Fashion Designers picture    Fashion Designers image

A Fashion Designer creates, or helps to create, the designs for women's, men's, and children's apparel, footwear, and accessories. While many Designers specialize in one of these categories, many others create designs in all three. A career in fashion design encompasses many and varied aspects:

  • researching and studying fashion trends
  • remaining current on the latest styles
  • visiting textile showrooms to keep abreast of the latest fabrics
  • selecting fabrics and colors, as well as fabric trimmings
  • attending conferences, fashion, and trade shows
  • creating design sketches and prototypes (sample garments)
  • overseeing and/or working with a design team
  • overseeing final production
  • marketing (including showings for the press and prospective buyers)
  • performing various business tasks

Most Designers hand sketch their designs, and an increasing number of these Designers will then translate these sketches to a computer. Through Computer-aided design (CAD), a Designer sees what their creations look like (in various colors and shapes) while on virtual models. This capability saves time as it diminishes the number of prototype adjustments and samples that might be required further on in the process.

Participation by a Designer in the various aspects and stages of design and production is dependent upon the experience level of the Designer, as well as the size of the design firm (or house). In a large firm, a Designer will typically hold the position of Lead Designer and be responsible for design, prototype, and pattern creations; fabric and color selections; working with manufacturers and suppliers during production stages; and overseeing the technical designers who transform designs into final products.

Designers who are new to this profession, or those who are employed by a small design firm, generally create designs and also perform the majority of both technical patternmaking and sewing tasks.

Designers who are employed by apparel manufacturers and wholesalers tend to focus on adapting the designs that have been created by other Designers for the mass market (typically produced in varying colors and sizes). Designer Assistants in this industry are exposed to many facets of the business. They work with rapid production schedules and gain the knowledge of the specific design creations that will sell profitably in target markets, the prices at which they'll sell, and the seasons in which they'll sell. They also gain a solid understanding of the types of stores that will purchase the merchandise, as well as the store's customer demographics.

Only a small number of self-employed Designers fall under the haute couture (or high fashion) category. These professionals create unique designs (selling at high prices) for individual clients and tend to make fashion news when their creations influence the garments that will be worn during a given season. Other such Designers create designs that cater to high-fashion department stores and/or specialty stores. Or, they may create designs to sell in their own store. These Designers create both original designs, as well as those that conform to the current fashion trends.

Some Designers choose to specialize in designing for film and television productions and the performing arts. These professionals are called Costume Designers and generally work on a contract basis. While their work greatly mirrors that of a Fashion Designer, the areas in which they differ are significant. For example, when working on designs for a performance that takes place during a specific era or period of time, they must perform exhaustive research on the styles worn during that time. They also work closely with directors in the selection and creation of the attire to be created and must adhere to budget limitations. Similar to a fashion Designer, however, they create design sketches, select various fabrics and materials, and oversee costume productions.

Job Characteristics

The environments in which Designers work are generally well-lit, spacious, and comfortable. Designers who work for wholesale, manufacturing, or design firms typically work a standard 40-hour workweek, but will also work more hours during rush times. Those who freelance, work on a per job or contract basis for clients. Due to the nature of freelancing, they will often modify their workday schedule to respond to their clients' schedules and deadlines, and will tend to meet with clients whenever necessary, including evenings or weekends. Freelancers also tend to work longer hours, in tighter environments, and under much pressure as they must consistently meet the needs and desires of their clients, while simultaneously seeking new clients in order to sustain their business and generate income. Designers, regardless of how they are employed, are tied to budget limits and, when needed, may work under pressure and for long hours to meet production deadlines and/or prepare for fashion shows.

The global fashion business requires consistent communications, many times face-to-face, with clients, manufacturers, and suppliers worldwide. Many Designers, therefore, are frequently required to travel to fashion and trade shows to gain a perspective on the latest trends in fashion, and to also meet with materials and fabric suppliers, as well as manufacturers who produce their final products.

Individuals in this profession must possess the following characteristics and attributes:

  • keen eye for esthetics: color, beauty, balance, proportion, details
  • creativity and style
  • originality
  • sketching abilities
  • interpersonal and communications skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • presentation and sales abilities
  • team player attitude
  • ability to work well under pressure
  • strong business sense

It is also important that a Designer possess a portfolio of their best collective work. This is, more often than not, the deciding factor on whether they are offered a job by a client or prospective employer.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), employment for Fashion Designers is "expected to grow five percent between 2006 to 2016, more slowly than the average for all occupations." Job growth in this profession is expected to stem from the growing population, which, in turn, fuels demand for more clothing, footwear, and accessories. While demand, especially from middle income consumers, increases for more stylish, yet affordable, clothing, "employment declines in cut and sew apparel manufacturing are projected to offset job increases among apparel wholesalers." This is most especially pertinent as the manufacture of apparel increases overseas. Despite these projections, the employment outlook for Designers will not decline as quickly as other occupations due to the fact that firms are/will more than likely retain design work in-house.

