Aurora James Becomes First Black Female Nominated For CFDA Emerging Talent Award
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At a recent CFDA nomination party hosted by designer Brandon Maxwell, the fashion industry gathered to toast the honor of Aurora James being nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent. In a virtual ‘passing of the baton’ from Maxwell (last year’s award winner), James not only received kudos but she also gave thanks for being recognized as the second Black female to be nominated in this category (the first was Carly Cushnie of the then design duo Cushnie et Ochs).
Hailing from Toronto and currently residing in New York, James has been nominated for her stellar work in accessories design and employing the women of underserved communities in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco. Her label, Brother Vellies, has introduced traditional African footwear on a large scale, and has created sustainable jobs throughout the continent of Africa.
ESSENCE caught up with James at the nomination party, and when asked where she was the moment she found out, she exclaimed, “I was at The Wing during an event, and one of my colleagues told me, ‘I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but you’ve just been nominated for a CFDA award!’ and I had no idea… but it was a great feeling to find out. I was over the moon!” And in regards to her standing as a woman of color in the industry, James says “I feel the weight of making sure that we’re not just represented but well-represented in this industry. And when it comes to my brand, it’s really not about me at all- it’s about the women who create this amazing product.”
Since the CFDA’s founding in 1962 with more than 500 American designers being members, the number of Black designers being honored by the organization has been very slim. James won the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and is in great company with other Black designers such as Telfar, Maxwell Osborne (of Public School), Carly Cushnie (of Cushnie et Ochs), Monique Péan, and fellow CFDA Emerging Artist nominee Kerby Jean-Raymond (of Pyer Moss).
Also sharing a moment in this year’s CFDA awards is Issa Rae who is set to host the event in Brooklyn, on June 4th.

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