Aurora James, Cameron Russell and Rio Uribe Talk Activism At Teen Vogue Summit

by Taylor Harris

Three seemingly unrelated fashion folk — Aurora James, Cameron Russell and Gypsy Sport’s Rio Uribe — were joined on stage on Friday morning in one of the first talks of Teen Vogue‘s three-day summit at the New School in New York.

The triumvirate were unified by their infusion of activism in their work — James mobilizes developing communities in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Morocco by enlisting their artisans for her label Brother Vellies; Cameron Russell has been an ardent advocate for model’s rights in the wake of #MeToo; and Rio Uribe has revolutionized runway representation with his inclusive castings.

“Every single time we spend money on something, whether it’s shoes, or a dress, or a sandwich, we’re essentially voting with our spending power,” James said. The designer and newly minted CFDA member started her label in 2013 with the mission of micro-economic aid through outsourced manufacturing. “Vellies,” as in the moniker Brother Vellies, is a nickname for veldskoen, a walking shoe common in South Africa. “It’s always been about how we integrate people of different cultures into what we’re creating, versus just being inspired by them,” James said. “When you are wanting to wear something from another culture, you can actually seek out people from that culture and find out what they’re choosing for you to wear, how you can participate in that.”

Russell spoke about the rampant sexual misconduct model’s have been enduring on photoshoots that has only recently come to light. “When we talk about where did #MeToo come from, it’s not like there is one bad actor,” Russell said. “It’s not as if we need a policy change, or we need one photographer to go away, we have to change the power and the culture of what’s happening throughout the entire industry.”

Uribe has been something of a trailblazer when it comes to representation on the runway, with castings have been the most representative and inclusive fashion has ever seen. “I just want to inspire younger people to stand up for what they believe in,” Uribe said. “I have to do my part to show them, my younger brothers and sisters, that you can go out on to the streets and take up space and share your voice and cry for what you believe in that needs to be changed.”

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