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 for Fashion Designers
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 for Fashion Designers
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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