The Force of the Future is Fashion at Refinery29

The words girl power and lady boss don’t begin to capture the amount of passion and energy that exude from Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi, co-founders of Refinery29.

Over the past week, the dynamic duo have been hopping from classroom to classroom in hopes of establishing personal relationships with students; it’s been confirmed that Barberich will become a mentor here at SCAD.

On Tuesday, February 29th, Barberich and Gelardi attended Writing for Fashion, a class taught by SCAD professor Gioia Diliberto. The two provided insight on how their rapidly growing company works – instigating conversation where there isn’t one, and establishing a voice that represents and encourages women from every background.

Growing pains are welcomed with full force at Refinery29, where the multi-faceted web platform pumps out nearly 180 articles a day. But this doesn’t mean that emphasis on compelling journalism is lacking; in fact, it’s the opposite.

A constant importance is put on research, facts and whether or not an article will create a conversation that readers will want to engage in.

Barberich asks the overarching question bluntly – “Why does anyone give a shit?”

The team inspired students to “find the story behind the story” by writing articles that retain intention while relaying a point that can create positive meaning in someone’s life.

With this open mindset, Refinery29 has stepped outside of the patriarchal box. They strive to normalize aspects of the female experience that are typically labeled taboo, such as periods and miscarriages.

“We can’t be everywhere,” said Barberich, “but we have to be where it counts.”

Refinery29, known for supporting The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, has partnered with She Should Run, a nonpartisan organization committed to encouraging women to put themselves forward as candidates to run for office.

“Politics have become part of our identity”, said Gelardi.

Of course, this kind of advocacy has earned them some amazing business opportunities. But they’ve also lost business because of it—something they aren’t losing sleep over.

Barberich and Gelardi took the class down memory lane when they pulled up an article from 2012, a step-by-step guide to getting shot by The Sartorialist. They also highlighted Refinery’s 67 Percent Project, which identifies the needs of the “invisible majority,” or the 67 percent of women in the United States who are plus sized.

When Refinery29 isn’t amplifying the unique voices of diversity (when do they stop?), they are increasing their impact across all platforms, such as social media and videos. Lucia, Before and After, a short film on reproductive rights, won Sundance’s Short Film Jury Award – a testament to their mission-led work ethic.

Pointing true north, Refinery29 approaches individuality in a way that is “radically relevant”, aiming to reprogram how people discuss everyday problems.

To Barberich, “trust is currency.” With her enthusiastic involvement over the past few days, she will be living richly on at SCAD.

Written by Emily Cole
Graphic by Sydney Seifried

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