Judee Song Karson: Vice President of Creative at ThredUP

If you haven’t already heard of thredUp before now … well, just go visit their website. Trust us. Artfully blending online shopping and consignment, thredUp makes selling and buying second-hand feel a lot less second-hand. But thredUp’s premium user experience that turns back-of-closet reruns into cash isn’t just limited to the transaction, it’s carefully curated across each and every channel and touchpoint.

Enter Judee Song Karson, thredUp’s vice president of creative. In the role, Judee is central to defining the customer experience across all platforms. As she puts it, her job is really about “seamlessly weaving [thredUp] into the customer’s life.” That means content, imagery, design and building the thredUp brand experience from start to finish all fall to Judee.

Daunting? Past experience at big brands like J.Crew, Target and, most recently, as creative director at Sephora make Judee pretty much perfect for the job. Add a love for fashion, storytelling and vintage thrifting – “a great place to take the kids!” – and she’s got all the skills to make some seriously meaningful brand/customer connections.

What is a day like for you at thredUp?

My day at thredUP is really broken out by core business meetings and team catchups. Because our company has Maker days every Tuesday and Thursday, we really try to protect our in-office days to be maximized. The Creative team works very closely with both the Marketing and Product teams, which fosters a lot of problem-solving huddles.

Prior to thredUP, we hear you were the creative director at Sephora. Could you share a few career experiences from this previous chapter?

I was able to work with such amazing female leaders at Sephora, such as Julie Bornstein. It was what drew me to the position, as well as being a part of a brand experience as magnetic as Sephora. I was able to help redefine how the creative team was positioned on the digital team, and expand processes that allowed us to look at initiatives as campaigns.

Where do you go, what do you read, and what do you listen to in order to find inspiration?

I have a background in traditional graphic design and advertising, so my focus really is on how the customer will experience the brand through the imagery, as well as the content. I “dog food” our site regularly as a customer would to see if things make sense, and I look to see how we can improve things. I usually have a laundry list of “pie-in-the-sky” ideas that I break apart to see how I can seed these into tangible ideas. Exhibitions, pop-culture, technology and even music all influence the next best thing here at thredUP.

What is a project you are currently working on that you can tell us about?

Currently, three months in, I’m really hands-on in developing the brand and steering it in a direction that can radiate to our customers. It’s important to me to build a brand experience that is meaningful – not only to our customers but also to our internal teams. Finding what type of content and style stories “she” likes is what we’re working and really concentrating on.

Judee Song Karson

What do you look for in candidates when expanding your team?

I look for candidates who have a design discipline by trade and who also have an eye for good design. But more importantly, I look for someone who will take initiative in their pursuits to always make the creative better. I believe that everyone has strengths that can help blend and mix within the teams. I believe in building teams that can play well off of one another and grow within. So, mentoring and training is critical when building a stronger team.

Where do you see the apparel and fashion industry heading in the next three years, specifically e-commerce?

Shopping online is definitely a no-brainer. The entire site-to-at-home delivery cycle is a critical experience that will need to constantly be revised. Connecting site, on all platforms, and seamlessly weaving it into the customer’s life is going to be not only the evolution but the expectation.

How do you think women working in retail can change the perception of body image that exists in culture?

Working in fashion and beauty in a tech-evolving time is pretty fascinating. The way we perceive “the perfect body” really is all based upon Photoshop hacks. There is such a need and desire to rip those facades and present people the way that they are. I strongly believe that everyone has such an important story to tell. I want to make sure that I can capture that and explain it in their words as much as possible.

Outside of thredUp, where does your passion lie?

I love visiting vintage stores and flea markets. It is a bit of showcasing a wrinkle in time. Products are built from a different time, with different materials. There is a different energy around these items, as well as being at times, a bit outlandish. It’s also a great place to take the kids!

Judee Song Karson

What tips do you have for managing a full-time career and family?

My secret is to remind myself to maintain the boundaries of self-care and family time. This is something that always echoes in my mind as I plan my days and also where my husband keeps me in check. I constantly check in with myself to make sure that I’m good on all levels, especially because I’m constantly running around. I have two mini breakfasts in the morning and snacks hidden throughout my desk to keep my motor humming!

What career advice would you offer the IWHJ community?

Really focusing on skill sets that highlight one’s strengths is important. Sharpen that skill set, try to expand outside of it, but also be aware of what you’re not good at. When you’re completely aware of this, it grants strong and focused creativity, allowing you to go after good work and companies you believe in.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 20-something version of yourself?

Make sure you always know your worth, and don’t be afraid to ask for raises!

After Hours graphic

I’d Love To Grab Coffee With:

Michelle Obama

You’ll Find These Three Can’t-Live-Without-It Things On My Desk:

Power cord, bag of almonds, Bite Beauty lip gloss

My Go-To Office Power Outfit Is:

Flat boots, rolled up skinny pants and a cashmere pullover

My Favorite Place To Eat Lunch Is:

Fresh Roll Vietnamese Rolls

I Can’t Live Without:

Masala Chai

My Favorite Way To Unwind Is:

To get lost in nature

I Feel My Best When:

I’ve slept at least 7 hours, complete with a power breakfast … and all of my kids’ socks and shoes are matching!

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