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Meet Aurora James: A Pioneer in Fashion and Equity

Aurora James, the visionary founder behind Brother Vellies and the Fifteen Percent Pledge, is more than a creative force in fashion: she’s a leading advocate for change in the retail industry. 

Her lifestyle and accessories brand, Brother Vellies, pays homage to traditional African craftsmanship. Founded in support of artisans and keeping their sacred techniques alive, her flagship brand transcends the realm of “conventional” fashion by “making notes on culture, creating symbols, collaborating for personal freedoms and capturing moments.” 

Aurora is also the founder of Fifteen Percent Pledge, the pioneering initiative that urges businesses to dedicate 15% of shelf space to Black-owned brands. The pledge has already garnered support from over 600 companies that are now a part of the movement to make retail a more diverse landscape. Fifteen Percent Pledge is committed to a more equitable economic future for minority-owned businesses. Nancy Twine, host of Makers Mindset podcast, is incredibly proud to call them a partner for the Dream Makers Founder Grant, Nancy’s inaugural program to support underrepresented female founders in the consumer space.

Key Insights from Nancy’s Conversation with Aurora

During an insightful conversation on the Makers Mindset podcast, Aurora James shares her thoughts on combining activism with creativity, overcoming the fear of failure, and embracing diversity in retail. Here are a few key takeaways from Aurora’s story:

1. Embracing the Creative Ebb and Flow

Aurora is candid about coming to terms with the unpredictable nature of creativity. Her founder’s journey has taught her that inspiration comes and goes—and that’s okay!

“I don’t want to force it. And I don’t think that you can force creativity.”

Sourcing inspiration outside of Aurora’s work helps her remedy creative ruts. The gems of creativity that appear through her travels or museum visits are what ignite her imagination. Aurora’s lessons learned speak to the impact of fresh experiences for fueling innovation. If you start to feel your creative vision blur, leaning into something new can be a powerful way to regain sight of your purpose. 

2. Growing a Business with Heart

Brother Vellies’ success is proof that there’s no “right” way to grow a business. Aurora chose to focus on her passion—telling stories through design—even if it meant that growing her brand would take time.

“I started Brother Vellies because I was interested in telling stories about culture […] and to work with artisans that I felt had been left out of the archives of fashion. You know, whose work was just getting reappropriated. It wasn’t because I wanted to compete with Michael Kors.”

Aurora’s vision came to life because she was uncompromising about her values. This is a universal truth in entrepreneurship: build your business with purpose and your authenticity will attract the right growth opportunities instead of the most convenient ones.

3. The Power of Perspective

One key to Aurora’s success is her commitment to diverse teams. She believes that our unique lived experiences fuel innovation: when teams reflect the rich, varied identities of the world around them, there’s limitless potential for creativity.

“I want to have different people at the table that I don’t necessarily always agree with. Because honestly, that’s where I’ve gotten the most progress happening.”

Aurora James is reimagining the future of retail. Whether it’s through her timeless designs or her activism in support of racial and economic justice, Aurora is building a legacy rooted firmly in purpose. We can’t wait for you to hear more from Aurora—her story is full of passion, truth, and a vision like no other.

What did you take away from Aurora’s interview on Makers Mindset? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.