Anabel Maldonado (BA '11) is a London-based fashion journalist and entrepreneur. After a decade in the fashion industry, she founded PSYKHE, a fashion e-commerce recommendation site powered by a combination of AI and psychology. We caught up with Anabel to learn more about how she seeks to revolutionize how we shop and get dressed.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time in the Psychology program at York?
I wasn’t someone who had set out with high academic expectations for myself. I went to Humber College initially, and no one else in my family had gone to university.
When I made the transfer to York and the psychology department, I was really inspired by my Intro to Psychology professor. One reason for this, which relates to what I do now, is she was very fashion-forward for a science professor and dressed in a way which I identified with. This was on top of the fact that I was really falling in love with the subject itself. Growing up I loved fashion and I liked academia but as a girl back then, you were kind of made to choose – are you the smart girl or the cool, stylish girl? It was always very binary. This could be because there aren’t enough role models in STEM for women, but this particular professor was a turning point for me.
How did your previous experiences lead you to found PSYKHE?
When I graduated from my undergrad, I was thinking either about doing the medical school prerequisites for psychiatry, because I was interested in the neural basis of behaviour, or to do a PhD in Clinical Psychology and work directly with people. I then did a gap year in London and decided I’d work in health services which would help my med school application. I worked in the NHS with a team doing diagnostic assessments for children with developmental delays.
While I did enjoy the bouts of clinical work, there was actually a lot more paperwork in reality, and meanwhile, the pull of fashion was very strong. I made a fateful pivot into the fashion industry and somehow, 10 years went by. But the narrative about fashion was still very frivolous and meaningless. I wanted to look into the individual differences around why we wear what we wear because I thought that was so much more interesting than impersonal, cyclical all trends.
I realized that if I can understand what psychological aspects drive personal style, I can create something that helps people find pieces that are aligned with who they really are. People like to wear things that make them feel like their best, most authentic self. That’s what led me to creating fashion recommendations that are powered by AI and psychology. Psychology makes you drown out the noise to understand underlying motivations, and that’s what led me to go deeper and explore why people are drawn to what they’re drawn to.
What's next for PSYKHE?
Our big focus has been raising brand awareness and ensuring our recommendations are as accurate as possible. We know personality is a really big part of why you like what you like, but of course it’s not the complete formula. We’re always thinking about what other factors could influence your style. For example, we have a ‘shop by mood’ feature which incorporates your base personality but also takes into account the different ways you might want to feel. We’re going to think about how to incorporate other factors such as location, body type, and budget so that when you go to PSYKHE, you find the perfect recommendations for you in all regards. We’d also like to develop a B2B product and expand into other consumer areas.
You've been a Londoner now for over a decade. What led you to move there originally and how did you find this transition?
The plan was go to London because it’s a great place to work and develop oneself. It was really just meant to be six to nine months but I got my NHS job and there were a lot more opportunities here to get into the fashion industry, which worked out organically for me. I built a great group of international expat friends, felt at home here, and didn’t want to leave quite yet. Initially, it was always a short-term thing and I’d go back to North America.
As soon as I set foot in London, it was immensely inspiring and I felt that it’s a city which really pushes you to work hard and fulfil your potential. For this reason, I stayed so long, and it will always be special to me.
But there are certain North American values I took for granted which are important to me as a person. In Canada and the US, I think there’s this still this American-dream undercurrent – the belief that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to – that isn’t embedded in the mindset of older countries. I value that immensely, as I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t grown up with that mindset.
www.PsykheFashion.com is a shopping platform that recommends products from leading fashion brands matched to your personality. Request access, sign up and take the personality test to discover your style sense of self.