How to Become a Fashion Designer

Fashion design can appeal to a large audience. Perhaps you love clothing and want to be the one to come up with the next big thing, or you enjoy textiles and the design element that comes into creating a beautiful fabric.

Maybe you enjoy the artistic side that comes with sketch designs, or you appreciate creating beautiful jewelry and accessories. No matter what your particular interest is this is an exciting and versatile field.

Fashion Design Schools Near You!

Fashion Design Schools

What does Fashion Design Entail?

Depending on which area you dive into there can be a broad variety of tasks involved in fashion design. Some of the main job functions will include:

  • Follow trends – Carefully following current trends to better anticipate what will be popular in the future. By following the trends you will be able to design in a way that will be appealing and interesting to customers. This is often considered the very first step when you want to create a new design. There are trend reports that are put out by various industry trade groups that can help pinpoint you in the right direction. That is not to say that you must follow these exclusively, many designers will create from inspiration they find on their own and can find ideas almost anywhere.
  • Select collection themes – You’ll regularly see designers come out with collections that follow a general theme, as a fashion designer you will be doing this as well.
  • Stay at the forefront of computer design – You’ll learn and utilize various computer design programs. Through these programs you will be able to create your designs. Many say that design starts on the page and while that can be true many will now skip paper sketches and will instead go straight to CAD design. The benefit of the computer-aided design program is that you have the benefit of seeing your design directly on a virtual model. The programs are versatile and you can change out colors, and shapes with the few clicks of a button. Making these adjustments in the virtual is much faster. Once the computer work is complete the next process involves working with the fabric and a real model.
  • Design choices – One of the fun aspects of the industry is getting to choose the fabrics, ornaments, colors, and stylistic elements for the clothing and/or accessories. This is the step that comes after inspiration and research, you will begin to create your prototype. Once you have some of the main facets worked out you will get to work with a model to alter and adjust your designs so that they are the best they can be.
  • Industry shows – Part of the job requires attending various trade shows to collect new fabric samples from manufacturers.
  • Working with a team – Through fashion design you’ll have the opportunity to work with a creative team of other designers to develop intriguing prototype designs. All large clothing companies will hire teams of designers that will work under the head creative designer.
  • Presenting – Share design creations and ideas with the main creative director and at important fashion and trade shows.
  • Various clients – Work on designs for clothing retail stores and individual consumers.
  • End product – Perhaps the greatest aspect is getting to see through the entire process all the way to the final production stages. There’s nothing quite like seeing your work come to life.

These are general guidelines that will take place in most fashion design careers however it is not all inclusive. Some designers will have a specific focus such as footwear, or accessories, while others will create items from across the board delving into each area as needed.

On average you can expect about 6 months for your design idea to go from the initial design steps through to the final product. Usually this will line up with one of the major collection times that are released in the spring or fall. Some companies may develop new designs monthly and put out larger collections at spring and fall.

Types of Fashion Designers:

There are many types of designers but these are the main areas of focus for most fashion designers.

Clothing – This field works solely in designing items for men, women, and children. The items can vary anywhere from general casual daily wear items, high end suits, maternity wear, and lingerie.

Footwear – Exactly like it sounds. Here you will design and produce the new shoes and boots that will come out with each season. You’ll get to utilize the newest and most innovative materials to create the “next best” shoe in any category.

Accessories – Accessories run the gamut. Think of items such as beautiful handbags, classy scarves, all the way to stylish travel suitcases and luxury sun and prescription glasses.

Costume – Costume design may seem like a completely different arena altogether but in reality it consists of much of the same factors as the other areas of fashion design except you’ll be creating for the performing arts, cinema, and television. Instead of watching current trends you will most likely be doing research into the past to make sure you create items that are time period appropriate.

How to become a Fashion Designer:

To become a fashion designer you will need to attend college or university to acquire a bachelor’s degree in a fashion related field. The field can range from fashion design itself to other areas such as merchandising. When you begin applying for jobs you’ll want to showcase your unique ideas and creativity in conjunction with your technical knowledge. Technical knowledge consists of what you have learned about the production of the garments, accessories, etc. that you will be helping to create.

Educational Requirements:

When you are attending school for your bachelor’s degree you will learn about the distinct facts of fashion design. By the time you have graduated you will have extensive knowledge on fabrics and textiles, computer design programs, and how to develop your own portfolio.

The portfolio is an important tool when applying for jobs. Your portfolio will include a broad collection of your design ideas and can be quite varied to showcase all of your skills and abilities. From your portfolio the employer will decide if you are someone they want to work with or not so make sure that it shows how creative and talented you are. While at school you will have the chance to enter competitions and if you are selected in any of them you should add that work to your portfolio.

Even with a bachelor’s degree you might have to work an internship prior to being hired. This is common place and shouldn’t alarm you if you have to work for someone else for free for a while. You will gain valuable skills and get first-hand experience in the field you are pursuing.

Salary Information:

Once you’ve graduated with your degree and have worked your internship you’ll start to look into what you will be paid once hired. Perhaps you’ve looked into this already as part of the decision process for selecting fashion design as your field. Fashion design can pay fairly well and the median wage is around $62,000. This means that half of the people working in fashion design make at least this much whereas others still made less. Even so, the lowest end of the range falls at around $34,000. If you make your way up the ladder you could end up making as much as $126,000 a year. That’s not too shabby right?

How much you end up making will depend on your personal experience, the employer you’re hired by, and your overall reputation. Don’t be dissuaded if at first your pay is dismal, it is not uncommon to start at a super low rate. As you gain experience this will change. If you find an employer that will over you a salary you might want to seriously consider taking them up on their offer as salaried designers usually receive higher earnings.

After employment you can almost always expect to work full time. There are part time workers but they are few and far between and in most cases you can expect to work extra hours depending on deadlines. If long days and hard work don’t dissuade you then you are well suited for this job. If you choose to branch out and work as a freelance designer you will still put in just as much time, if not more, and will often need to adjust your personal work schedule to fit those of your clients.

Fashion design is exciting and fun for those that pursue it. With the right schooling and dedication there are an array of jobs within the field to select from so that you’re bound to find one that gets your creative juices flowing. It can be hard to decide on fashion because it often feels like it is an extremely difficult industry but with the right educational background and the determination to show your skills and succeed you should be able to find a job doing the work you love.

Sign up to receive email updates