Art of Style

Power dressing with Aurora James

Dressing for fun, extolling exquisite detail and supporting sustainable craftsmanship, the founder and creative director of Brother Vellies is leading a positive movement in fashion



OCCUPATION: Founder and creative director of Brother Vellies

EXPERIENCE: Before founding Brother Vellies, James worked as a production assistant on Canadian TV show Fashion Television, and a fashion director at Gen Art, an organization that showcases emerging artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2015, as it proved to the local artisans we work with that their skills and traditions hold true value,” says James.

Aurora James does things differently. It was actually during a hiatus from fashion in 2014 that the 33-year-old, Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based designer was inspired to launch accessories label Brother Vellies. Years working in the industry had left her feeling out of touch with the natural world; it was time for a break. On a life-changing trip to Africa, she was inspired by the gifted artisans she encountered to create a contemporary label with craftsmanship at its core. One year later, she took home the prestigious CFDA award. But Brother Vellies isn’t just about great design, it’s also about good vibes. Its workshops are around the world in nine countries, from Kenya to Mexico, and all employ local artisans to create one-of-a-kind pieces from responsibly sourced materials – Beyoncé and Eva Chen are fans.


WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT BROTHER VELLIES? “I want people to buy our pieces because they love them; the way they’re made should be the icing on the cake. However, I do think that consumers should start expecting more from the products they invest in. Now more than ever, people want to support positive movements.”

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CHANGE ABOUT FASHION? “A lot of women don’t want to wear print because they feel like it might make them look larger, but who cares? Why are we so fixated on that? It’s about owning it and having confidence; ultimately, that’s the only thing that will make you look and feel beautiful.”

WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL MOTTO? “Life is about the journey, not the destination.”


PACKING ESSENTIALS? “Brother Vellies Burkina sandals – they are totally collapsible so they don’t take up a lot of space. I also love Tata Harper moisturizer and anything by Zimmermann – I’m all about finding easy dresses that you can just slip on.”

WHAT’S YOUR AIRPORT LOOK? “I have a series on my Instagram called #girlinflight, where I take pictures of my security tray. Sometimes I’ll photograph crazy platforms and people are like, ‘I can’t believe you’re wearing those shoes at the airport’, but I think it’s fun to get dressed up.”


POWER PIECE: “My Mini Island bag. It was the first Brother Vellies purse we ever made. I just love having it with me. You know how children have comfort blankets? It’s my comfort bag.”

FAVORITE DESIGNERS: “I really love what Maria Grazia Chiuri is doing at Dior – the embroidery in her collections is just beautiful, her designs are magical. I love clothes transcend space and time and transport you into a fairytale.”

HEELS OR FLATS? “Both. I think there are heels and flats for every occasions. As far as I’m concerned, you can wear flats at your wedding or heels at the airport if that’s what you’re feeling.”

DO YOU WEAR ANY JEWELRY? “All the time. I love whimsical dresses but I am also a jeans and T-shirt girl, so I’m always using jewelry to bring a fun dimension to my outfits. I’m a big fan of Anita Ko – she creates the kind of pieces that you can wear constantly. I also have a ring that I made as a gift to myself when I was nominated for the CFDA award, which is really special to me.”

BIGGEST EXTRAVAGANCE? “Weekly blowouts, and an incredible floor-length, pink shearling coat from Valentino that I’ve worn maybe twice in my life.”

ANY STYLE MISHAPS? “During high school, I was a walking style mishap.”

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.