In the days leading up to Fashion Week 2012, New York will see the arrival of the new season’s ensembled guests, next season front-row visitors and iPad bloggers for days.
There’ll be the daily curation of the perfect outfit; not trying too hard, designer menswear addition, “vintage” (read sourced-from-the-vacuum-preserved-archive-of-Coco-herself) inclusion, eccentric clutch and shoes no one else has seen.
This personal curation and selection process has spilled over into fashion culture in a big way; Gia Coppola selecting ways to represent a fashion label in film, Refinery29 selecting the items it will showcase online, Susie Bubble and fashion bloggers all over creating and curating their own tastemaking style sites.
It’s exciting to see curation and creation in all these different forms, and as a result this year sees the debut of the Curators Conference New York.
An extension to the one off speakers we’ve toured in the past, the conference will be a full day event to kick off Fashion Week in September. The Curators Conference will feature the presentations, ideas and conversations of the leading curators in fashion, retail, interiors, film, art, music and design.
So with the arrival of the new season, next season, blog season let’s take a peek at one of the first release speakers, Refinery29′s founder, Philippe von Borries. We also spoke to co-founder Piera Gelardi (below) about the Refinery behemoth…
Portable When R29 began, did you envisage it being as huge as it is now?
Piera Gelardi: Honestly, no, but I think part of the beauty of the entrepreneurial spirit is the optimism that comes with it — despite the fact that we started from scratch without money, backing, or any existing model to follow (and that many around us were doubtful), we always had faith and enthusiasm for what we were doing.
P: What was the evolutionary process? How was it that you went from an indie start up to one of the world’s hugest fashion sites?
Piera Gelardi: Perseverance, adaptability, and looking ahead. It took us many years to organically develop an audience and to start to get traction with advertisers and partners but because we believed in what we were doing, we kept on keeping on. Through the years and through our growth, we’ve never gotten comfortable. I think one of our biggest strengths is our willingness to always try new things and to always try to do more. It can be exhausting at times but the online space is in constant motion so as a business you need to always be adapting and expanding as well.
The other huge part of our evolution has come from our audience. From the start, we’ve tried to stay in a constant communication with them and have listened to their feedback (whether that’s in the comments, the engagement numbers, or on social) and adapted to fit their needs. Our biggest nightmare is having 0 comments on a story and we work tirelessly to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
P: Your content embraces celebrity, city news, fashion, food, culture, music… So many things! How do you set the tone and voice for the site? How do you decide what posts and topics to cover?
Piera Gelardi: Even as the breadth of our content continues to grow as we test different interest areas with our audience, the tone and point of view remain the same. Our voice is always smart, accessible, and never lacking our signature “wink.”
P: How necessary is e-commerce to R29′s brand?
Piera Gelardi: Our audience has been asking us to do commerce since the very, very early days. When the site consisted of a map of independent stores and daily product shots from the best boutiques in NYC, we got constant feedback from readers that they wished they could shop the products right from our store map. That’s how the first iteration of commerce began and it’s continued to evolve since then. A huge portion of our traffic comes from readers that are intending to shop, so we see offering them amazing commerce options (both our own as well as directing to others) a hugely important service component of the site.
P: How to you see your e-commerce evolving? What can consumers expect in the future?
Piera Gelardi: We’re looking to really create a narrative around the shopping experience. Taking the rich content we’re known for and using it on the commerce side to really tell stories and bring more service and entertainment to the whole commerce environment.
P: What’s the next big project/expansion for R29?
Piera Gelardi: There are many! Continuing to expand our content and our site experience, bringing Refinery29 to more local markets worldwide, broadening our commerce options, and always working to innovate our offerings to connect brands with our audience.