How Brother Vellie’s Aurora James helps retailers take an enormous leap for black companies
When a new year began in January, there were also astonishing statistics: 140,000 jobs had been lost in December, all of them women.
In fact, it was worse, Fortune magazine reported: “Technically, women accounted for more than 111% of jobs lost … the US economy lost 140,000 net jobs in December … But women lost a total of 156,000 jobs during the month Men have saved 16,000 jobs, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “
The same analysis confirmed that roughly 2 in 5 (44.4%) of the 22.1 million or more jobs that were lost last spring at the start of the COVID crisis have not yet – or never will – come back to do so led 2.1 million women less gainfully employed as of December than before the February pandemic. But NWLC shared another dire statistic: 154,000 black women left the workforce in December, “representing the largest one-month decrease in their workforce size since March and April 2020.”
As a black woman lucky enough to be busy right now, those numbers are terrifying. For Brother Vellies founder and creative director Aurora James, this was another opportunity to open the doors of their industry to BIPOC talent. Oddly enough, in June last year, James urged the retail industry to create the 15 percent pledge to challenge American retailers to reflect the country’s demographics by giving 15 percent of their shelf space to black entrepreneurs and sellers. The call to action immediately produced results. Sephora was the first retailer to sign up, and several others – including Macy’s, West Elm, Gap, and American Vogue – soon followed, setting an example of what accountability for structural change can be.
The story goes on
Under the 15 percent promise: Gap Inc. is committed to increasing equity and inclusion with a donation of $ 200,000
After the January revelations, James always had another great idea: she would do her part to tackle the beauty and fashion industry pipeline problem by setting up a career board on the 15 percent Pledge website. Launched in February, the board already has plum posts from some of the industry’s most sought-after brands, including Pyer Moss, Carolina Herrera, West Elm, and others – and we’re not talking about jobs, we’re talking about career opportunities (if you know, you know).
As the brand emailed us, the responsibility doesn’t just lie with retailers: “The promise also created consumer engagement for shoppers looking to diversify their own purchasing power by encouraging people to buy at least 15% of theirs monthly budgets to divert black-owned companies, “they announced, adding,” Consumers can also donate to the organization to support their work for black-owned companies and hold large retailers accountable for their commitments. “
James tells us all about it – and what retailers really owe to black creators and consumers – on Big Beauty Tuesday this week. And of course it’s not all work and no play – after all, she still has her own business to run! On Friday, James teamed up with Sephora, a partner of 15 Percent Pledge, to end a collaboration with Sephora Collection Accessories. Brother Vellies x Sephora is a trio of well-made, travel-ready cosmetic bags (because we’ll be traveling again – and until then, we still want to be cute) in playful print and texture combinations that are reminiscent of James’ favorite label – but at a fraction of the price of theirs Luxury line ($ 30-48 to be precise). Given the economic challenges we’ve all faced, we’d say the timing of this collaboration with luxury for less couldn’t be better. (After the year we had? We deserved it.)
Want to learn more from Aurora about why we should all be on board with the 15 percent promise? Check out this week’s video above.