How to Become a Fashion Designer

How to Become a Fashion Designer: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a fashion designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a fashion designer:

 

• You have artistic flair, an analytical mind, and good business sense

• You have a keen eye and killer instincts for trends

• You are self-motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated

• You are willing to work hard to build your business and promote your brand

• You are able to handle professional criticism, and rejection

• You have, or are willing to get, an education related to fashion merchandising or marketing

• You are willing to endure periods of limited income while building a portfolio, a client base or finding stable employment

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a fashion designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Fashion Designer

There is no formal standard set for the educational requirements of becoming a fashion designer; the amount of education you need to get on a fashion design career path typically depends on whether or not you will be self-employed. If you are not choosing to be self-employed, and are planning to work as an employee of an organization, the educational requirements of the job will depend on the discretion of the employer.

 

It is advisable, however, to seek formal post-secondary education in a field such as fashion design, fashion merchandising, human ecology, textiles and materials, or a closely related field.

 

The reasons for this recommendation are two-fold; first being that jobs in the fashion industry are extremely competitive, so if you are planning to get a job with a fashion house or clothing manufacturer you will need to have every advantage over the competition, and having a relevant degree on your resume might be the advantage you need.

 

The second reason being that fashion designers require working knowledge of textiles, the clothing manufacturing process, the history of fashion design, sketching, draping, pattern-making, sewing and seaming, finishes and fitting. A post-secondary education in one of the aforementioned fields is a great way to acquire knowledge in these areas.

 

If you plan to be self-employed as a fashion designer, you will also need an understanding of how to develop and sell a business plan to financial backers, as well as the skills required to operate a small business, such as finance, structuring, marketing and accounting. Pursuing coursework or seeking mentorship in these areas is a great way to ensure you have the proper knowledge base for growing your business.

 

It is possible to secure a job in fashion design without a formal education in a related field, although career development may take longer. Those without formal education may be hired in positions of lower responsibility, such as assistant to the pattern maker, sample maker, grader and dressmaker. With enough experience, you can eventually move on to assistant designer and designer.

 

Success Tip: Whether or not you pursue formal post-secondary education, taking short courses in areas such as computer aided design (CAD), pattern cutting, marketing or business administration can be very helpful for a career as a fashion designer.

 

 

 

What is a Fashion Designer?

Fashion designers create new styles of clothing, accessories and footwear, either for high fashion, high street fashion, or ready-to-wear fashion. The products they design may include garments, as well as belts, shoes, jewelry, gloves, hats and purses. Fashion designers may specialize in particular areas, such menswear, children’s clothing or sportswear. 

 

 

Fashion Designer Job Description

Fashion designers are responsible for all aspects of production for a clothing or accessory product, whether they execute these tasks themselves or delegate them to others. 

 

Fashion designers must create an original design for a new product based on current (and future) trends. This involves envisioning a design and either sketching it by hand or using computer-aided design (CAD) software. They are then responsible for executing or delegating and supervising all aspects of pattern preparation based on that design, which includes cutting, fitting and final production of the product.

 

If the fashion designer is self-employed, they are also responsible for various business administration and marketing tasks to ensure the success of their business. These tasks include ensuring their brand gets adequate exposure, and properly managing expenditures related to design, development and distribution. 

 

 

Fashion Designer Job Duties

The job duties of a fashion design may vary depending on whether or not they are self-employed, as well as the level of responsibility they have within their job. In general however, they are responsible for performing the following duties:

 

• Identify the needs of target market

• Keep up to date with fashion trends

• Analyze fashion history to forecast future trends

• Produce a flat pattern on paper to make a sample garment from a test fabric or material

• Make alterations to samples and patterns after live models have tried them on

• Choose fabric swatches and make rough sketches of clothing or accessories

• Create the final sample from the actual fabric that will be used in the final product

• Attend trade shows and fashion shows in order to sell products and/or source fabric

• Engage with consumers on using social media

• Develop and maintain portfolio 

 

 

Who Employs Fashion Designers?

Fashion designers have a variety of employment options within the realms of self-employment and working for others. The employment path they choose may depend on their personal preference or whether or not they find suitable opportunities with employers.

 

Some designers may choose to be self-employed and build an impressive portfolio before trying to get hired as a permanent employee of an organization, while others may choose to become employees first to gain industry experience and pursue self-employment afterwards.

