Inspired by Flemish paintings, the Carolina Herrera 2018 Pre-Fall Collection celebrates a romantic florals and a bold palette. With its whimsical prints and new shapes, who better to preview the collection than Friend of the House and Brother Vellies creative director Aurora James. As the designer prepares for her next collection and buzz surrounding the forthcoming 2018 CFDA Awards, James sat with The House to discuss entrepreneurship, mentorships, and work/life balance.
On launching Brother Vellies:
I never had a plan to launch Brother Vellies. I was traveling in Africa and met a lot of amazing artisans whose skills were being overlooked in favor of more Western designs. The younger generation wasn’t interested in learning these time-honored skills because they didn’t present a lot of opportunity for them. I wanted to do anything I could to help, so I originally started working with a group of shoe makers. I tweaked their styles and began selling them to my friends and family in New York. Brother Vellies officially launched in 2013. Now we produce in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, Mali, and Haiti. We even have a partnership with the United Nations. When I first began, I visited Africa every two months; now I go three to four times a year.
It’s been such an amazing opportunity to work with people in Africa, and to see their work in high fashion, worn by people who have been revered for decades. I couldn’t be more proud.
Participating in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was incredibly helpful. When I found out that I was included that year, Mrs. Herrera hosted the party. She’s always been one of those people who has had an incredible business, and she’s certainly someone to admire.
On women who inspire:
Because my business model is so different from a traditional fashion business model, I’m inspired by so many people! I veer toward trying to learn little things from each of them. Even my friends, my peer group who is incredibly talented and supportive: Elaine Welteroth, Cleo Wade, Wing Yau and her jewelry line WWake, Sarah Sophie Flicker; Paola Mendoza and the Women’s March, and how she segwayed that into other work. Katie Couric, and her amazing new series she just released with NatGeo. It made me cry.
On a typical work day:
I live in Brooklyn. So I usually get up, get my coffee and, if the weather is nice, I’ll sit outside on my patio (it’s a very green area). Then I’ll make my way to the studio. I have an amazing staff of women and we all talk, work, listen to music. Obviously it’s a lot of work. But you can contextualize the work in to a way that works for your life.
On her favorite look from the shoot:
I loved the green dress with floral embroidery. I was so beautiful and fun. It felt very me. I feel like the best version of myself in this dress. The pieces fit so well. (Creative Director) Wes is doing a phenomenal job.
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