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How A Stupid Experiment In The Armpit Of NYC Launched Refinery29

How A Stupid Experiment In The Armpit Of NYC Launched Refinery29 Co Labs code community


Five years ago, Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries launched what they call one of their stupidest ideas ever: a one-month pop-up shop at the grimy Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. Somehow, the oddly placed little shop run by two fashion newbies generated nearly a million dollars in sales, helping add rocket fuel to the Refinery29 brand. It's now the largest independent fashion website in the U.S. with a value of $29 million.

“We were literally selling Alexander Wang in the armpit of New York City,” says Stefano. “Our logo was on all the trash cans. It was the weirdest mixture of ingredients.”


Stefano and von Borries say this is just one example of the “stupid, existential” experiments they’ve tried as cofounders of Refinery29.Their trajectory as fashion moguls wasn't a bold, well-intentioned path. Refinery29 is a story of trial and error, from two poli-sci nerds who loved discovering local restaurants and stores on the weekends.

“Our success is fundamentally due to the fact that we were outsiders,” says von Borrie

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