Art of Living Well

Designer Aurora James Loves Jasmine Oil So Much She Travels With a Diffuser

Aurora James Brother Vellies Art of Living Well
Portrait of Aurora James by Christopher Sherman. Image courtesy of James.

This is the Art of Living Well, a column from CULTURED that explores how tastemakers think about luxury: the luxuries that are free, the ones that cost way too much, and the little ones that punch above their weight.

Aurora James is always in motion. At least, that’s what it looks like from her Instagram, where she shares bits of her frenetic schedule as she bounces from coast to coast to attend dinners, fashion shows, and book talks. It’s a fitting pace for the multi-hyphenate creator, who founded Brother Vellies, a line of luxury accessories, in 2013, and then launched the Fifteen Percent Pledge, an advocacy nonprofit dedicated to getting more products by Black makers onto the shelves of major retailers, in 2020.

Earlier this year, James published Wildflower, a memoir about her journey from high-school dropout to fashion-industry leader. Below, the Canada-born, New York-raised creator offers a counter-narrative to her always-on-the-go Instagram persona, lifting the curtain on the rituals, scents, and little luxuries that keep her feeling grounded and at home, wherever she may be. 

What product do you use every day that instantly improves your mood?

Anyone who has come over to my house in Los Angeles is instantly greeted with a thick, intoxicating waft of jasmine. I am pretty jasmine oil obsessed. I can’t live without it. Sometimes I bring a portable Vitruvi diffuser with me on weekends away so I can have the fragrance follow me.

What do you do when you need to feel grounded?

I’ve been really into meditation lately. Taking a few moments to close my eyes, focus on my breath, and be present in the current moment allows me to release any racing thoughts or worries. Best-case scenario I am seated outside, in the grass, or perhaps on a rocky cliff in Sedona or high up on a rooftop overlooking the bustling souks of Marrakech.

What’s your favorite smell? 

That’s a tough one, I find inspiration in so many scents. If I had to choose, it would be the smell of fresh rain. It's a scent that brings a sense of calm and serenity and reminds me of the beauty and resilience of nature. And of course, fresh jasmine in bloom from my garden.

What’s a luxurious ritual you inherited from someone in your life?

Bubble baths. My grandmother loved them!

What is your favorite luxury that costs less than $20? 

A beautiful bar of French soap.

What’s a wellness ritual you think is overrated?

Although wellness rituals can be incredibly beneficial for our overall well-being, one practice that I believe is somewhat overrated is the idea of extreme detoxes or restrictive diets. While it's important to prioritize nourishing our bodies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I think there's a danger in becoming too fixated on quick fixes or following overly strict regimens. Our bodies are resilient and complex, and they thrive when we adopt a balanced approach to wellness.

What is the most luxurious thing in your life that’s free?