Toronto native and New York transplant Aurora James founded Brother Vellies with two specific goals: to introduce her favorite traditional African footwear to the rest of the world, and to create and sustain artisanal jobs in Africa.

Handmade in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco, Brother Vellies shoes maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts. While the company offers a variety of styles including boots and sandals it was built on the enthusiastic recep tion of its first model, the velskoen. Relatively unknown outside of Africa, traditional velskoen (pronounced “fell skoon,” and known colloquially as “vellies”) paved the way for the modern day desert boot.

At the company’s workshop in Kenya, a small group of men and women assemble a few dozen pairs of shoes a day by hand, using techniques refined over multiple generations. All of the Brother Vellies workshops are open spaces that welcome artisans of all genders, sexual orientation, backgrounds, and tribes.

James a former model agent and curator now finds herself traveling to and throughout Africa regularly to work with the local artisans, experience the diverse culture of the continent, and unearth new inspirations for the brand.