20 Essential Skills Needed to Become a Fashion Designer

Dreaming of becoming a fashion designer? See if you have the skills!

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Professional skills needed to become a fashion designer

Fashion design is a glamorous career — from dressing top models and celebrities to showcasing fashion shows across the world and selling ready-to-wear lines in stores around the world is the dream of many people.

But to make a name for yourself in the industry, you need to dedicate your life to the trade and come equipped with a wide range of talents.

So, to find out if you’ve got what it takes to make it in the competitive world of fashion, check out our list of the top skills needed to become a fashion designer.

1. Visualizing skills

While stylists have the ability to pair items together to create a look, fashion designers should be able to imagine a garment or accessory just by looking at the fabrics and colours. They need to think beyond the product and visualize the end design.

2. Drawing abilities

If you’re going to create clothes, drawing abilities are a must! You’ll need to bring your ideas to life by drawing them on paper. However, if you’re not the artistic type, there’s still hope! As many designers have moved to digital technology to create their designs, you might find it easier to create technical designs with software like Adobe Illustrator, C-DESIGN Fashion or Wild Ginger Cameo.

3. Attention to detail

Good fashion designers don’t just need to be able to bring their ideas to life, but they also need to have a good eye for detail. To sell custom designs, every piece of thread, stitching, ruffle or pleat must be in the right spot. Essentially, you should be able to pick up on the delicate and intricate details that no one else will notice.

4. Communication skills

To describe your ideas and collaborate with other designers, merchandisers and other members of your team, you need to communicate effectively by giving clear and concise instructions. Without this important skill, entire projects can fall apart as the delivery of any line depends on great communication across departments.

5. Leadership skills

If you want to run your own fashion house, you’re going to need great leadership skills to manage an effective and collaborative team. You’ll need to instruct each member of what to do and ensure that everyone is working efficiently towards the end goal. As fashion designing is a highly stressful environment, you’ll also need to have the ability to reassure your staff in times of need.

6. Teamwork skills

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out in a design studio or managing an entire label, you still need to have good teamwork skills. Aside from working with colleagues, you must be able to work with demanding clients, event organisers, makeup artists and hair stylists – and with lots of strong egos, you’ll need to have a calming nature to get along with them.

7. Styling abilities

Style and design go hand in hand. If you’re a good designer, you will also be able to effortlessly piece fabrics and garments together to create a stunning end product. As a designer, you’ll be pushed to create styles that haven’t been done before, so you will need to combine visualisation and creativity to style your models.

8. Fabric awareness

To be a good designer, you need to understand how each fabric moves, how it wears and how they all work together. For example, wedding dress designers avoid using silk because it creases easily and ruins the design when it’s photographed with crinkles.

9. Multitasking skills

As a fashion designer, you’ll need to jump from task to task effortlessly, ensuring that nothing is forgotten or left behind! You’ll most likely be working on three to five seasons at a time, so you will need to move swiftly between projects, focusing on multiple designs at any given time.

10. Organizational skills

Organizational skills are at the forefront of multitasking. To be able to remember what should be done and what you have done already, you’ll need to a clear schedule. That said, if you’re not naturally organized — don’t worry! There are heaps of organizational tools to give you a helping hand.

11. Problem-solving skills

Problems can arise at any moment in the fashion world, and you need to be quick at thinking on your feet and finding solutions. For example, you could be on the set of a show when a model’s dress splits right before she’s about to walk onto the catwalk. So, instead of panicking under pressure, you need to quickly stitch up her dress and ensure it’s presentable.

12. Sewing skills

While there are many designers who don’t sew their own garments, you’ll still need to know how to stitch if you want to make it anywhere in fashion. And although you’ll learn how to do this at design school, it’s ideal to have a basic understanding of stitching before you go!

13. Time management skills

One of the most important skills for a fashion designer to have is good time management. Missing deadlines often means missing out on payment and, consequently, getting a bad reputation, which can destroy your entire career. No one will want to work with a designer who is late on delivery!

14. Marketing skills

As a designer, you’ll need to be able to sell your creations and create a strong brand reputation and online presence. While you’ll usually have a team dedicated to marketing, it’s important to have a good understanding of it and instruct your staff on what to do! No one will love your designs as much as you do, so you’ll need to possess the skills to market it properly.

15. Pattern-cutting skills

Although pattern cutting is a specific stage in the design process, it’s necessary to have pattern-cutting knowledge if you intend to be a serious designer. After the drawing stage, you’ll create patterns based on your designs, before you proceed to actually sew the garments. That said, in most fashion houses, there are designated pattern-cutters who take over after the design stage.

16. Creative thinking skills

While it’s important to be able to style and visualize fabric, as a fashion designer, you’ll also need those creative thinking skills that will set you apart. The fashion world is always looking for that next great thing, that groundbreaking design that’s going to take the world by storm; this is where your creativity comes in. Tap into those skills and create something that’s truly great to give the fashion world something to talk about!

17. Computer skills

In the fashion world, gone are the days of sketching in a notebook and submitting designs that way; now most of it will be electronic. You’ll use a tablet of some sort and draw your sketches on there, or a fancy computer program depending on your employer. To be a successful fashion designer, you’ll need to have the computer skills to keep up with the growing fashion market. After all, it would be much easier to email those designs off to Milan for fashion week than to try and send them via postage. Make sure your computer skills are ready!

18. Decision-making skills

The designs you’re creating are yours, so at the end of the day, you’re going to be the one making decisions regarding what to do with them. Having the ability to evaluate the decision that needs to be made, consider all the alternatives, and make a decision that will help your career will be critical in the quickly changing fashion world, so don’t overlook developing your decision-making skills.

19. Interpersonal skills

As a fashion designer, interpersonal skills cannot be overlooked, either. You’ll need the ability to understand other people in order to manage continually working together in the long nights, late hours, and crazy situations that becoming a fashion designer may bring. Interpersonal skills will help you individually perform all your tasks, but also give you the skills needed to understand that your pleasant demeanor and positive cohesive attitude will also get you far in your career.

20. Confidence

Getting into the fashion industry, whether you’re starting with an internship with Vogue Magazine, or jumping in with both feet to starting your own fashion designing business, do it with bulletproof confidence! Having the ability to be confident in yourself is a critical skill needed to become a fashion designer, and without it, you may find yourself falling short of your dream. Keep your head up and be confident in yourself. Even if no one else believes in you, you should believe in yourself!

Final thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot more to fashion designing than meets the eye. You not only have to have artistic abilities but also an entrepreneurial spirit to keep you going, as well as be a people person who will be a good representation of the brand.

And although there’s a lot of pressure that comes with being a designer, it’s an extremely rewarding and lucrative career choice!

Do you think you have the skills to become a designer? What skills do you think we missed on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.


This is an updated version of an article originally published on 26 June 2019 and contains contributions by staff writer Shalie Reich.