Vogue’s September cover star and the founder and designer of Brother Vellies Aurora James has known Kerby Jean-Raymond for years. She says that she and the founder and creative director of Pyer Moss are “friends first and foremost,” even if they are peers in the fashion space too. They’ve formed a tight bond and a creative kinship that has resulted in behind-the-scenes ideating but also in a very real, very powerful collaboration. James designed the shoes for Jean-Raymond’s Collection 3, which was shown at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn during New York Fashion Week spring 2020 and served as the finale to Jean-Raymond’s collection “American Also” fashion show trilogy. The trio of runway shows was a poignant representation of the elimination of African American narratives in pop culture. The Collection 3 show and the looks were partly dedicated to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Black woman who invented rock-n-roll. It was a deeply moving musical performance of epic proportions, punctuated by designs that celebrated Black women in music across generations and genres. Models wore diva-appropriate bolero jackets, wide-leg pants, ethereal gowns, and looks laced with rhinestone detailing; some of the pieces also included prints featuring original artwork by the wrongly accused and incarcerated Richard Phillips.
The shoes were a distinctly important part of this powerful performance. James’s designs nodded to the Black women in music and their unmatched style and grace that Jean-Raymond set out to honor with Collection 3. She crafted thigh-high heels and ankle-height cowboy boots in shades of white and black as well as a neon pink sock boot. One pair of boots features a painting by Phillips that depicts Tharpe and her unmatched contributions to the world of music. While the memory of that show is still ripe for those who were lucky enough to experience it in person over a year ago, on Saturday, the Brother Vellies by Pyer Moss collection will finally be available on both brands’ websites.
“I am proud of what my friend Aurora and I created,” Jean-Raymond tells Vogue. “Collection 3 was partly inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and other Black women in music, so honoring their contributions by collaborating with Brother Vellies felt like home.” James shares this sentiment and explained that the pair actually began designing the collection of shoes while on holiday together in Bermuda. James also notes that once they arrived back in New York, she became “super inspired by the fabrics he was using in the collection, which really prompted the over-the-knee printed boot.” They enjoyed the collaboration process but James also says that nothing compared to watching the work come together on stage at the Kings Theater. “To be honest,” she says, “I wasn’t really thinking about the shoes at that moment. I was just excited to see my friend’s vision come to life in such a magnificent way.”
James did admit to being mesmerized by the Swarovski crystal-embellished boots, which she said took around 118 hours of handwork at the Brother Vellies studio in Brooklyn. But again, this collaboration represents more than covetable kicks. It’s about creativity and inspiration fostered through friendship. “I think that Kerby is a part of an important new wave of creative people across the country who are not afraid to create their own systems and modes of transportation and operation, which is what the world needs more of—creative freedom and liberation.”