Aurora James Takes Centre Stage as the CFDA Fashion Awards Return In-Person


The Canadian designer is being honoured with a prestigious award *and* a nomination.

David Cassels

Date September 16, 2021

The fashion world has been anything but boring this week — VMAs, TIFF and Met Gala, we’re looking at you. To continue this wave of excitement, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has just announced the nominees and honorees for the upcoming 2021 CFDA Fashion Awards.

Aside from the official news that the ceremony will be happening in person (!) on November 10 after being held digitally in 2020, the equally exciting announcement is that Canadian designer Aurora James will be taking the spotlight with both an honour and a nomination. CFDA has granted the Guelph-born creative with the coveted Founder’s Award for her initiative: the 15 Per Cent Pledge.

James launched the 15 Per Cent Pledge in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests demanding material action against anti-Black racism and white supremacy. The organization urges retailers to commit to giving at least 15 per cent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. In Canada, Indigo was the first major retailer to take the pledge, followed by The Hudson’s Bay.

In recognition of her NYC-based brand Brother Vellies, James was also nominated for the American Accessories Designer of the Year award (even though she’s Canadian). James is one of several Black designers nominated at this year’s awards, with almost every category (excluding the International Women’s Designer of the Year, unfortunately) featuring at least one Black nominee.

This is the second time that James has been at the forefront of fashion news this week. After she designed congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s now-famous “Tax the Rich” Met Gala gown, social media quickly erupted into a bloodbath of opinions coming from every angle. The designer continues to turn heads in the fashion industry, and we’re so glad to see her being recognized.

Read on for the full list of 2021 CFDA Awards nominees and honorees, with more to be announced in coming weeks:

The Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert:

Aurora James for the 15 Percent Pledge

The Environmental Sustainability Award:


The Media Award in Honor of Eugenia Sheppard:

Nina Garcia

The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award:

Dapper Dan

The Board of Directors’ Tribute:

Yeohlee Teng

American Womenswear Designer of the Year Nominees:

Catherine Holstein for Khaite

Christopher John Rogers

Gabriela Hearst

Marc Jacobs

Peter Do

American Menswear Designer of the Year nominees:

Emily Adams Bode for Bode

Jerry Lorenzo for Fear of God

Mike Amiri for Amiri

Telfar Clemens for Telfar

Thom Browne

American Accessories Designer of the Year nominees:

Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row

Aurora James for Brother Vellies

Gabriela Hearst

Stuart Vevers for Coach

Telfar Clemens for Telfar

American Emerging Designer of the Year nominees:

Edvin Thompson for Theophilio

Eli Russell Linnetz for ERL

Jameel Mohammed for Khiry

Kenneth Nicholson

Maisie Schloss for Maisie Wilen

International Women’s Designer of the Year nominees:

Daniel Lee for Bottega Veneta

Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons for Prada

Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino

Simon Porte Jacquemus for Jacquemus

International Men’s Designer of the Year nominees:

Daniel Lee for Bottega Veneta

Dries Van Noten

Grace Wales Bonner for Wales Bonner

Rick Owens

Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton

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