Aurora James on the future vows of 15 percent

The collective desire to shake off the dust of 2020 and establish normalcy has become an early topic this year. But for designer Brother Vellies and founder of the 15 percent vow, Aurora James, the way forward depends on retaining defiant energy in 2020. “To some extent, I was a little worried that people would breathe so deeply that they put them in a passive place,” James said in a phone call from Los Angeles. “Now that we have the opportunity for change, we need to keep thinking about the bigger picture – what it means to create economic equality for blacks in this country and the mass participation it requires.”

The political unrest and protests against police violence that rocked America last spring served as the impetus for James ’15 percent vow. After the assassination of George Floyd, she compiled a mission statement on social media calling for action by large corporations. The nonprofit advocacy organization has asked retailers to set aside at least 15% of their shelf space for black-owned businesses, a number that represents the percentage of the United States population that is black. More than offering new opportunities for creatives to sell their wares, he called for a reassessment of demographics in the workplace and a long-standing commitment to hiring and supporting a variety of talent. Sephora and Rent the Runway were early adopters, but James has spent the last nine months bringing in new companies. “She spent a lot of emotional capital last year,” she says. “I spent a lot of time talking on the phone with companies that decide they are not ready to commit to blacks, which is heartbreaking for me. It is clear that consumers want people to step up and sign contracts that can ensure significant change, but some companies are not interested. ”

Despite the reluctance of some brands, other options push Pledge out of its initial range. As a designer, James ’first focus was on fashion and beauty. The addition of furniture giants West Elm and Crate and Barrel, the Yelp review app, the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo and this Condé Nast publication have brought the concept to neighboring industries. For James, the expansion opens the door for creatives in other companies to have the same level of visibility as their fashion counterparts. “A lot of light and attention is paid to fashion, and that’s not always the case in other industries,” she says. “As someone successful, I got a platform and I wanted to make sure we could start discovering and supporting a multitude of entrepreneurs from different fields. I was incredibly excited about adding West Elm and CB2 [because] it will be amazing to see the different types of Black creations. ”

And fashion collaboration has proven fruitful. The addition of a US mass market institution like Gap Inc. it was a coup. However, today’s announcement, signed by Kith, Moda Operandi and Next Models, takes the initiative a step further. Each company reflects a separate aspect of the fashion industry and a new path for the business, sales and cultural contribution of black talent. “We’re trying to make the process easier,” James said. “A huge part of our responsibility is to ensure the existence of pipelines for black-owned companies, but we must also ensure that they are in a good space. The one where we can recommend them to anyone who makes a pledge. ”