Her own shoe collection includes a number of Brother Vellies. Her favorites? “Our shorter and over-the-knee boots.”
Aurora James collects a trove of global treasures at her Brooklyn apartment.
The white taxidermied peacock is a nod to Brother Vellies’s South African workshop, where wild peacocks roam free.
apartment of Aurora James is a fabulous yet unfussy amalgam of pieces she’s accumulated over many trips abroad, which have helped define both her personal style and the direction for Brother Vellies, her line of bold shoes and bags. Since launching in 2013 and winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award two years later, James’s work has led her to spend as much time traveling around Africa as hanging out in her Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The idea for the brand came about following a visit to South Africa, where she met an artisan shoemaker in a small village who was struggling to make a living and maintain his craft. “I didn’t want to see these traditional skills, like beading and tanning, die out,” James explains. She began researching and investing in shoe-making workshops all over Africa, in Kenya, Morocco, and Ethiopia, eventually bringing different artisans’ creations to a wider marketplace online and opening a storefront in lower Manhattan. The Brother Vellies collection now includes booties, sandals, clogs, slides, and handbags, all crafted with vibrant fabrics, leathers, and furs that feel distinctly handmade. (James, who was herself a vegan for eight years, specifies that the furs and skins are byproducts from farmers who keep livestock.)
“New York City is very much a concrete jungle, so for me it’s about bringing as much green into my space as possible.”
James’s wardrobe, displayed here on a rustic tree branch–turned–clothing rack, is an ultra-feminine mix of vintage and contemporary by indie designers. For furniture, she shops eBay, Etsy, and 1stdibs.
Starting Brother Vellies and working with artisans across Africa was a natural fit for James: “My father is from Ghana, my grandmother was involved in philanthropy there, and my mother was very big on befriending people in her travels.”
The designer hesitates to describe her home style—which melds organic pieces from her travels with vintage furniture, fashion photographs, and an abundance of leafy plants—in just a few words. “It’s really about going to different places and falling in love with things, and then wanting to bring them back with you. You end up creating an eclectic style that is identifiable as you but doesn’t have a distinctive formula.”
In the rare times James isn’t traveling, her bedroom serves as a place to nest and recharge. “The energy changes from season to season,” she says. At the first sign of fall, she switches her home scent from light summer to warm and cozy, burning palo santo wood and Peyote Poem candles by Byredo.
production and styling by KATE BERRY