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How Aurora James Got Ready For Her Historic CFDA Win

Designer and activist Aurora James has been busy since she last appeared on Rose Inc almost two years ago. Very busy. To start, the Brother Vellies founder graced the cover of Vogue in 2020 and was named one of Time100’s most influential people of 2021. This is partially because of the success of Fifteen Percent Pledge, the nonprofit organization she started in May of last year that challenges retailers to dedicate at least 15% of shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Her reach can be seen in Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta Beauty — three stores that have taken the pledge — and this month marks the start of a two year partnership between the organization and Google to further support Black-owned businesses with training and resources.

Most recently, James was nominated for Accessories Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Preparing for the CFDA Fashion Awards, which took place at the Bowery Hotel in New York City last Thursday, provided the perfect opportunity for sophisticated glam and a quick Rose Inc reunion. James paired a custom Brother Vellies x Brock Collection gown—complete with Kenyan, hand-carved wood elements—with the brand's Lijadu Billfold bag and strappy heels. Then, a soft makeup look and loose waves tied it all together.

James recalls the energy in the room that evening as palpable and amazing, made even sweeter by tablemates Iman, Liya Kebede, Precious Lee and Paloma Elsesser. “It’s great to see the fashion community all come together, celebrate and support all of the creative talent and masterminds in the room,” James says. “And, of course, I had the most fun table.”

Then it got even better: She received the Founder’s Award for her work launching and growing Fifteen Percent Pledge. “I am actually the first Black female designer to take home an award from the CFDA,” she says. “I am honored to be following in the footsteps of incredible Black women who have been honorees before me like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell, Pat McGrath and Iman. It’s such an immense honor, especially with it being such a historic moment.”

To celebrate her big win and monumental past two years, we’re sharing a peek into her glam process, including the playlist that sets the tone, below.

"With all the work I’ve been doing in racial justice, I think self-care is top of mind from a mental and emotional space."

“Feeling and looking radiant and confident is critical. If a little blush or a great moisturizer helps me get there, I’m all for it.”

“I am actually the first Black female designer to take home an award from the CFDA.”

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