Getting Ready
aurora james 2018 cfda awards

How CFDA Award Nominee Aurora James Prepped for the Big Night

With Elaine Welteroth by her side and lots of Dior makeup, it was an afternoon for the books.

By: Leah Faye Cooper
Photography: Weston Wells

Before Aurora James walked onto the CFDA Awards step and repeat—a vision in a cream Danielle Frankel dress and a bejeweled braid cascading to the side—and before she took her seat at the Brooklyn Museum, among fellow nominees including Kerby Jean-Raymond, Thom Browne, and Raf Simons, she was at Dumbo House in Brooklyn, debating with her good friend and date for the night, Elaine Welteroth, about whether or not they should apply some Express Crest White Strips before departing for the evening.

“I’m not doing this, Elaine,” James says laughing, noting that they need to be in the car soon. Welteroth smiles and applies the strips to her teeth. It’s a big night for her friend, and an ultra-bright smile is a priority.

The founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, James landed on a short list of young, impactful designers primed for more success with a nomination for the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent.

“Right now we’re manufacturing in South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Bali, Mali, Haiti, and Mexico,” James says of her collection, which is rooted in artisans from the aforementioned countries producing traditional styles. “To be recognized for the work that we do isn’t so much about me, it’s about the people across all of these different countries and cultures being able to do what they’re so amazing at doing. Supporting that cultural identity is important.” As is having a woman of color at the helm, given the fashion industry’s historic lack of diversity.

The the surprise of no one, James put together a gorgeous look for the awards, enlisting Alana Wright on makeup, Michael Warren on hair, and Andy Spencer on nails. More on that—and her special recognition—ahead.


“I found out about my nomination when I was at The Wing. I was doing a talk with Michelle Obama’s stylist. Everyone knew except for me that I was nominated and I thought that I wasn’t, so I was just there being emo and talking. Then at the end of the talk Lauren Sherman, who was moderating, told me and I was so excited. And then I found that Kerby [Jean-Raymond] was also nominated and he’s such a good friend of mine so I was even more excited.” —Aurora James

“Based on her dress and her inspiration that she sent me, she wanted an ‘I just woke up like this’ look. Because her hair is pulled back, we wanted to create a feline look without too much definition. So we sculpted the eye according to her eye shape to pull it out, and made it really bronze and gilded.” —Alana Wright

“I love seashells and pearls and wanted to incorporate them. When I lived in Jamaica I used to braid my hair every other day and bead it.” —AJ

“Yesterday my assistant and I went to [Aurora’s] house and braided her down, and today I added the shell and bead accessories.” —Michael Warren

“She wanted a high pony so we braided it into a high pony style and then made one big braid. I put the wires inside the braid so we could maneuver it any way we wanted.” —MW

“I was originally trying to help one of my friends find a wedding dress and became really obsessed with Danielle Frankel. I love to wear white—there’s something so magical about it.” —AJ

“I’m so excited for her. This recognition is so well deserved.” —Elaine Welteroth

“We love Dior makeup. I mixed their undercover full coverage foundation with a little bit of their flash color. I added a little bit of Marc Jacobs coconut gel highlighter into it for a built-in glow. I countered with this wonderful product by Melanie Mills Hollywood. She created this for the people on Dancing with the Stars so it doesn’t transfer onto clothes or run off. We didn’t really do any liner; we created a feline shape with individual false lashes. Her brows are naturally beautiful so I just brushed them up and filled them in with my favorite product Surratt Beauty brow pomade.” —AW

“Fashion is such an important tool of self-expression and I think that it’s so interesting because you can put on a shirt and not really think about it, or you can make that a radical act by checking to see where it was made, how the materials were soured, and if people got a living wage to make it.” —AJ

“For a long time people really didn’t think about the fashion industry as something that was political or radical, and what was so amazing about the time that Elaine spent at Teen Vogue was that she really challenged fashion people to start using their platforms in a way that really meant something and stood for something.” —AJ