That feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin is universal — but it takes a very determined type of person to make conquering that a mission. Refinery29 co-founder and executive creative director Piera Gelardi is one of the most radically expressive professionals in the business. She's the kind of person who chooses to wear riveted jeans and sparkly vinyls when her peers show up in black and blue pantsuits. (For the record: when she does don a pantsuit, it's usually pink.) This idea of "inhabiting her identity" goes well beyond her closet for Gelardi; it has become a rallying cry for every single aspect of her life.
"There's so much beauty in people bringing their own style and their own creativity to the table," she says. "There are two junior people on my team who I just have a great dynamic with; I feel really comfortable with them, they make me laugh. Sometimes if I feel stuck, I just ask if we can talk for ten minutes. We have a back and forth, and then that unsticks me."
During this week's episode of UnStyled, Christene Barberich, Refinery29's Global Editor-in-Chief sits down with her co-founder, work-wife, and friend-for-life as the two reminisce about Refinery29's origin story, and talk about the little traditions, gestures, and habits that have made their company a safe place to explore and express.
We've included some of our favorite moments from the chat below, but make sure to subscribe to season one of UnStyled on iTunes for the whole damn thing.
What was one of the most significant things that happened when you were growing up that really clarified for you who you were, or how you wanted to express yourself through the things you wore?
"When I started dressing myself, I was a very expressive dresser. I had a lot of fun with what I wore [through] mixing and matching things. I got really into color and weird textures. Like, vinyl, sparkly vinyl, and sequins. During my junior year of high school, I also met this girl, who I fell in love with. But, she started to really criticize what I would wear, and she wanted me to wear her clothes, and be more like her. Like big JNCO’s and big polo shirts. It was this really weird moment where I started wearing things that really didn't feel like me. I remember, somewhere towards the end of our relationship, she convinced me to wear this outfit of hers. And I went out and I ran into people that I knew. I felt so icky, and felt so bad about myself, that I was not inhabiting my identity. I realized then that would never do that again. I was never going to let anyone make me feel bad about what I wear, and how I express myself."
How do you inspire that feeling [at work], without it feeling pushy? How do you actually share that kind of opportunity with people on the team?
"I think part of it is setting an example, and pushing myself to express myself and continue to look for a lot of outside references. I try and encourage my team to do the same — we do a monthly meeting where everyone brings inspiration, and visual inspiration that they're excited about. It's always amazing because we often see so much similarity in terms of the things that we're excited about. My role is pushing people forward and giving them the space to be creative."
What are some tips to find inspiration for people who don't feel like they are creative?
"Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. [You] should be receptive to what actually gets your brain going. Inspiration-finding shouldn't be a slog. It should be fun. Being inspired should feel good. It should be something that you really enjoy. Everyone is creative."
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