The SCAD Museum of Art was abuzz Monday evening as students lined up to hear from Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi, better known as the co-founders of the fashion and lifestyle website Refinery29. The auditorium was full; the crowd couldn’t wait to hear from the first ladies of social media themselves.
In conversation with Dean of Fashion Michael Fink, Barberich and Gelardi opened up about their upbringings, their branding tips, and their time spent at SCAD this week. Both of their childhoods influenced the function and look of the site; Gelardi’s entrepreneurial father inspired her to make business for herself, while Barberich’s mother pushed her to go after what she wanted in life.
The two met organically; Barberich was the lead editor at City magazine and Gelardi was a newly hired intern from NYU. Barberich took note of Gelardi’s hard work, and how sometimes she’d even show up in “the previous night’s outfit,” just to make it in on time. Naturally, Gelardi became Barberich’s most trusted partner, and a union was formed. Barberich’s pulse on the up-and-coming led her to think digitally, and the “writing on the wall” she saw was the push she needed to launch the success story that is Refinery29.
Refinery’s impact has been a crucial one on the industry. The website’s projects, such as the “67% project” and their line of upcoming shows and shorts titled “Shatterbox” has put pressing issues, especially for women, at the forefront of the conversation. The two women spoke specifically of the “67% project”, which aims to show women of various sizes across all platforms of social media and the web. A staggering statistic inspired the project, which stated that only 2% of plus-sized women are shown in women’s media, while 67% of women identify as plus-size. Their bravery to challenge societal norms is noteworthy, and shows that the team at Refinery29 has become a pioneering force for our generation.
Now over 10 years later, Gelardi and Barberich’s partnership is as strong as ever. Refinery29 publishes 180 stories a day, across several social media platforms, in over 5 countries. Their mission? To be the top new-media brand for women everywhere; women who value what’s in their heads as much as what’s on their bodies.
So far so good, ladies.
Written by Jessica Rivera Photographed by Joselyn Dontfraid