If you have a passion for design and clothing, working in the fashion industry could lead to a rewarding career. To work in this industry, you generally need a combination of post-secondary education, professional experience and both technical and soft skills. In this article, we discuss how to become a fashion designer and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this profession.
What does a fashion designer do?
Fashion designers make apparel, shoes and accessories. They typically create both preliminary designs and finished products, and they may develop complete collections, too. Fashion designers are responsible for the following tasks:
- Developing designs: Fashion designers use manual tools like pencils and paper as well as digital tools like computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create preliminary designs. Most prefer CAD designs, as they can easily change elements, textures and colors digitally to produce a satisfactory design.
- Selecting materials: After completing a preliminary sketch, fashion designers choose the materials for the product. When making this decision, they may consider many factors, such as color, texture or durability. They may also consider sustainability and current fashion trends.
- Producing prototypes: Once they have sketched a design and chosen materials, fashion designers make a prototype or a sample of the complete design. They often work with fashion models who wear the prototypes so fashion designers can see how they move and withstand wear.
- Choosing collection themes: Instead of developing multiple standalone items, most fashion designers create collections of clothing, footwear or accessories. They choose themes and develop relevant designs based on seasons and trends.
- Marketing collections: After producing collections, fashion designers must market their designs. Some market to retailers, which handle sales, and others market directly to consumers, which often involves online sales.
- Overseeing production: Most fashion designers do not manufacture their designs directly. Instead, they contract manufacturing houses and skilled laborers to handle the production process. Fashion designers typically manage the production process, which may include visiting the manufacturing facility and examining finished products.
Average salary for fashion designers
Fashion designers generally work full time. Their average salaries depend on several factors, including their experience level, their geographic location and whether they work independently or for an employer.
- Common salary in U.S.: $16.17 per hour
- Some salaries range from $7.25 to $50.25 per hour
How to become a successful fashion designer
To find out how to get into fashion design, follow these six steps:
- Get a bachelor’s degree
- Develop a portfolio
- Create a resume
- Intern in the fashion industry
- Build a professional network
- Cultivate important skills
- Choose a specialty
1. Get a bachelor’s degree
First, earn a bachelor’s degree with a major like visual art, fashion design or fashion merchandising. Studying visual art can help you master color theory and design elements, while focusing on fashion design allows you to work with fabrics and learn how to develop clothing and accessory prototypes. If you major in fashion merchandising, you can learn more about the marketing and business aspects of the industry.
2. Develop a portfolio
While you study fashion and practice creating designs, make a portfolio. Save images of the sketches you make, the collections you create and the prototypes you develop. You can show your digital portfolio to future employers to demonstrate your accomplishments and style.
3. Create a resume
To find your first job in the fashion industry, create a resume that you can share with potential employers. List your education, skills and any relevant work experience.
Related: Designer Resume Examples
4. Intern in the fashion industry
Before looking for an entry-level job in the fashion industry, consider interning. Assisting an experienced fashion designer can help you learn basic job skills and develop a better understanding of the industry. Interning can also help you create connections with important figures in the fashion industry.
Related: Definitive Guide to Internships
5 Build a professional network
To get the job you want in the fashion industry, seek out opportunities to grow your professional network. Consider attending fashion shows, joining professional groups or entering amateur fashion contests to connect with others in the industry.
6. Cultivate important skills
As you gain entry-level experience in the fashion industry, work hard to cultivate your skills. For example, you can read fashion magazines and blogs to learn about the latest trends and take classes to master essential design programs. You can also improve your creativity by challenging yourself to develop a certain number of sketches or designs each week.
7. Choose a specialty
To establish yourself in the industry, consider choosing a specialty. This strategy can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace and cultivate a loyal following. For example, you might opt to produce luxury clothing for women, high-end accessories, unique footwear or elaborate costumes.
Fashion designer FAQs
To learn more about working in the fashion industry, browse the frequently asked questions below.
What hours do fashion designers typically work?
Fashion designers who work for design houses and clothing, footwear or accessory manufacturers often work a regular schedule, which may require standard nine-to-five hours. When preparing for fashion shows, designers may work additional hours, which often requires working in evenings and on weekends.
In addition, many fashion designers travel to attend fashion shows, view designs from different labels or meet with suppliers and manufacturers. Working in the fashion industry often requires domestic and international travel.
What is the work environment like for fashion designers?
Fashion designers usually work in studios that provide both office and manufacturing settings. During a typical workday, fashion designers may use computers to develop designs, sewing machines or other manufacturing equipment to produce prototypes and handheld tools to affix accents and details.
Where is the fashion industry based?
In the United States, most designers work in New York City and Los Angeles, which serve as the largest hubs of the fashion industry. However, some designers work in smaller markets, especially if they are self-employed.
Can fashion designers be self-employed?
Although many fashion designers work for clothing, footwear or accessory manufacturers, others are self-employed. Some fashion designers opt to develop their own clothing label, which requires developing, manufacturing and selling original designs. Others freelance, which involves accepting short-term contracts from fashion companies and developing products that meet predetermined specifications.