15 Essential Skills Needed to Become a Fashion Designer

A fashion designer drawing sketches

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. Visualising 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 visualise 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 draw 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. Organisational Skills

Organisational 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 organised – don’t worry! There are heaps of organisational 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.

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.