How fashion business led me to UX design.

Among my first (of many) low-fidelity drawings.

Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with good design. To this day, my mother still has all of my sketchbooks –filled to the brim with drawings of dresses, shopping malls and fashion magazines.

As I grew up, a combination of academic success and questionable fashion choices (*cough* Von Dutch trainers), built up my courage to set bigger goals. Before I knew it, shyness had been replaced with a move to the UK, a prestigious degree, a job at a globally-renowned fashion company –and even a thriving podcast. While I had obtained all of my dreams, something still felt wrong.

Appropriately, this feeling became all-too-apparent on Black Friday 2019. On that fateful day, I arrived in the office at 5am to send our first batch of marketing emails. We would send promotional email campaigns in batches of 20,000 (800,000+ subscriber base), to ensure the site wouldn’t crash from excessive traffic.

That evening, I left work to host a live podcast event at an ‘Anti-Black Friday’ pop-up store. As I spoke to the audience about buying less but better, I wondered if I was living in integrity — given the thousands of email campaigns I had sent that morning. While I love having fun with fashion, I believe that a truly delightful shopping experience is not a manipulation. Rather, a delightful shopping experience helps you find what you need, or recommends it to you.

After that evening, I wondered if there was another job I’d feel more authentic in. In that moment, I thought of the times I had been most engaged at work: creating user tests, newsletter layouts, and working with our UX team. From this reflection, I realized my passion for the end-user.

After email marketing, I gained an opportunity in social media. For fashion week, the company I worked for would commission artists to create pieces for our site and Instagram page. During that time, one of the artists emailed me in distress, explaining how she had spent hours creating for us, yet she could not find her art on our site. Curious, I searched myself. Similarly to the artist, I couldn’t find her work either.

Although I was not a UX designer at the time, I took it upon myself to create a new site map (despite not knowing what this was). If the artists can’t even find their work on site, how will our audience? Curious, I googled ‘how to fix website navigation’, and stumbled upon UX. For weeks, I became addicted to UX content, particularly The Futur, Kevin Liang and the Google Design page on Medium. As a result of my reading, my obsession with solving the artist’s problem only deepened.

After studying the issue, I reached out to the UX designer I worked with in my prior role. I confessed that I didn’t know a lot about his job, but I wanted to learn more. During that conversation, he pointed me to the General Assembly UX Design Immersive — and the rest is history.

Currently, I am over half-way done the immersive. As I put together my UX portfolio, I’m feeling nostalgic about past projects and how far I’ve come. Strangely, I’m excited by the flaws I notice, and have already drafted ways to improve my designs.

In my work and in my life, I have learned that willingness to evolve is the key to relevance. Through continuous research, communication and ideation, I can’t wait to see what I’ll sketch next.

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Product designer / lecturer / artiste working in fashion e-commerce.

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Stephanie Irwin

Stephanie Irwin

Product designer / lecturer / artiste working in fashion e-commerce.

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