Aurora James named FNAA Individual of the 12 months by Kerby Jean Raymond – Footwear Information
They have something in common – in fact, this couple have many things in common.
Four years ago, Aurora James and Kerby Jean-Raymond met at the CFDA’s Incubator program for emerging talent in the fashion industry: Both were designers from minority groups whose brands were built on social awareness and advocated issues such as sustainability and racial equality. The couple immediately bonded through their like-mindedness.
“I came [into the CFDA program] and I was super happy that another black person was there … At that point, I was tired of being the only one in the room, ”Jean-Raymond said to James as she sat on the terrace on the 14th floor of Penske Media Corp.’s New York headquarters. “I was really pleasantly surprised that you were the guy to speak out because so much of my experience in fashion with other blacks is that I usually look stupid when I open it because I’m the only one saying something … [With you]I felt instantly protected and camaraderie because we weren’t afraid of puckering feathers. “
The conversation, broadcast tonight as part of the first Virtual Footwear News Achievement Awards, was a moment of the circle for James and Jean-Raymond, who were added to their growing list of similarities this year: they are both now recipients of the award FNAA Person of the Year. Jean-Raymond, who founded Pyer Moss in 2013, was recognized at the 2019 FNAAs for the brand’s unwavering focus on inclusion and authenticity – with allusions to the Black Lives Matter movement and topics like mental health awareness in their Fashion Week shows .
James, who challenged major retailers to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to black brands after the police murder of George Floyd, took the honor home tonight.
“2020 was difficult, but I think I definitely used this time to be more self-reflective. You know a lot [what] It’s been like the red carpets and the Met Gala in the past – God knows I love a Met Gala – but it often distracts from who you are as a creative person and who you want to be in the world. “James said to Jean-Raymond about the driving forces behind their brave moves this year. “So I think to myself, I was really thinking about how I want to spend my time on this planet, what I want to be and what people should remember me for …”
She added “[And it’s] probably not a handbag. “
So far, big companies like Sephora, Rent the Runway and most recently Macy’s Inc. have signed The 15 Percent Pledge.
As James and Jean-Raymond lead the way for their businesses and their growing social impact, they both realized that a great and ongoing responsibility rests on their shoulders.
“You know,  That year I really realized that I was the adult in the room, ”James said to Jean-Raymond. “That’s how long I’ve just been waiting for the adults to do that thing … and sit here with you and you got that award last year, and I get this year – we’re the adults in the room … you can ‘don’t wait, until someone else comes along and makes the change you want. You really have to do it yourself. “
For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards – often referred to as the “Shoe Oscars” – have celebrated style stars, best brand stories, passionate philanthropists, emerging talent and industry veterans. The first virtual FNAAs will be presented in collaboration with The Style Room Powered by Zappos and sponsored by FDRA, Deckers Brands, Soles4Souls and Foot Locker.