Gabriella Karefa-Johnson resigns from Vogue: ‘We grow’

Vogue’s Former Global Fashion Director at Large says her new focus is serving her community.

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, the first Black woman to ever style a cover shoot for Vogue, has confirmed her resignation from her role as Vogue’s Global Fashion Director at Large. 

In addition to discussing her career in the fashion industry, burnout, and industry pressure, Karefa-Johnson announced her decision not to renew her contract on a Nov. 24 episode of the Business of Fashion’s podcast. Despite joining the publication in 2013, she noted that she was a “contract employee.”

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Gabriella Karefa-Johnson attends the WSJ Magazine 2023 Innovator Awards at Museum of Modern Art on Nov. 1, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“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 explained. “That resignation was something that was right for me at the time; still is right for me.”

She added, “The truth of the matter is like anything else, you know, we grow, and sometimes our containers don’t grow with us. And so I’m excited to build a new container for all of these ideas and this new energy.”

During her roughly 10 years with Vogue, Karefa-Johnson made her mark styling some of the publication’s buzziest shoots, including Serena Williams’ September 2022 cover, Amanda Gorman’s May 2021 cover shoot, and the infamous Kamala Harris cover shoot in February 2021.

Speaking with BoF, Karefa-Johnson addressed the cover shot of Harris in which the vice president wore a pantsuit and a pair of Converse. The image garnered widespread backlash and criticism for the casual way Harris, the first female, Black and South Asian vice president, had been styled. According to Karefa-Johnson, miscommunication was the culprit. The veteran stylist explained that she has to be able to “communicate” with a subject and build a relationship and a rapport to establish mutual trust.  

“It’s hard to establish that between 15 masks — because it was during COVID — 14 secret service agents, a press secretary and a chief of staff,” she said. 

She continued, “I loved and learned so much at Vogue magazine. It’s my home. I grew up there, and I can’t wait to take those tools and apply them in ways that are really just true to who I am and serve me and serve people who look like me and the people who listen to and follow me. It’s really about serving that community now.” 

When discussing the demanding pressure of the fashion industry, Karefa-Johnson said she avoids burnout by “staying true.”

“Staying true to who you are and… really maintaining the purity of that creative exchange is something that keeps me grounded,” she said.

While Karefa-Johnson indicated that the next chapter may involve lifting up her community, she also discussed her passion for developing emerging talent. She gushed about using her network to help develop the emerging designer and Central Saint Martins graduate Torishéju Dumi.

“As a young Black female designer, I knew that the hurdles she was up against would be exponentially bigger than some of her colleagues. I wanted to be able to bridge the gap. I wanted to be able to give her a leg up, which I think in a lot of ways is something that has produced so many of the most enduring young designers,” she said. 

She added, “I just hope that whatever comes to be of this career of mine is something that models possibilities for the next Gabriella Karefa-Johnson.” 

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