Chatting With Refinery29's Philippe Von Borries

by Awl Sponsors

We team up with braun to talk to Refinery 29 Co-Founder Philippe Von Borries about his favorite Built to Perform possession.

“In a high performance world, braun creates innovative designs built to last 7 years. Braun profiles 15 innovative guys in an intimate look at their life passions and the unique objects of design and durability that power their life.”

Seven years ago, Philippe von Borries, intent on creating a “curated mall,” partnered with longtime friend Justin Stefano to create Refinery 29. True to its name, Refinery 29 distills the global world of fashion into a cohesive community rooted in “entertainment, inspiration and information.” It’s an an integrated hub of retail luminaries and fashion-forward editorial that connects with a style savvy audience. In just a few short years, Refinery 29 has blossomed into one of the premiere trend-focused platforms, garnishing 1.5 million unique visitors each month.

A graduate of Columbia University, von Borries has moved from international affairs (he worked for media startup Global List) to life as an international voice pioneering the social media landscape of fashion, a transition that influenced Refinery 29’s effective approach of merging commerce and experience. In June, 2012, Refinery 29 launched R29 Shops, an e-commerce channel that showcases such name brands as Rebecca Minkoff and Keds Apparel. Now recognized as a leading name in the digital ecosystem of fashion, von Borries has provided unique insight as a recent speaker for The Curators Conference, an event sponsored by Portable TV to highlight top influencers at the intersection of art, film and fashion.

With Refinery 29 as the go-to source for emerging talent and news, it’s no wonder that von Borries has selected a 1957 Michelin Guide to France as his Built to Perform prized possession, a testament to the fortitude of a classic that never goes out of fashion.

1) Who did you look up to growing up?

Oh, man — Boris Becker. I was a fanatic tennis fan. I grew up in Germany, am an only child and I think, as a result, was always be drawn to solo sports. I would travel to whatever tournament I could and I went to tennis camps. I finally met him. He was never a consistent player, every game was an emotional roller coaster and he definitely took me along for the ride.

Photo: James Ryang

2) How did you make the leap from international affairs to women’s fashion and what was your approach to growing Refinery 29? How did you and your business partner Justin Stefano meet?

I was working in international affairs before for a media start up in DC. There wasn’t a natural path to fashion. My business partner Justin and I (we know each other all the way back from boarding school) were consumed by the idea of creating a curated mall of your dreams where you could shop the best individual retailers and stores in cities across the world. Most of the stores were fashion boutiques and we started to develop a lot of credibility with independent designers and stores. That was the beginning of our journey into fashion.

3) What is one fashion trend that you’ve seen recently which has surprised you or caught your attention?

Man skirts, the Canadian tuxedo, plaid on plaid.

Photo: James Ryang

4) What are some of your favorite fashion stores or designers in New York?

I’m a man of habits. I kind of wear a uniform — jeans, boots, button down or sweatshirts. My favorites are Steven Alan and Rag & Bone.

5) How would you describe the Refinery29 community?

Youthful, fun, real, supportive, curious, excitable and stylish.

6) Your Built to Perform prized possession is a vintage, 1957 Michelin Guide to France. Why is it your Built to Perform possession? I found it at an antique book store on the Upper West Side. It was the first one that I bought. There are more of them out there — more than you think and you can find them en masse in France.

It’s an amazing possession because you can get yourself lost in a time warp of different road trips through Provence in the 1950s.

7) In one sentence, tell us why you couldn’t live without your Built to Perform possession.

I could definitely live without it but then I then wouldn’t have that awesome reminder staring at me from the bookshelf to plan the next trip.