Aurora James is no stranger to the fashion industry. Her footwear brand Brother Vellies is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and after winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2015, James finds herseld in a full circle moment as she has now been voted in as a vice chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In her new memoir, “Wildflower,” the designer gets candid about her career.
James also opens up about race in the book, as she continues to be a leader in her championing of diversity in fashion. She took on a vital role in the industry in 2020, guiding important conversations about racial justice, specifically with her Fifteen Percent Pledge.
With that, James — who founded the nonprofit with the goal to call on major retailers and corporations to commit a minimum of 15% of their annual purchasing power to Black-owned businesses in order to create a more equitable economic future — has made major advances in just two years. Three thousand Black-owned businesses are now registered with its Business Equity Community and 90% are women led, for instance. She is also in the process of shifting over $10 billion in annual revenue to Black-owned businesses through this work.
But the journey hasn’t been an easy one.
In “Wildflower,” the entrepreneur dives deep on her personal upbringing and adversity she’s faced — from eating disorders to abuse. There’s also mention of a short stint in jail.
In the book, James takes readers back to her early childhood living in Jamaica with her mother and stepfather, who abused both of them. (She was later reunited with her grandmother in Canada.)
“I don’t remember the details of the abuse. I was eight years old and it was too much for me to handle… I did not tell my mother what he had done to me at that time because I already knew that she was battling for her life,” James writes. “I thought if I told her, and she confronted him, he could very well kill her.”
James recounts her rebellious years — slashing tires of another boyfriend of her mother’s, failing 10th grade and taking “The Fast and the Furious” movie a little too literally.
“… I saw the same police car that had just pulled me over appear in my rear-view mirror again — lights swirling and screaming. ‘Fuck it,’ I thought as I pushed on the pedal luring the engine into third gear with the flick of my wrist. In that moment, not pulling over felt liberating. I wasn’t running from the cops, I was running from everything: Jamaica, Winston, my weight, my mom, the teachers who thought I would not amount to anything,” another passage said.
Through her experiences, James tells more of her story and how she got to where she is today in business and as a creative thought leader, rallying for change.
“Wildflower” is available now.