expensive compared to a basic pair of flats at Forever21, Aurora James is making an extreme effort to empower others, create jobs in Africa and develop a footwear line that sustainable and conscience for the entire world.

Aurora James is currently based in New York City.

Connect with Aurora James

Connect with Brother Vellies

Photos via Tumblr

Do the shoes you buy have a social impact? Let us know in the comments below!

By: Ajea Nicole
Ajea Nicole is a 20 something from Boston, MA who craves anything style related. Though her love of style originated from scouring her mom’s closet, she often gleans style inspiration from Solange and June Ambrose. When she is not catching up on Project Runway, she can be found working out at the gym, reading a good book or
somewhere in a sushi restaurant.

Connect with her!
Twitter: @ajeanicole
Instagram: @ajeanicole

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