Brother Vellies is an old soul in the world of African made footwear, mainly because the brand was founded on the ethos of the ancestral shoes, “Velskoen”/Fell-Skoon/, light weight but extremely tough footwear handmade by the first Dutch settlers in South Africa far back as the 1600s.
Aurora James became obsessed with local artisans designing Veldskoens (known colloquially as Vellies) on a visit to South Africa. It was her obsession that served as inspiration to start the brand, Brother Vellies. Besides introducing the world to her favorite traditional African footwear, she sought to preserve the artisanal shoe making skills in Africa by providing sustainable jobs for the artisans through the brand.
“You have to have balls and be confident” is what Aurora James says about the Brother Vellies woman, and that statement is backed up by a range of shoes handmade from re-purposed materials and the byproducts of animals who lived in the wild. Her design process involves melting down and recycling to make beads, buckles or straps, all of which happens within Africa and involves local artisans in Kenya, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa.
We believe that the natural marks and scars on animals who lived in the wild are their own fingerprints and should be cherished. Therefore instead of discarding those pieces as most others do, we carefully position them on the inside portions of our shoes.
Think of hand-carved beads made from ostrich egg fragments sourced in West Africa, melted down padlocks used for shoe buckles, sandal soles cut from recycled tires or a collection crafted with re-purposed denim from Morocco, and you’ll have figured out that Aurora is all about sustainability.
The way she sees it, sustainability should be a major concern for all fashion designers, and she thinks that if consumers invest in sustainable brands, then more brands will work on becoming sustainable. “Supply & Demand“, she concludes.
When Aurora isn’t designing eye-catching exquisite footwear, she’s travelling through SA, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and Morocco to work with artisans, discover new inspiration and experience diverse cultures.