Taking a clothing design idea and transforming it into a reality is the drive of the fashion designer. But if you're interested in how to become a fashion designer, you'll need to know that this creative career involves so much more, such as skills like artistry, math, communication and business. Fashion designers may even go way beyond creating a design, however, to managing production issues and handling marketing. Most of the glamour of the job comes from the creative aspect of design and the ability to bring dreams to fruition through materials and fabric.

A Day in the Life of a Fashion Designer

Creativity may be the drive of a fashion designer, but in today's digital world they're likely to start off their day the same way other people do — checking their email and following up on phone calls to clients, including buyers. These email and phone conversations can later determine a significant part of their day as they contact other people to locate types of fabrics and materials needed for the design process. For example, this may include emails to vendors in India about importing embroidery.

Of course, a good part of their day may be spent designing, too. Fashion designers can use recent trends to inspire their new creations, whether it is for their own private collection or for the design house where they work. Generally, an internship or prior experience has led them to the field they specialize in, which could be anything from children's wear to men's clothing to haute couture.

As their day progresses, they may move into pattern-cutting to bring their designs to life. A wide variety of tools are needed for this and fashion designers need to be skilled in various aspects of sewing from making hems to creating waistlines.

At some point in the day, they may try out their designs on a fashion model and make adjustments to hemlines, sleeve lengths or design characteristics. The end of their day may come with more phone calls, a stop off to pick up odds and ends for production.

There is a great deal of variety involved in the fashion design field, but some tasks are common to many in the industry:

  • Studying design trends and internet search patterns to anticipate marketable new creations
  • Translating trend information into a theme for a collection
  • Illustrating design creations with sketches or computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Staying informed about new textiles, embellishments, materials and methods
  • Creating prototypes of design creations to serve as an example for the production phase
  • Working with other fashion industry professionals to present designs at trade shows
  • Developing marketing campaigns to attract buyers and customers
  • Participating in and managing the final production process to whatever degree is necessary

Important Characteristics to be a Fashion Designer

You may be the type of person to succeed in a fashion design career if you are creative and have good ideas about how colors, fabric types and designs work together. Fashion designers are often able to quickly whip together a new design given a sewing machine, a mannequin, a tape measure, scissors and inspiration. Other skills, such as communication and attention to detail, can help relay you toward success in the field.

Other skills and characteristics fashion designers find helpful are:

  • Ability to create original and unique designs from their own ideas or things that influence or inspire them
  • Talent for artistic expression through drawing and computer-aided design software
  • Capacity to manage the detail-oriented processes of design while still maintaining a big-picture view of the entire production process
  • Ability to communicate well and influence other design professionals, buyers, vendors and production personnel

Education Requirements to become a Fashion Designer

Becoming a fashion designer requires a commitment to an education and to further work on developing your creative and business skills. The typical steps to becoming a fashion designer include:

  1. Completing a formal education program, like a bachelor's or master's degree program. A bachelor's degree is typically needed to launch a fashion design career. Fashion degree programs focus on developing skills in art, drawing, textile types, merchandising and computer-aided design (CAD). Students may want to look for programs accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Master's degree programs can provide a more intensive or specialized focus.

    As in other fields, you may find programs listed under a variety of titles. Here are a few examples:

    • Fashion Marketing and Management Program
    • Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design
    • Bachelor in Fashion Design and Technology
    • Bachelor of Fashion Design
    • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion
    • Master of Arts in Fashion
    • Master of Arts in Fashion Design

  2. Developing a fashion design portfolio. In fashion design schools, you typically are required to create a portfolio of your work. This portfolio is essentially an archive of your designs which can help you showcase your specific creative style and abilities. This portfolio may be helpful to finding a job.

  3. Securing an internship. Many fashion designers start their career through an internship opportunity or employment as a fashion assistant. These hands-on experiences can help students in fashion design schools learn more about the industry and the design process. They can also be very important for networking with others in the industry.

Career Tips

  • Plan for advancement. The best opportunities could be available to students with a formal education in fashion design. As well, strong portfolios and prior experience could be helpful in finding future jobs. Although there is not any one career progression for fashion design work, job titles can vary from clothing designer to design director, product developer and more. You also could work toward having your own line.

  • Plan to relocate. Students who graduate from fashion design school may want to consider relocating to a part of the country where their skills are in demand or where there is a high need for talent. In the U.S., many of the job opportunities available for fashion designers are located in New York and California (BLS.gov).


  • A Day in the Life of Fashion Designer Charlotte Simpson, Bazaar.com, Accessed November 2017, http://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/fashion-news/news/a8031/a-day-in-the-life-of-fashion-designer-charlotte-simpson/
  • Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design, The Art Institute of Colorado, Accessed November 2017, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/denver/academics/fashion/fashion-design-degree-program
  • Bachelor of Fashion Design, Atlantic International University, Accessed November 2017, https://www.aiu.edu/Bachelor%20of%20Fashion%20Design.htm
  • Day in the Life of a Fashion Designer, YouTube.com, Accessed November 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3XSJj3u-u0
  • Fashion Designers, O*Net OnLine, Accessed November 2017, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-1022.00#ToolsUsed
  • Fashion Designers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm#tab-4
  • Fashion Marketing and Management Program, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division, Accessed November 2017, http://lp.aionline.edu/program/fashion-marketing-management

Fashion Designer Skills

Below are the skills needed to be fashion designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening43.88
Critical Thinking43.62
Active Learning3.883.38
Judgment and Decision Making3.883.62

Fashion Designer Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be fashion designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Oral Expression4.134
Oral Comprehension44
Deductive Reasoning3.883.63
Fluency of Ideas3.883.88

Fashion Designer Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be fashion designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
English Language3.173.62
Production and Processing3.013.36
Administration and Management2.973.37
Sales and Marketing2.853.27

Fashion Designer Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being fashion designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Thinking Creatively4.826.41
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships4.535.41
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work4.525.73
Getting Information4.434.22
Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People4.235.26

Fashion Designer Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being fashion designer according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.93

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Fashion Designer

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Fashion Designer jobs , as of 2019

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim6,010$95,080
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward510$89,400
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell460$79,990
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach420$50,410
San Diego-Carlsbad240$76,330
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land140$67,580
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara130$112,530

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to fashion designers

Source : 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 24.3 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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

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