WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
Find out more about James’ powerful pledge, directed to big fashion and lifestyle retailers, from Net-a-Porter, to Bergdorf Goodman and Whole Foods.
Brother Vellies ‘New Nudes’ collection. Image courtesy of @aurorajames.
As the world mourns the tragic loss of George Floyd and comes face-to-face with the issue of inherent racism that still defines us as a society, an urgency for action and change has finally risen to the forefront.
Aurora James, the designer behind the footwear label Brother Vellies, has a plan: She is calling on big corporations to commit to buying 15 percent of their products from black-owned businesses.
It’s only a fair ask considering that 15 percent of the population in the U.S. is made up of people of color, who have been supporting these corporations for years.
So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us,” wrote James, who included the likes of Net-a-Porter, Walmart, Saks, Sephora, Target and Whole Foods in her pledge.
James also explained that by having the back-up of such big corporations, black businesses would be taken more seriously when seeking financial support from banks or investors and finally be in a position to achieve their full growth potential.
At the moment, the complete lack of support and inclusion is resulting in over 21 percent of black-owned businesses forecasting that they won’t make it through the Covid-19 crisis as opposed to 5 percent of businesses owned by white people.
“Dont get me wrong, I understand the complexities of this request. I am a business woman. I have sold millions of dollars of product over the years at a business I started with $3,500 at a flea market. So I am telling you we can get this figured out. This is an opportunity. It is your opportunity to get in the right side of this,” she added.
The pledge was met with overwhelming support from fellow designers and other creatives, from Jameela Jamil, designer Rebecca Minkoff and CFDA president Steven Kolbm who flooded James’ feed with words of encouragement.
The designer has since furthered the cause by creating its own Instagram page and website to build on the momentum.
As the ’15 percent pledge’ turns into a broader mission for economic equality, what James is highlighting is that change is possible, if we were all to look outside the bubbles we have been inhabiting to this day. “There are 124,000 black-owned businesses [in the U.S.] that you can buy from. All you need to do is look,” she added.
A lot of the economic change might be at the hands of the big retailers James is calling on with this powerful call to action, but we all equally hold power as consumers to demand the change.
Following the @15percentpledge on Instagram and signing the petition on its website is a simple first step. James is also urging her followers – particularly white people who find themselves at a more privileged position – to take a stance by thinking twice before spending their money with a retail giant, considering their stance on diversity and calling them out if they are making generic statements against racism without any action to back them up.
To that end education, listening to as many black voices as we can and learning how to become allies to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is more crucial than ever – not just for the next few weeks while the protests continue to capture global attention, but until we manage to rebuild a world where race and the color of one’s skin no longer limits their lives.
5 inch and up will dedicate the month of June to highlighting black-owned businesses and telling the stories of people of color working in the creative industries. This commitment is just a start and will form the foundation of our longer term vision to offer coverage that has diversity at its core and provide continuous support to this urgent cause. The business will also be making a donation to NAACP.
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