This Stylish Woman Is Changing the World of Fashion

Updated 01/31/18
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Aurora James is one of those women we immediately want to be best friends with. Her style walks the cool-girl line between Brooklyn bohemian and African artisanal. She's not just the designer and founder of one of the fashion set's favorite accessories lines, Brother Vellies—she's also turning the fashion industry upside down. Her designs are selling out while simultaneously creating jobs for impoverished people in countries like Ethiopia and South Africa. How does she pull it off? In honor of luxe jewelry brand John Hardy's Made for Legends campaign, we got a chance to sit down with James (a legend in our eyes) to talk career advice, personal style, and why we're all really no different than Beyoncé.

Keep scrolling to read James's incredibly inspiring story.

On What Inspired Her Business

brother vellies office

"I was traveling in Africa, and there were so many amazing artisans there. I wanted to find ways to work with them and help bring their artisanal skills to the forefront of the fashion industry. I never thought I wanted to be a designer. It's not that I thought I wouldn't be one—I had just never considered it. It's something I fell into more than anything else. I think it's so important to find ways to support the things that you believe in and you love within the realm of what you're already doing.

It's more about doing your job but also doing your part every day to make the world a better place."

On the Importance of Giving Back

brother vellies shoes

"My favorite part of my job is using the platforms and opportunities that I have to support people who need it. Working with artisans in Africa who are actually gainfully employed for the first time in their lives is important to me, and being able to use fashion as a vehicle for employment in countries like Ethiopia and South Africa is really special. I love fashion, but it's not one of the most environmentally friendly or progressive industries, so I like to be able to use it as a vehicle for progression.

It's nice to be able to impact people to make choices for themselves in their own community rather than just donating money."

On What She Wishes She Knew When She Started

john hardy fine jewelry

"Make sure you're ready to wrap your head around the financials of whatever you're doing. Even if you're working in a creative industry, you're starting a business. You need to have your eyes on the business. In fashion school, they're not really talking about the business side."

On Her Personal Style

aurora james career

"My personal style is more influenced by vintage. I'm a big vintage shopper, so a lot of my ready-to-wear collection is vintage or pieces in my wardrobe I've had a really long time that I found somewhere or pieces from my friends who are designers I want to support."

On What Jewelry She Loves:

john hardy bracelets

"I tend to choose pieces I feel can be incorporated in my everyday. If you're going to spend a lot of money on a piece of jewelry, you want to know you're going to be able to wear it, and you want to have an emotional connection to it. You want to have a bracelet that was on you when something important happened so that it carries memory with you. It's just about choosing things that are going to be a part of your style DNA forever and not just a seasonal trend."

brother vellies sandals

"I love these bracelets because I know every single year of my life I see myself wearing them. They're sort of understated but also really beautiful at the same time. You can wear them with a T-shirt and jeans but also to a gala—that's what makes this John Hardy collection special."

On Supporting Others

"We're all in this together. You, me—even Beyoncé. It's a reminder that we're all equal. There are people we all put on pedestals like Beyoncé as a superhuman, which she is, but we are all in this world together. The things that are going to affect one person are going to have an effect on another person as well—it's just going to be in a different way. When I think of 'We're all in this together,' I think it's a reminder that we should be helping each other out all the time. My mom was adopted at birth, so she raised me with this understanding that anyone could be your relative, so you have to treat everyone accordingly.

Even Beyoncé."

John Hardy Modern Chain Bracelet $12500
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John Hardy Legends Naga Bracelet With Diamonds $15900
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John Hardy Modern Chain Necklace $1995
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