One-percenters have the Giving Pledge. Now luxury retail has the Fifteen Percent Pledge. For their five-year plan, the force-of-nature women behind the nonprofit are aiming higher: to change the way we shop. “I’ve never been huge on just expecting donations or philanthropy to solve the world’s problems.”
That news flash may be surprising coming from the founder of a nonprofit, but it makes perfect sense when you consider the source. She is Aurora James, the designer behind the footwear and accessories label Brother Vellies and the architect behind the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a young organization with an ambitious agenda.
It was in May 2020 that James noticed one specific problem. In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the racial justice protests that followed, her social media feed was flooded with empty corporate statements of support for the Black community.
The problem was that the companies sharing these posts, many of them in the luxury space all too familiar to James, carried few Black-owned brands on their shelves. It might have elicited no more than an eye roll, but what if there were a teachable moment here for the captains of industry straining to do more than virtue-signal?
James took to Instagram and addressed nine brands directly, including Saks, Sephora, Net-a-Porter, and Walmart: Instead of so many sponsored posts targeting a market that makes up 15 percent of the American population, why not commit to at least 15 percent of product orders from Black businesses? She delivered the message not just as an admonishment but as an invitation.