Activist & Fashion Designer Aurora James Shares Trial, Triumph and Struggle With Identity In New Memoir

Activist and fashion designer Aurora James has received acclaim for her groundbreaking “15% pledge” aimed at urging retail giants to dedicate 15% of shelf space to Black-owned brands. Now, with her literary debut, the fashion pioneer is using her memoir to remind others of the beauty that lies on the other side of adversity.

On Tuesday, James released WILDFLOWER: A Memoir, her first-ever book that narrates her honest journey while highlighting how we blossom from life’s pressures in the harshest conditions. As a change agent and advocate, WILDFLOWER follows James’ fight for creative freedom and calls for economic equality for everyone—especially women of color.

The true story shares themes of love, loss, abuse, determination, and making it against all odds. With a focus on inspiring others to stand up for what’s right and thrive in places they weren’t expected to go, James aims to leave readers with a sense of “community” toward others.

“My memoir is about how much life can throw you at once, and how much you have inside you to weather the storm,” James told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“It’s also about community and recognition—recognizing those who have lifted me up along the way, and I, in turn, lifting them up, too.”


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James gets candid in the memoir about dropping out of high school, her brushes with the law and getting arrested, and her complicated upbringing as a mixed-raced child in Toronto, Canada. Working on the memoir proved “challenging” for the creative director and Brother Vellies founder.

“Very challenging at times, very scary,” James said of writing the memoir. “But when I see it on the page and I know that others might find hope in it, it’s all worth it.”

Her experience as a half-white, half-Trinidadian helped shape her motivation to visit Africa and find answers about her identity.

“Growing up in Canada as a biracial child was not always easy, and without a doubt has shaped my journey,” James said. “There were countless experiences where I was the only Black woman in the room and often had to be the voice fighting on behalf of my community.”

In 2013, James discovered the real power of creating for the runway when she started her award-winning international brand, Brother Vellies. Her mission was to keep traditional African design practices and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs in the motherland.


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James has gone on to design Met Gala looks for the likes of Solange Knowles and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s iconic “Tax the Rich” dress.

“Launching Brother Vellies has taught me that you need to define success on your own terms,” James said.

“For me, it has never been about revenue goal posts, but more about exploring people, culture, and our planet. Telling stories and taking risks. Advocating, abstaining, doing the things that feel right for your soul and not just your bottom line.”

WILDFLOWER adds to James’ growing résumé of recognition, which includes becoming the first Black American female designer to win a CFDA Award, being named one of Glamour’s 2022 Women of the Year, TIME Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2021, and PEOPLE’s Women Changing the World in 2022.

Her groundbreaking “15 Percent Pledge,” born out of the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, has grown tremendously in the last three years and even garnered her a personal invitation to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris.


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“The Pledge’s growth is inspiring because it shows how we are meeting a major gap in the market while creating previously unheard of opportunities,” James told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“Companies made promises to advance racial equity without a roadmap, and the Pledge offers clear, viable solutions tailored to their specific needs to ensure they follow through on their commitments.”

“To date, 29 companies across three countries have taken the Pledge, and we have created the potential to shift $14 billion in opportunities to Black businesses,” she continued. “This growth and impact would not be possible without our incredible team that works tirelessly to maintain relationships with our Pledge takers, support the Black businesses in our network, and so much more.

The memoir is just the latest continuation of James’ advocacy for equity in fashion. With a CFDA Award under her belt and a vice-chair role with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, James is using her platform to amplify the Black community.

“I’m excited to now also be in my new role as vice-Chair of the CFDA so I can make sure the door to the room stays open for other people that look like me as well,” James shared.