How to Become a Fashion Designer

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Make a point of staying on trend? If so, you may have found yourself at university studying fashion design or considering the course for a future endeavour. In the third instalment of the ‘How to Become’ series, we look at fashion design so all you trendsetters know how to make a career for yourselves in one of the most notoriously competitive industries.

What Do You Do as a Fashion Designer?

A fashion designer is an individual who studies the latest trends, sketches garment designs, selects the appropriate materials and has a diverse role in the production elements of their design dependent on the size of the organisation in which they work. Fashion designers contribute to making thousands upon thousands of clothing pieces (and the accessories) purchased by retail consumers. Fashion design is not just about women’s apparel either, as it encompasses men’s and children’s wear too, including sportswear, outwear, underwear, maternity wear, formalwear and footwear (to name but a few). Fashion designers may also be skilled in accessory design including belts, bags, hats, scarves and jewellery.

Fashion designer tasks include (but are not limited to):

• Creating and visualising the idea for a fashion piece, and then producing the design by hand or through computer-aided design (CAD).
• Researching the latest fashion trends and choices of fabrics, colours and shapes to ensure all designs are current and desirable for their market.
• Planning and developing cohesive ranges that appeal to their target market.
• Working within a design team to develop their pieces to meet a specific brief.
• Coordinating with the sales, production and buying teams to guarantee the end product meets the desires of their customer, market and price points.
• Have a thorough understanding of the technical elements of the garments produced, including patterns and specifications.
• Adapting a current design for mass production.
• Supervising the creation of the mass-produced garments, including fit, detailing and adaptions.

Fashion designers may also be responsible for marketing and other business activities dependent on the organisation that they work for and the responsibilities to assigned to them.


What Is Your Expected Salary as a Fashion Designer?

As a graduate, entry-level jobs in the fashion industry can start at around £16,000 to £17,000 per annum. As the graduate progresses in their role and abilities, becoming a junior designer, they can earn in the region of £25,000 per year.
As a senior designer/creative director, salaries can range in the region of £42,000 to £85,000+.

Of course, salaries are usually dependent on the size of the organisation and the geographical location of the work, with London typically offering higher wages to level out higher living costs.


What Do I Need to Become a Fashion Designer?

First and foremost, you need to understand and have a passion for fashion in order to have a successful career in the industry. Consider what avenue of fashion you like to pursue and list the companies you can envision yourself working for; this will allow you to have a goal to work toward, as well as ensure your portfolio, work and knowledge are suitable for the future job roles you apply for.

While the tasks needed to become a fashion designer can be self-taught, it can be extremely challenging to be accepted into a role over the several viable candidates with a relevant degree. There are many educational avenues that can help you gain a fashion designer role; these include, but are not limited to, fashion, art and design, clothing technology, fashion marketing and buying, fashion journalism, graphic design and textiles.

Many candidates will struggle to get into the role of their dreams without previous industry experience in a studio either. Consider looking toward smaller companies to gain the industry practice you need or even look toward a year abroad interning in a fashion-related role. This will not only demonstrate your experience to a potential employer but can help to set you apart from other candidates.

The portfolio will be one of the key tools to impress, so, use this as a means to demonstrate your creative flair, your understanding of the industry and company you are applying for and your experience in studios.

As well as these assets, you will have to demonstrate some (if not all) of the following skillsets:

• Innovative and creative mind that is able to generate a wealth of ideas
• An eye for colour, design, fabrics and materials
• Able to illustrate designs, either by hand or through computer-aided design software
• Technical skills
• Commercial and business knowledge
• Confidence and ability to present ideas
• Communication and networking skills
• Negotiation skills
• Able to work independently and as part of a team
• Organised and able to efficiently manage your time

Having your own Mac system throughout your design course and throughout your internship is a worthwhile investment. The MacBook gives you a powerful system that can handle large image files effortlessly while allowing your work to be portable. The MacBook is also a great operating system that works well with the creative software you will be using throughout your work.

Many fashion designers will use Macs because the systems are used as an industry standard, so getting used to this operating system during learning will ensure you are not struggling with a system switch-over when you get out into the real world.

For some students, the price tags linked with Apple’s website can be alarming, even with the student discount applied. If you’re living university on a budget, like most of us had to, you can buy a used MacBook Air or Pro with MacBank. Completely refurbished, these systems are as good as new without the unattainable price.


Is Fashion Design Right for Me?

If you love the idea of a fun, fierce and fast-paced industry, then fashion design could be the right avenue for you. Apart from being a glamorous industry that allows you to meet new people and make contacts in a wealth of circles, a career in the fashion industry can provide a job where no two days are the same.

If you enjoy a challenge and excel under pressure, you may be well-suited to a role in fashion. With trends continually coming in and out of the limelight, you will be kept on your toes in order to cater to the evolving needs of your consumers. With a broad range of positions in fashion and not only fashion design to consider, you are sure to find the position that best meets your talents and requirements for a job. There are even roles for those who love both fashion and science in the textile technology world! So, if you have a creative eye, as well as people and technical skills, look toward a career in fashion today.


Steps to Becoming a Fashion Designer:

1) Complete a relevant degree in a fashion and/or design course. Ideally, look towards fashion design to gain the industry knowledge you will need as most degrees will cover the following basics: computer-aided fashion design, history of fashion, textiles, figure drawing and pattern making.
2) Get industry experience to see the execution of a design from an idea to a finished product first-hand. This will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to progress as a fashion designer. Look at internship programmes, and if you have the time, consider completing a few of these during and straight after your degree course.
3) Familiarise yourself with the business of fashion so that you have an understanding of what constitutes a successful fashion company. This will help you when it comes to communicating with other parts of the team, but will also allow you to identify the best job opportunities by knowing which companies are worth their salt.
4) Have a killer portfolio to impress potential employers and buyers. This is, more often than not, filled with the work from your degree, so make sure to consider each brief as if it is a live one from a paying company and show off all of your skills!
5) Keep updated on the latest news and trends in the industry so that you can demonstrate your knowledge in an interview. Consider reading all the relevant journals and magazines.

You may find this mini-series by Alexa Chung and Vogue an interesting watch. Below is an episode that covers the pursuit of a role in fashion design:

Remember to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below or on our social media channels, and stay tuned, our next instalment of ‘How to Become’ will arrive next month. Are there any careers you would like us to cover? Let us know!

If you liked this, why not check out the other additions in our series and share these with your friends who are looking at:

How to Become a Graphic Designer

How to Become a Music Producer