HOW CANADIAN DESIGNER AURORA JAMES IS PERSUADING RETAILERS TO SUPPORT BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES

Entrepreneur and fashion designer started the 15 Percent Pledge this spring

Aurora James

Canadian designer Aurora James has gone from selling shoes in a flea market to seeing megastars like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj wear her luxury brand’s shoes. While she and her company, Brother Vellies, have gotten a lot of attention for their innovative styles, it was a different idea that splashed her name across major publications earlier this year.

This spring, James started a nonprofit organization called the 15 Percent Pledge. The campaign works with retailers to increase the amount of products they source from Black-owned businesses — the goal being 15 per cent, roughly the proportion of Americans who are Black.

Big names like cosmetics chain Sephora, cannabis retailer MedMen, interior decorating store West Elm, and Indigo here in Canada, have signed on to the pledge.

In a Skype interview with The National’s Andrew Chang, Aurora James spoke about the origin and goals of the 15 Percent Pledge, her work, and what drives her. Watch the full interview, or excerpts from their discussion below.

How it started

The idea for the 15 Percent Pledge came to James in the days after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd.

As video of his last moments rocked the U.S., a flood of businesses reacted online.

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