Have you always dreamt of working with fabrics and textiles from a young age? Designing unique, haute couture pieces that you’ll find one of the Hadid sister’s wearing on the front cover of Vogue magazine? If so, becoming a fashion designer might be the ideal career path for you.
To help you out, we’ve put together this in-depth guide covering all aspects of becoming a fashion designer so you can decide whether this really is the right profession for you.
1. Research the Profession
To make sure that a fabulous fashion career is right for you, you’ll need to understand what the job entails as well as get an idea of what kind of salary you can expect. We’ve dug a little deeper into everything you need to know about pursuing this career so you don’t have to.
Fashion designers create exclusive clothing, accessories and footwear. They typically work in a specific field, including haute couture (runway), ready-to-wear fashion (high fashion pieces that have been made for instant buy) or high-street fashion (mass production). Designers will choose to specialise in a specific niche, such as men’s footwear, jeans and women’s accessories.
Although the job may vary on your chosen field and niche, day-to-day tasks will usually involve the following:
- reviewing and following fashion trends
- creating designs that will appeal to your target audience
- deciding on a trend/theme for your collection
- using computer-aided design (CAD) programs to construct designs
- visiting fabric makers or trade shows to get samples
- selecting fabrics, trimmings, colours and style for each garment or accessory
- working with other designers or team members to create a model design
- marketing designs to clothing retailers or directly to consumers
- overseeing the final production of design
- producing mood and concept boards in line with current trends in the market
- locating and liaising with textile suppliers
- making in-house presentations and pitches
- showcasing your new designs in a fashion show or at a trade show.
Essential Skills and Qualities
In order to succeed, you’ll generally need to:
- have a passion for designing and creating unique pieces
- have excellent sewing skills (you may even consider creating your own signature stitch like world-renowned designer Giorgio Armani did when he first stepped out onto the scene 40 years ago)
- have an understanding of various sewing techniques
- have an understanding of how different fabrics work, how they flow on the body and how to use them
- have excellent design and sketching skills (if you’re not very good at art, you might want to take an alternative fashion route like styling or merchandising, for example)
- be business savvy and understand how the business and marketing side of fashion words
- have a good eye for detail
- have excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- have physical stamina (you’ll often work long hours and at nights, especially when working towards tight deadlines)
- have a thick skin against bad attitudes and negative comments
- be determined to succeed in a cutthroat industry.
Working Hours and Conditions
Fashion designers employed on a salary basis typically work between 8 to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. However, working overtime is expected during peak season or when leading up to product launch deadlines.
Designers spend a lot of their free time at networking events or on social media trying to establish a name for themselves within the industry.
In addition, they may spend a significant amount of time travelling across the country or jetting off to different places to meet clients or suppliers or to attend trade shows.
Working as a fashion designer can be a highly satisfying and rewarding career, especially if you manage to establish a name for yourself within the industry. According to PayScale, a fashion designer can expect to earn an average annual salary of $62,388 (£44,670) per year. With experience, you could advance to a senior designer or creative director position where you can expect to earn up to $100,000 (£71,600) per year.
2. Get the Qualifications
You can become a fashion designer without any formal training, but in such a highly competitive market, a foundation or bachelor’s degree is preferable. There are many prestigious schools around the world that will give you the finest training in fashion and textile design, including:
- Parsons School of Design (New York City, US)
- Fashion Institute of Technology (New York City, US)
- London College of Fashion (London, England)
Some students also choose to pursue an MBA in fashion design and business management so that they have a full understanding of the industry and acquire the skills to start and run their own business.
3. Land Your First Job
Getting your first job in the industry can sometimes be challenging, and one of the best routes to take is to getting an internship which can help you gain the hands-on experience you need to succeed. Make a list of the top 100 companies you would like to work for and then send them your carefully written CV, letting them know that you’re interested in completing an internship with them. If you’re lucky and good at your job, this could lead to a full-time position.
Alternatively, you can search for a graduate job or apply for a graduate programme through your university. This can be a great way to break into the industry without any previous experience.
When applying for any type of position within the industry, though, it’s imperative that you have an eye-catching portfolio that showcases your chic and trendy designs. This should consist of projects and assignments that best demonstrate your creativity and skills, and should incorporate your knowledge of sketching, pattern-making and sewing.
4. Develop Your Career
How you develop your career will depend on the industry you’re in, the connections you make and the opportunities that you get. Progression may seem slow to begin with, and you will most likely start at the bottom of the chain, but if you work hard, you’ll definitely reap the rewards at the end.
Below are a few tips to follow to help you progress in your career.
- Make the right contacts early: As soon as you know you want to follow this career path, make it your mission to start meeting people within the industry. This could be through unpaid internships, networking events or even through LinkedIn and other social media outlets.
- Decide on your niche: You won’t be a master of everything, so it’s important to figure out what you’re exceptionally good at and decide what kind of path you want to follow in fashion.
- Start promoting yourself: Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are huge outlets for aspiring and practising designers, as it’s easy to reach thousands of people at just a click of a button. Spend some time developing your own personal brand and keep marketing yourself and your designs. Who knows? You might even become an overnight internet sensation!
Whether you’re considering this exciting career path or are currently looking for a position in the fashion industry, we want to hear from you. Join in on the conversation in the comments section below and share your thoughts and experiences with us.
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