Toronto’s most inspirational women of 2019: Aurora James

Our annual look at Toronto’s record-breaking, change-making and all around amazing women

The designer

Aurora James received the International Designer of the Year award at the 2019 Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards


As legend has it, I “discovered” the lovely Aurora James about 12 years ago, when she was working at the front desk of the Toronto gym I frequented. All I remember about that day was being taken by this gorgeous, sweet, personable young woman who not only exuded a heartening kind of confidence, but had a warm and charming sincerity about her.

A few weeks later, Aurora was sitting in the Fashion Television offices, putting her eager intern nose to the grindstone. She was only there for the summer, but evidently she was inspired by what she saw. Before we knew it, this creative visionary was on a mission.

Intent on telling stories through fashion, Aurora took her first trip to Africa in 2011. She boldly began experimenting with design and working with different artisans, founding her revered Brother Vellies label in 2013. But beyond the exquisite luxury wares she designs, Aurora is hell-bent on spreading messages of sustainability, committed to taking good care of the artisans she works with and being very mindful of all the materials sourced and how things are manufactured.

Her wonderfully innovative approach to design coupled with her unstoppable energy and tireless ambition have catapulted her to the upper echelons of the fashion world and given her a platform for both edifying and inspiring others. Aurora James is proof positive that passion and originality pay off. And despite all her success, this brilliant young woman remains humble — as sweet, personable, warm and charming as the day we first met.

Next on the list: Margaret Atwood