Christene Barberich cofounded Refinery29 10 years ago, but you won’t catch this boss lady resting on her laurels. She just published her first New York Times best-selling book, Style Stalking, with R29 executive creative director Piera Gelardi, and is in the final stages of overhauling a (very) quirky loft apartment with her architect husband.
“I always wanted to be an editor. Even at the age of 9, I was writing stories and making magazines by cutting up and pasting together phrases and pictures from old books. I pursued that path hard in college — I mean, I must have sent out at least 200 résumés…any magazine, book publisher, or periodical in existence! I lucked out and ended up working at The New Yorker as an assistant and, later on, Gourmet as an editor. At the latter, I was lucky enough to work with some of the most fascinating writers, helping to shape their stories and hone their voices. It was possibly the best training ground, but ultimately, working at a big company with so much history and tradition (read: bureaucracy) just wasn’t for me.”
“My mom worked from the time I was 3 when my dad lost his job; this was in the early '70s, and that had a big impact on me. She never wore dresses — always cool bell-bottoms and sexy blazers, very daring for a law secretary in an office environment. It’s probably no coincidence I have a lot of those pieces in my wardrobe now, too. My mom’s youngest sister had the same sort of liberated style vibe. She was a fashion illustrator back in the '70s, and her life as a young creative woman making it in New York City was super inspiring to me. I do remember her telling me that some of the students at FIT back then would wear overalls minus a bra. I loved that sense of freedom and confidence in a woman, even if it seemed a bit crazy.”
My Pivotal Moment
“When I met Justin [Stefano] and Philippe [von Borries], the founders of R29, the Internet was just becoming a thing. But, something about that very first meeting and talking about the possibilities — the seeds of what was crystallizing digitally in the world — I knew it was a path I had to follow. That and getting married were probably the biggest risks I’ve ever taken. Both required a lot of faith, total commitment, and a good amount of compromise… You have to be prepared for that and how it can change you for the better. Instead of feeling repressed or stifled, it’s made me a better listener, malleable, and open to possibilities that not only affect my own development but everything that I touch.”
What Drives Me
“Refinery29, and great, special content, in general, has never been just a job or business for me — it’s like a living thing that’s taken on a life of its own. That’s made me extremely proud and grateful…and, being honest here, totally freaked out! If you’re not a little bit scared, I suppose, what’s the point?”
“Piera and I just started working on the sequel to our book, Style Stalking. It focuses on how women all over the world express themselves using makeup, wild hair color, tattoos, etc. We want to learn more how they’re using beauty and their own self-taught tricks to celebrate and inform their identities…not to mention, empower their lives. As for my other life, my husband and I just spent five months renovating a strange little loft apartment in Brooklyn Heights (pretty sure the whole building is on a slant!). As with anything, it’s always the final stretch that’s the killer — but in the end, I really believe those are the details that count the most.”
Amulette de Cartier necklace, Nomia sleeveless jacket, 3.1 Phillip Lim cropped top, Zara culottes, Louis Vuitton python sandals.