With Methods Like Wood-Carving, Here’s How Brother Vellies Makes Unique Fashion Accessories From A Fusion Of Western And African Methods

 Every culture and country has its way of doing things. The cultures and traditions of people from different parts of Africa are different from those of people from the West. But, even in these differences, there are ways to merge both to create something unique.

Merging the rich culture and creativity of Africa with Western techniques, like Brother Vellies does, can give a one-of-a-kind look to whatever fashion accessory is being created. In addition to writing about Brother Vellies’ practices, we asked fashion lovers what they think of purchasing fashion items from a Western brand that fuses African and Western techniques



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Lavender Palms just landed. ☯️

A post shared by BROTHER VELLIES (@brothervellies) on Oct 29, 2018 at 10:18am PDT

The New York-based sustainable accessories brand, Brother Vellies, was founded by Aurora James in 2013. The brand was started with the aim of “keeping traditional African design practices, and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs”.

Aurora James, who won the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize and joined the CFDA Fashion Incubator class of 2018, was inspired to start Brother Vellies after her travel to Africa. After realising the different traditional and local shoe shapes she had fallen in love with were dying out, she decided to find a way to revive them. 

“I learned that locally there wasn’t a demand for traditional styles anymore, because they were influenced by Western apparel. I didn’t want to see this tradition die.”

This spurred her on to start her accessories company to introduce traditional African footwear to the world. The brand got its name from the traditional South African footwear ‘vellies’, which is pronounced ‘Fellies’ by the local people, and their Brother Tyre Sandal inspired by the Maasai community – both of which were a big hit at the start of business. 



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Summer Stell Mules 🌻 online. ✌🏾

A post shared by BROTHER VELLIES (@brothervellies) on Apr 14, 2019 at 1:28pm PDT

Since the brand gets inspiration from Africa and has its roots in South Africa and Namibia, most of their footwear and handbags are made by local African artisans. Drawing from the rich culture and traditions in Africa, all of their pieces celebrate cultural histories and timeless designs.

“I will definitely purchase fashion accessories made with traditional African methods from a Western brand because I know it will be creatively done.” – Faith Ilesanmi.

Their items are produced across the globe in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Italy, Haiti, and New York, and, their materials are sourced locally in Africa from countries like Nigeria, Namibia, Burkina Faso, and Mali. 

Brother Vellies and Sustainability. 

Brother Vellies makes many of their footwear styles in small batches to reduce waste and give enough time for them to be professionally made in Africa and delivered to New York. Also, all of the brand’s raw materials are ethically sourced from farmers all across the globe and are by-products of the food industries in these countries. 

“If a Westen fashion brand makes footwear using traditional Africa techniques, I think it will be quite beautiful for me. That is if I can afford it. It means it will be a unique style because of the fusion. The only thing that might deter me is if the material used doesn’t match the style of the shoes and if the shoes are not durable.” – Collins Ogbonna.

At the core of their production, they use vegetable dye for most of their leather and organic cotton, as this is less harmful than chemical dyes. They also make their shoe soles from recycled tyres and use animal skin gotten from local farmers in Kenya and South Africa that would have otherwise gone to waste, all of the excess skin goes to their children’s line.



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Some Monday JOY 💭

A post shared by BROTHER VELLIES (@brothervellies) on Nov 13, 2018 at 12:13pm PST

The wood they use in their shoe heels are hand-carved and the feathers are floral dyed. Because of their ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, Brother Vellies uses donated denim from Morocco, beads crafted in Kenya from bones, ostrich egg fragments, and seashells.

“I think it’s totally okay to buy footwear from a Westen brand that makes them using African traditional methods once you get the really nice and quality ones, that way you help encourage the producers and vendors involved  and also promote the brand, but, on the other hand, some are of inferior quality which automatically means they won’t last, This discourages some persons from  purchasing them.” – Justina Chinelo Akunwanne.

All of these practices serve to reduce their carbon footprint and are a nod to preserving our planet. Since their products are made from natural materials, which are highly durable, none of their products ever goes on sale. 

Through their practices, Brother Vellies creates highly-durable shoes and bags which are sustainably and ethically crafted, and have an African feel and look to them making them one-of-a-kind pieces. ​


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