Unique Pieces, Africa, & A Cleaner Globe - Brother Vellies
Fashion has played a major role in my life since I can remember. From going shopping with my mom to dressing up my dolls for hours, I’ve loved everything about fashion and what you can make of it. I graduated with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, while in school It was imperative for me to take a Textiles class and lab. Still, until this day, that class had the most impact on me. The number of fabrics, dyes, chemicals, and everything that goes into the clothes we buy and the shoes we wear blew my mind. I knew it was an extremely intricate process, but the way my Textile professor broke it down made me so intrigued! After that class, I would religiously check the care labels while shopping to see what fabrics were included and where it was made. The older, I’ve gotten the more concerned, knowledgeable, and aware I have become about our planet Earth and the things/materials we put into it.
Being an African-American woman, I’m always on the lookout for new black designers, woman or man that I can learn about and see what they’re creating, so I can buy their products. I first heard about Brother Vellies when I moved to Brooklyn and the storefront is not too far from my apartment. Aurora James is the amazingly creative mind behind this brand, which she founded in January of 2013. A few years prior, Aurora took her first trip to Africa and visited Morocco. While growing up, her interest in shoes became a thing while living in Jamaica and seeing the love and passion Rastafarians had for their desert boots, made by Clarks. Also, as a child, her grandmother would sponsor children from Africa, while Aurora would then become pen pals with them and constantly had letters covering her refrigerator. So as an adult, her trip ignited a flame inside of her to come up with ideas and designs for her to create more opportunities for all the artisans in Africa and keep the craftsmanship of shoemaking alive.
From shoes for men, women, babies, as well as accessories, everything that is made by Brother Vellies is unique and will instantly catch your eye! Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya are the four main countries in which local artisans are hand making a variety of pieces for each collection. The artisans know how the entire shoemaking process goes and it isn’t just women doing the work, men are in the workshops too, which helps keep the employment rate up throughout each country. Kudu leather is what is used for the majority of Brother Vellies’ leather goods. Since there is an overpopulation of Kudu, the government regulates the killing of a certain number of them a year. More than 60% of the dyes used are through vegetable dying, which is a much less harmful process than chemical dye.
There are so many different aspects of this brand and what Aurora has built which makes me so happy. She’s without a doubt making the world a better, safer place in the sense of how fashion can become so damaging to our environment, while also creating jobs and better lifestyles for the many artisans who are using their precious time and talents to create magical pieces. I can’t wait to purchase a few pieces from Brother Vellies this year! I already have my eye on the Lavender Curly Goat Mini Island bag and a few pair of sandals.