Brother Vellies Designer Aurora James Visits Her Jamaican “Happy Place”

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A report by Lilah Ramzi for Vogue.

Before founding a line of ultra-cool, artisanally-made footwear, Aurora James spent her childhood running around Jamaica in desert boots and a pink pleated pinafore school uniform. When she was seven years old, James’s family moved to the Caribbean country for a slice of island life. “While I’m not Jamaican,” says the Brother Vellies designer, “the island is definitely a part of me.”

Today, in between trips to South Africa, Kenya, and Morocco (where Brother Vellies is handmade by the local craftspeople) James admits to traveling back to her adopted home-country as often as possible. “I try to go once or twice a year,” says James, “whenever I can escape.” Last year, the designer spent a week with her phone turned off (a feat for anyone, let alone the head of a fashion label) and most recently, she sprung a surprise trip on her boyfriend Browne; a week of Jamaican beach-bliss in celebration of his birthday. “As an only child, birthdays have always been a very huge deal in my life,” says James.

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On this most recent trip, the photogenic couple stayed in Oracabessa Bay’s GoldenEye Resort. If the name sounds Bondian, it’s because it is. The hotel is the former estate of James Bond-creator Ian Fleming. The resort was acquired by Chris Blackwell (whose mother was a muse to the author) and is a collection of villas (Fleming’s original estate among them) which dot private beaches and lagoons. It was not James’s first stay at the storied hotel (“GoldenEye is genuinely our happy place”) but this time around, she stayed in a villa on a private lagoon.

Set on the island’s north shore, GoldenEye served as their home base in between trips to the nearby beach town of Ocho Rios “to visit some local shops and our favorite bartender The Candy Man at Toscaninni’s.” Back at the hotel, cocktails were also enjoyed, as James explains: “Blackwell also owns his own brand of rum, so that is pretty free-flowing. It was piña coladas all around.”

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Over the course of the week, James (dressed in her resort wear-best) and her boyfriend enjoyed fresh seafood after befriending local fishermen, worshipped the sun (with a generous dose of sunscreen, of course) and crashed a wedding. And though work was far from her mind, James couldn’t help but let her surroundings inspire her. “The color palettes in Jamaica are so vibrant and rich and I love the sounds in the evening,” she says. “We haven’t produced anything for Brother Vellies in Jamaica yet, but I could see that happening one day soon.”

“All in all it was very quiet, relaxed, and essentially perfect,” she sighs. Based on her holiday snaps, which James shares here, that sounds just right.

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