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Gabriella Karefa-Johnson has announced her departure from Vogue, where she had been a member of the team since 2013.
On November 24, The Business of Fashion podcast featured a discussion about the fashion editor’s choice to not extend her contract as Global Fashion Director and her future plans in the industry.
The experienced expert, recognized as the initial Black woman to design a cover shoot for American Vogue, has brought significant impact, enthusiasm, and determination to revolutionize the fashion world. Karefa-Johnson’s commitment to capturing a single image that conveys a powerful message, with the sole purpose of inspiring others, is a rarity among professionals in the cutthroat fashion industry.
During a discussion with Imran Amed, the artist expressed her desire to create space for future aspiring individuals, similar to “little Gabriella Karefa-Johnsons,” through a commitment to transparency. They discussed the effects of “burn out” and “pressure” in the fashion industry, highlighting the belief that a career in fashion should not cause excessive stress.
Karefa-Johnson experienced emotional difficulties while working for prestigious publications in the past. However, it wasn’t necessarily the work environment that led her to leave her role at Vogue. She admits, “The truth is I was a contracted employee there as the Global Fashion Director at large, and my contract was up for renewal, and I decided not to renew it.” She maintains that her resignation was the best decision for her at the time and continues to be.
The reality is, as with anything else, we evolve and sometimes our limitations do not keep up with us,” she said. “I am enthusiastic about creating a new space for these ideas and this fresh energy.
I gained a great deal of love and knowledge during my time at Vogue magazine. It feels like my second home where I matured, and I am excited to use those skills in a way that aligns with my true self and benefits those who share my identity and follow me. My focus is now on serving that community.
Of all the Vogue cover shoots that Karefa-Johnson worked on, there was one photo that stood out to her for various reasons, both positive and negative. In 2021, she was the fashion editor for Vice President Kamala Harris’ cover shoot for Vogue, which sparked a lot of controversy and criticism.
The vice president posed for the magazine cover in front of a cascading waterfall of pink satin. Harris wore a black pantsuit and a genuine smile, along with her favorite everyday shoes – a pair of black and white high-top Converse. Karefa-Johnson noted that the photoshoot only took 25 minutes, as that was all the time the vice president had available for the day.
Karefa-Johnson mentioned that aside from time limitations, there was also a difficulty in communication due to the use of masks and the large size of Harris’ team, caused by Covid-19. Despite this, the fashion editor was able to capture Harris as planned, but faced backlash for the way she was portrayed.
During the interview, Karefa-Johnson described her younger self as “clever, outspoken, and ambitious,” which reflects her current self-perception. Prior to her work at Vogue, she held a position as a fashion editor for Garage magazine, which falls under the Vice Media brand. However, Vice Media has recently declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.