Brother Vellies was founded by CFDA Vogue fashion fund winner Aurora James back in 2015. Interestingly, the company creates sustainable footwear, Aurora James is the founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, a shoe brand that is branching out into other product launches, but remaining fairly sustainable in its approach. Back in 2015, James won the CFDA Vogue fashion fund, and went on to create a unique line of shoes that represent this image of African culture and art. The company creates sustainable footwear, hand-crafted in Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya by Artisans of that chosen country. In fact, the brand even takes its name from the notorious desert boot in South Africa, the veldskoen, also colloquially referred to as Vellies.
Interestingly though, their sustainability and ethics end there. They still use animal by-products in their shoes, with the notorious Dhara style sandals using nubuck and fox fur. If you are opposed to the use of animal by-product for vanity purposes, this brand isn’t for you. However, the sustainability is an innovative factor in the industry, James notes that she wants to “make good choices for this planet that we are all sharing. If I can work with leather and talk with the tannery about making it chrome-free, then that’s a plus for everyone. I love being outside and I see no difference between creating more plastics things with fake plastic fur or using leather from an animal that’s been eaten. To me it’s a very obvious choice.” Whether that is agreeable or not, it debatable.
One thing is for sure though, Aurora is determined to keep sustainable jobs in these parts of Africa, as ‘To dump manufactured Chinese goods in Africa hurts their local industries; 70 percent of the manufacturing industry in Ethiopia has died out as a result of American donated goods.’
For more information, the Brother Vellies website lists that “Many of our beads are made out of ostrich egg fragments and sea shells. We source beads from West Africa and the Czech Republic, and a bone artisan in the Kibera district of Kenya hand carves specialty byproduct bone beads for us as well. Many of our bead artisans in Kenya are single stay-at-home moms who bead during the week in their houses and drop off finished items on the weekend.”
“As I grow and scale, it’s a constant challenge to train people to keep up with things,”
At the soul of Brother Vellies is slow fashion. This idea of creating clothing pieces which will last a lifetime, and therefore reduce the carbon footprint, ‘we believe that the natural marks and scars on animals who lived in the wild are their own fingerprints and should be cherished.’ In terms of using Vegetable dyes, which reduces the ‘harmful effects of chemical dyes on the surrounding environment. Much of our leather is dyed using the vegetable process. We use indigo to hand dye the organic cotton used on our sandals as well as saffron and madder to color other components. Every one of our shoes has a vegetable dyed natural leather insole.’ While not showing any kind of ethics towards animals, it is interesting to see a brand work with artisans and expand through that as well as creating jobs for those individuals is commendable.
While the company has now expanded to also designing bags, it will be interesting to see how this young brand grows into other designs, even as James herself mentioned that she is not interested in designing clothing. You can check out Brother Vellies designs below.