Aurora James on the way forward for the 15 % promise

The collective desire to shake off the dust of 2020 and restore normalcy has become an early theme of this year. For Brother Vellies designer and founder of 15 Percent Pledge, Aurora James, the way forward depends on sustaining the defiant energy of 2020. “To some extent, I was a little concerned that people would take such deep breaths that they would end up in a passive place,” James said on a call from Los Angeles. “Now that we have this opportunity for change, we need to think further about the bigger picture – what it means to create economic equality for blacks in this country and the mass participation that it requires.”

The political unrest and police violence protests that rocked America last spring sparked James’ 15 percent promise. After the death of George Floyd, she wrote a mission statement on social media calling for action by large companies. The nonprofit advocacy group urged retailers to allocate at least 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses, a number representative of the percentage of the United States’ black population. Not only did it offer new ways for creatives to sell their wares, but it also called for a reassessment of workplace demographics and a multi-year commitment to recruiting and supporting diverse talent. Sephora and Rent the Runway were early adopters, but James has spent the last nine months getting new businesses on board. “The past year has spent a lot of emotional capital,” she says. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with companies who decide they’re not ready to get involved with black people, which is heartbreaking for me. It is clear that consumers want people to reinforce and sign their contracts to ensure significant change, but some companies are not interested. ”

Despite the reluctance of some brands, other opportunities push the promise beyond its original scope. As a designer, James first focused on fashion and beauty. Furniture giants West Elm and Crate and Barrel, the review app Yelp, the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo, and this Condé Nast release have brought the concept to neighboring industries. For James, the expansion opens the door for creatives in other companies to achieve the same visibility as their fashion colleagues. “There’s a lot of light and attention given to fashion, and that’s not always the case in other industries,” she says. “As a successful person, I was given a platform and I wanted to make sure that we could also discover and support a large number of entrepreneurs in different areas. I was incredibly excited about the addition of West Elm and CB2 [because] It will be amazing to see all kinds of black creations. ”

The collaboration within fashion has also proven fruitful. The addition of an American mass market institution like Gap Inc. was a coup. However, today’s announcement that Kith, Moda Operandi and Next Model Management are signing up goes a step further. Each company reflects its own facet of the fashion industry and a new avenue for jobs, sales and cultural contributions from black talent. “We’re trying to make a process easier,” said James. “A big part of our responsibility is to make sure there is a pipeline for black-owned companies in place, but we also need to make sure they are in a good room. One where we can recommend it to anyone who accepts the promise. ”

Comments are closed.