 

Self-Employment

 

Many fashion designers are self-employed, which may be in the form of working as a freelancer to design individual items for clients, or working out of their own home to handle the design, production and distribution of their own garments or accessories. Fashion designers that choose to make their own products may be sell them using a variety of different outlets, including:

 

• E-commerce stores

• Trade shows and farmer’s markets

• Small specialty stores

• Through their own retail stores

• Through retail stores owned by individuals, including specialty and consignment stores

• Franchise retail stores owned by large companies

 

Working for Others

 

Fashion designers may also work as in-house employees of large clothing design, manufacturing and distribution companies. They may also work for high-fashion houses (opportunities which typically only exist in large urban centres) or small specialty stores, or work on particular product lines such as uniforms, safety and protective apparel, or leisure wear.

 

 

 

 

What Personality Traits Do Fashion Designer Need?

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a fashion designer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your daily, weekly, and monthly duties as a fashion designer is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.

 

• Imagination and creative abilities

• A good sense of colour

• A capacity to work very long hours

• Able to handle professional criticism that may be delivered without tact

• Willing to keep up with industry changes, such as manufacturers’ processes and new materials

• Enjoy doing creative work that involves precision, such as when preparing patterns

• Enjoy advising customers and clients

• Willing to endure periods of limited financial success while building a portfolio, a client base or finding stable employment 

 

Success Tip: Although having these traits is important to enjoy your career as a fashion designer, it is also important to be willing to go outside of your comfort zone on occasion, as it is necessary for growth.

 

 

What Skills Does a Fashion Designer Need?

In order to become effective in a career as a fashion designer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of creative, technical, analytical, marketing and business management skills. These skills are usually acquired through schoolwork, practice, career experience and natural ability.

 

Creative Abilities

Creative abilities are the cornerstone of a fashion designer’s career. If you want to become a fashion designer, you need to ability to visualize unique and identifiable clothing items and ranges.

 

Technical Knowledge and Abilities

Without some technical knowledge and abilities, the creative abilities of an aspiring fashion designer won’t materialize. Fashion designers must use their technical abilities and knowledge to craft garments and accessories from fabric and other textiles.

 

To accomplish this, a fashion designer must first have a good understanding of the human form and the properties of various fabrics and textiles. They must also have a good understanding of the small and large-scale garment and accessory production process.

 

Fashion designers must be able to apply sketching skills to create a visual representation of their product idea, as well as plans and patterns for crafting that idea. These may be manual sketches, or sketches that are created by using computer-aided design (CAD) programs. Once a sketch of the product has been made, the fashion designer can prepare patterns. They will then need to apply cutting and sewing skills in to create the finished garment or accessory.

 

Analytical Abilities

In order to become successful as a fashion designer, you will need to have an analytical mind. It takes more than simply dreaming up fun designs to succeed in this career; you will need to be able to spot trends, and apply an analysis of fashion history in order to forecast future trends. Fashion designers also need to be able to analyze consumer behaviour; you need to figure out what the consumer will actually buy, and where they go to get it.

 

Business Management Skills

Fashion designers must have business management skills; running a business takes more than the ability to create a great product, you must be able to sell that product and manage the revenue and costs associated with it. You must be able to carefully budget your initial business activities, because if you don’t your company will spend more than it earns and become insolvent very quickly.

 

Marketing Skills

Fashion designers must have marketing abilities and a high amount of personal initiative. Without marketing skills and initiative, you can have the best product in the world, and nobody will ever know about it or be able to buy it.

 

Fashion designers must know how to create their own brand, and a voice for that brand. Using social media to engage consumers, selling to local stores, creating a booth at farmer’s markets and trade fairs, and using celebrity product placement are all tactics that fashion designers should know how to employ in order to promote their brand.

 

 

Fashion Designer Jobs

Our job board below has "Fashion Designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Fashion Designer Salary: How Much Do Fashion Designers Earn?

The salary level of fashion designers can vary, typically depending on the following factors:

 

• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The region in which they work

• The size and type of their employer, and whether or not they are self-employed

 

Fashion Designer Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers occupational group earned on average of between $14.21 and $18.25 per hour.

 

Fashion Designer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers occupational group is $35,014 per year.

 

Fashion Designer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for American workers in the Fashion Designers occupational group is $62,860. The lowest 10 percent of salaries in this group are below $34,110, and the top 10 percent are above $126,290 per year.

 

 

Careers Similar to Fashion Designer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Fashion Designer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Creative Director

Entrepreneur

Fabric Designer

Fashion Buyer

Interior Designer

 

 

Fashion Designer Career Information: References

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a fashion designer.

 

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

National Careers Service website: nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

StartUp Fashion website: startupfashion.com

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: ww.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Fashion Designer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Fashion Designer can be found on the following pages:

 

Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture Scholarships

Fine Arts Scholarships

Human Ecology Scholarships

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Becoming a Fashion Designer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a fashion designer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 


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