First published 12/7/16
Refinery29 is perhaps the most prolific online fashion, beauty and lifestyle website for young women. With over 27 million monthly unique users on its websites and a global reach of 225 million across platforms—including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat—it is inarguable that the website is having a significant effect. Behind the website is an army of hardworking people, led by Christene Barberich, the co-founder and global editor-in-chief.
In today’s instalment of 5 Questions with… I wanted to interview Christene, a marvellous woman, who founded Refinery29 in 2005, when the digital fashion industry was in its nascency. She has written at length about fashion and, candidly, about fertility. Recently, she launched a podcast called Unstyled. She has interviewed Leandra Medine, Ashley Graham and Danielle Brooks. Over the years Christene has transformed her business into a multimillion dollar enterprise. That’s no small feat.
This interview encapsulates Christene’s background, advice she’d give to her younger self and her opinions on the current state of the fashion industry.
I hope you enjoy 5 Questions with… Christene Barberich.
What did you study in college and do you think it is necessary for people today to study something fashion-related to embark on a career in fashion?
I studied visual arts and creative writing in college, so, no, I didn't study fashion per se when I was in school. In my case, my professional journey kept intersecting with Fashion in new and unusual ways, so my entry into the industry wasn't exactly orthodox. I think it really depends on what your passion is—and, it's important to note, your passions change quite a bit as you get older, so if you didn't study fashion in college and you want to pursue a career in that space, it's never too late to learn and find a job that can start to inch you in that direction. On the other hand, most of the fashion designers I know have all been pursuing their craft from the very beginning. Some paths are more defined than others, but that never means you can't pivot along the way.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To not worry so much. I wish my present self could have time-traveled a note of reassurance to my 20-something self to say, it's not going to be exactly what you expect, but it's actually going to be better...and remember, always, you have every tool you need right now to go where you want to go. You open the doors. More and more, as I get older, I realise how much of the power rests in our own hands. No regrets, just make your own shit happen. You know?
You are Global Editor-in-Chief of Refinery29, what does your day to day involve?
Anything from sitting in on a big-picture content planning meeting, to work-shopping an upcoming feature with our Editorial Director, to attending a meeting with one of our brand partners, to speaking at an event or symposium about the vision and what's to come from Refinery29. And writing and editing, too....I still do those things as well, just not as frequently.
What is the most difficult aspect of working in the fashion industry in 2016?
Wishing the industry itself would adapt more quickly to how consumers want to shop and what they want to shop for. Even the very basic experience of shopping in a store has to be rethought to pave the way for a new and better shopping experience.
In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing the fashion industry presently and what are possible solutions?
I feel I answered this above.