Type of site
|Media and entertainment|
225 Broadway, New York, New York,
|Founder(s)||Philippe von Borries, Justin Stefano, Piera Gelardi, Christene Barberich|
|Employees||Over 500 (as of October 2017)|
Justin Stefano, Philippe von Borries, Piera Gelardi, and Christene Barberich co-founded Refinery29 in 2005 as a city guide, emphasizing fashion local to New York City. The name of the website alludes to the website distilling information into its essence. The company headquarters is located in the Financial District, Manhattan neighborhood of New York City.
Refinery29 has over 450 employees globally with offices in Los Angeles, London, and Berlin. In 2015, the company launched a UK edition at www.refinery29.uk and the following year in 2016, a German edition at www.refinery29.de. In 2016, Refinery29 announced it had raised $45 million in funding led by Turner. As of 2017, Refinery29 reaches an audience of over 500 million globally.
On October 2, 2019, Vice Media (owned by Shane Smith (20%), The Walt Disney Company (16%), A&E Networks (20%), TPG Capital (44%), and James Murdoch (minority stake)) announced that it would acquire Refinery29. The deal, worth a reported $400 million, values the combined company at $4 billion.
In early June 2020, women of color and black employees and freelancers took to social media to tell stories of discrimination while working for Refinery29. A writer for the company wrote on Twitter, “I worked at Refinery29 for less than nine months due to a toxic company culture where white women’s egos ruled the near nonexistent editorial processes. One of the founders consistently confused myself and one of our full-time front desk associates & pay disparity was atrocious.”
On June 10, 2020, co-Founders and CEOs Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries released a letter addressing the controversy, which read, in part: “After having read these accounts, we recognize how our privilege as two white male CEOs created blinders that kept us from seeing the struggles, exclusion, and aggressions that you felt at R29. This is an earthquake of a wake-up call.”
Co-Founder Christene Barberich stepped aside as Global Editor-in-Chief and remained on as an employee to Refinery29 until November 2020. In Barberich's Instagram announcement post she wrote, “I’ve read and taken in the raw and personal accounts of Black women and women of color regarding their experiences inside our company at Refinery29 and what’s clear from these experiences, is that R29 has to change. We have to do better, and that starts with making room. And, so I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter.
On June 11, 2020, author and former Refinery29 employee Sesali Bowen called Barberich a “sacrificial lamb” on Twitter. She tweeted, “First and foremost, Christene Barberich was about to leave Refinery anyway. She was an easy sacrificial lamb for all this.”
Barberich also faced criticism after a former employee recalled that Barberich once cried in a team meeting after being told she seemed "squeamish" when discussing race. It was stated Barberich had decided to go home earlier that day due to the confrontation.
Refinery29 produces editorial and video programming, live events, and social, shareable content delivered across major social media platforms, and covers a variety of categories. In August 2018, Refinery29 made an official section for music journalism on their website. Although this official section was created in 2018, music writing on Refinery29 was widespread before this date. In 2013, Refinery29 published "The Best Music Blogs That Aren't Pitchfork," featuring other online music publications such as The Fader, Obscure Sound and Earmilk.
Refinery29 has series shows Try Living with Lucie and Lucie for Hire that are hosted by Lucie Fink. Refinery29 was listed three consecutive years on Crain's "Fast 50", has won seven Clio Awards, and seven Webby Awards.
The company produces an annual pop-up exhibition, 29Rooms, where visitors can take self-portraits for sharing on Instagram. 29Rooms was launched in 2015 on Refinery29's 10-Year Anniversary. It has been credited as the first "selfie museum".
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