Schools and Courses

Those seeking a career in fashion design will achieve a two- or four-year degree offered at several colleges, universities, and private art and fashion design schools. Individuals who aspire to own their own retail store or business tend to seek a degree in fashion design in conjunction with a degree in fashion merchandising, marketing, or business. Basic fashion design program coursework includes, but is not limited to, fashion history, textiles, sewing and tailoring, CAD, and the design of various types of clothing and footwear. Other subjects considered useful include mathematics, psychology, and human anatomy.

Approximately 250 postsecondary institutions that offer programs in art and design (and award degrees in fashion design) are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). It is important to note that a strong number of these institutions require applicants to have successfully completed basic art and design coursework as a prerequisite to program entry. To prove their artistic abilities, applicants may also be required to submit sketches and other examples. These skills may be learned through internships with design houses or manufacturing firms, or through employment in retail stores in the capacity of tailor or personal stylist, for example.

Designers who are new in the field generally start out working as sketching assistants to experienced designers, or as pattern makers (before moving up the ladder). Once experienced, a Designer may move on to leadership roles such as Design Department Head or Chief Designer.


Major Employers

Fashion Designers will generally find employment opportunities in geographic regions where fashion centers are located (e.g., New York, California). Opportunities may also be secured with firms that are focused on the design of mass-market clothing typically sold to department and retail chain stores. Because the demand for costly, high-fashion design goods fluctuates relative to luxury goods and services, a very limited number of opportunities are expected to be available with design houses that supply garments, or cater to, specialty boutiques and high-end department stores.

Schools for Fashion Designers are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Fashion Designers

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Fashion Designers jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 4620 $67,380
Long Beach 4620 $67,380
Los Angeles 4620 $67,380
San Francisco 690 $56,340
Hayward 690 $56,340
Oakland 690 $56,340
Carlsbad 330 $64,460
San Diego 330 $64,460
San Bernardino 180 $43,290
Riverside 180 $43,290
Ontario 180 $43,290
Santa Clara 60 N/A
San Jose 60 N/A
Sunnyvale 60 N/A
Ventura 50 $76,030
Oxnard 50 $76,030
Thousand Oaks 50 $76,030
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 120 $51,790
Aurora 120 $51,790
Denver 120 $51,790
Boulder 60 $51,630
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Norwalk N/A $73,520
Stamford N/A $73,520
Bridgeport N/A $73,520
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Palm Beach 160 $58,680
Miami 160 $58,680
Fort Lauderdale 160 $58,680
Sanford 90 $51,880
Kissimmee 90 $51,880
Orlando 90 $51,880
Clearwater 80 $51,700
Tampa 80 $51,700
St. Petersburg 80 $51,700
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 40 $44,170
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 70 $70,360
Portland 70 $70,360
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson N/A $34,060
Columbia N/A $34,060
Baltimore N/A $34,060
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus N/A $71,940
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Franklin N/A $59,560
Murfreesboro N/A $59,560
Davidson N/A $59,560
Nashville N/A $59,560
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 210 $53,660
Dallas 210 $53,660
Arlington 210 $53,660
Round Rock 50 $56,780
Austin 50 $56,780
The Woodlands 50 $66,270
Houston 50 $66,270
Sugar Land 50 $66,270
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 50 $48,260
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue 130 $75,880
Tacoma 130 $75,880
Seattle 130 $75,880
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 90 $67,440
Waukesha 90 $67,440
Milwaukee 90 $67,440

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Fashion Designers

To find out more about building a career as Fashion Designers, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Fashion Designers

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Non-durable Goods Wholesale 7,340 45% $61,360
Clothing 3,020 18% $67,250
Business Management 1,360 8% $72,560
Professional And Technical Services 1,330 8% $59,520
Performing Arts And Sports 680 4% $44,890
Office Services And Staffing 640 3% $70,420
Clothing Stores 570 3% $55,760
Online Wholesale 540 3% N/A
Non-store Retailers 210 1% $46,170
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Fashion Designers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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