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Aurora James

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The Violet Files

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The world-travelling Brother Vellies designer shares the rituals she takes on the road.

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With far-flung references like Morocco, Kenya, and Nigeria, Brother Vellies creative director and all-around cool girl Aurora James considers herself a global citizen. Not only does she visit Africa every two to three months to work with local artisans on her covetable and sustainable coyote patchwork over-the-knee boots and plush shearling slides, but she also manages to make it to Milan and Paris (she was just in Europe post Morocco for the usual engagements associated with Fashion Month). Here, James shares her travel beauty secrets, from the products she packs (Chanel and RMS Beauty, among others) to her favorite Moroccan hammam.



aurora james

I’m adamant about water and moisturizer when I travel. When people are traveling, they can get discombobulated, and it’s really easy not to be as religious about your routine. I put on moisturizer in the morning, and if I’m taking a long trip I moisturize when I get on the plane and then again midway through the flight. I tend to use Origins a lot, and my favorite is the A Perfect World cream. They have really cute travel-size stuff, so I just pop that in my carry-on. I also keep Origins Night-A-Mins moisturizer with me for night flights. I put it on at my seat rather than going to the airplane bathroom and touching stuff, because even if you wash your hands in there, it’s like, “How clean are you, really?” I try to refrain from using the bathroom, even if the flight is more than six hours.

I massage my face while I’m putting on moisturizer. I learned how to do the most epic face massages from Kanako Takase, and I try to do what she does. I look like a complete psycho on the plane, but it helps me look decent afterward. I also use a lot of oils. I love coconut oil from RMS and Dr. Bronner’s, which you can get at Whole Foods. I also carry Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil, and I use the most amazing Moringa seed oil that I get in Haiti. (You can crush the seed and put it in your smoothies, which is what I like to do.) Argan oil is another one I fell in love with; I started using it the first time I went to Morocco. I put it all over my body, except in my hair. I like trying new soaps and products in hotels I’m staying in, but I always bring Dr. Bronner’s almond soap in a travel bag and Dr. Teal’s body lotion. And Tatcha moisturizing body butter has been the latest addition to my after-shower routine. It’s super luxe and helps to preemptively combat winter dryness.

I’m definitely not one of those people who runs off the plane and applies lipstick in the bathroom in Morocco. I think there’s a time and a place, and I feel like women in general need to feel less pressured to always look a certain way. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin. I do always bring a red lipstick when I’m traveling, and I love Chanel Lover; luckily I bought a bunch of them a long time ago, because they are hard to find now. I put that on after applying Pawpaw ointment to my lips. Pawpaw is also good if I get any cuts or scrapes, which is sort of inevitable because I’m kind of accident prone (I usually cut myself on a rock or something). Anastasia Brow Gel makes a big difference: I don’t pluck my eyebrows, so this holds them in place. I put on a little Glossier Haloscope highlighter at the top of my cheekbones, right where my eye ends toward the temple; it just gives me a bit of luminence. After that I dab on a bit of blush—I just bought Sephora Orange Pop #17. I’m pretty obsessed right now with Serge Lutens water lip color in Chardon and am debating trying the 5 Terres d’Ombres shade as well.

aurora james


When I’m in New York, I get a blowout once a week at a Dominican salon, but I do a when-in-Rome thing when I’m in Africa. I don’t want to really bring a blow-dryer and a flat iron, so I try to embrace my natural texture. When I’m on the coast in Africa, where it’s more humid, my curls are more malleable, but also defined. I wash my hair once a week and just use whatever shampoo and conditioner is at the hotel. I also use Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish.

I wore a lot of capes from Ryan Roche while on this trip because I like to be multifunctional. I have them in black, camel, and rose sable, which is a pink. Culturally, it’s not the most amazing thing to have your shoulders showing in Morocco, so it’s important to be sensitive. I like to wear dresses, and I have a bunch from Ulla Johnson. They are kind of nomadic and work for every occasion.

aurora james



Fellah Hotel in Marrakech
I love the Fellah for an afternoon lunch and hangout, or in the evening for drinks. They have great live music. It is definitely the place to call to figure out what’s going on while you’re in town.

Nomad Restaurant
Nomad has an incredible view and the food is fantastic. Creative people from all over the world go there. It’s a fun reason to get a little dressed up.

The Spa at La Sultana Marrakech
The Spa at La Sultana Marrakech is literally the most amazing on the planet. I get multiple hammams when I’m there, especially on this last trip. I’m usually walking around a shoe factory when I’m in Morocco, which is not necessarily the most pristine place in the world, so it’s nice to have a hammam at the end of the day. I get their massages with argan oil, and they also have a pool, so you can just go and float for a while—it’s not like anyone is in a rush. They have hundreds of cut roses every day, so it smells phenomenal and it’s a full sensory experience.