Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2021: Aurora James

Our annual showcase of the city’s most inspiring women who have led by example, achieved against all odds and made this city and this year special.

The Designer

Aurora James, founder and designer behind fashion brand Brother Vellies, has led the way this year not only in her designs but in her efforts to move the industry forward. She founded the 15 Percent Pledge in 2020, asking major retailers to commit at least 15 per cent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Her work was recognized with a CFDA Founder’s Award in recognition of the pledge this year. 

By George Sully | Designer, Sully & Son Co.

From early on, Aurora James’s goal has always been to promote traditional African design practices and techniques. Later, she started working in other countries within Africa and beyond. You see, Aurora’s vision and mindset for amplifying people of colour has always been deeply rooted, an unbreakable foundation of sorts. This is what makes Aurora Aurora.

More than the countless awards she’s received in fashion — including the Council of Fashion Designers of America Founder’s Award this year — along her journey, Aurora is simply a beacon for change. True change. In June 2020 Aurora created what the world would come to know as the 15 Percent Pledge, one of the most recognized and important contributions to come from last year’s protests that saw injustices and police brutality unfold before our eyes. This was only the beginning.

What Aurora helped create not only shook the foundation on which the fashion industry stands but also had an equal and profound impact on BIPOC designers across North America, including myself as a Black designer. I have always admired Aurora’s work in fashion, but little did I know she would be pivotal in the way the world admired mine. For that, I will always be indebted to her including those that have gotten a little more shelf space because of her courage.

See our full list of Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2021 here. 

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO