How to Become a Fashion Designer

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5 Steps to Becoming a Fashion Designer

Step 1 Complete a degree program

In order to get a foot in the door of this competitive industry, hopeful fashion designers need to hone their skills through a degree program. Students interested in the field can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fashion design, where they take courses in computer-aided fashion design, the history of fashion, textiles, figure drawing, and pattern making. Fashion designers may also complete degrees in fashion merchandising to train for a job, which has a curriculum that covers merchandise planning, retail sales promotion, consumer behavior, retail management, and product development.

Step 2 Sharpen skills with hands-on experience

In order to sharpen the skills needed to execute a design from an idea to the finished product, students need to get practice outside of the classroom. This hands-on learning can be achieved by participating in an internship program with a design firm, clothing manufacturer, or personal stylist. In addition, students can get experience by volunteering for a fashion house.

Step 3 Learn the business of fashion

Behind the creative flair of the fashion industry is the business acumen needed to keep a company running. In addition to learning the creative side of the field, students should also familiarize themselves with what goes on behind the scenes—such as finance, sales, and marketing—particularly if they want to have their own fashion business.

Step 4 Put together a portfolio

In order for future fashion designers to show off their talent to potential employers, they have to create a portfolio demonstrating their skills and creative sensibilities. Students can fill their portfolio with the work they’ve done during their degree program, so it’s important for them to treat every assignment as if they were going to show their work to a future boss. Portfolios allow people to show off a range of skills, including their sketching, sewing, and pattern making abilities.

Step 5 Keep up with the trends

The fashion industry changes from season to season, so it’s important for designers to keep abreast of the trends. This can be done by regularly reading industry journals and magazines.

FAQ on Earning Your Fashion Designer Degree

  • The fashion industry is so broad, designers won’t master every aspect of it. Designers should choose a niche that they enjoy and they’re good at, and focus their work in that area. Some of the niches that fashion designers can choose from include men’s, women’s, swimwear, sportswear, and accessories design.

  • It’s important for designers to connect with each other, other professionals in the industry, and those who will be their future customers. Having a strong social media presence allows them to make these vital connections, as well as build their brand by showing off their talent. In order to get a head start on promotion, aspiring designers can start creating their online brand while they’re still in school.

  • It is a good idea to attend industry networking events. By participating in these events, fashion designers can meet people they may want to do business with including models, stylists, retailers, merchandisers, and buyers.

Fashion Designer Salary & Job Growth

Fashion design can be an exciting and rewarding career, but students also want to know that they will be able to earn a good living and have job security after they enter the field. This section provides a look at the earning potential of fashion designers and what the job landscape looks like in the future.

As of May 2017, the median yearly income of fashion designers is $67,420, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also reports that the bottom ten percent of earners receive under $33,910 per year, while the top ten percent get $135,490 and above annually. In addition, Glassdoor details how much these workers make throughout their careers, with novices earning an average of $53,049 per year, more experienced workers earning $70,863, and veterans getting $89,225.

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California Mean wage annual: $76,370
Currently Employed: 6,610
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.70%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $65,940
Currently Employed: 120
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.50%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $77,330
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Florida Mean wage annual: $54,790
Currently Employed: 470
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.50%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $85,230
Currently Employed: 260
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Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that growth for fashion designers will be three percent between 2016 and 2026 because apparel is increasingly being produced overseas, and thus the need for fashion designers in the apparel industry will decline during these years. However, one sector of the fashion design field is expected to see growth: the retail trade industry. In retail, the need for fashion designers is expected to grow by 22 percent as companies demand more fashion-inspired clothing to sell in the mass market.

Finding a Fashion Designer Program

Whether future fashion designers have dreams of seeing their creations on the department store rack or the Fashion Week runway, they have to find the right training program first. This section provides information to help people find the school that’s right for them.

Just like every fashion designer has a unique style, every student has individual needs when it comes to finding a degree program. The following search tool can help students sort through schools by allowing them to find programs based on how much they cost, how long they take to complete, and how courses are delivered. Use this tool to help you find the school that will meet your education and career goals.

Professional Fashion Designer Associations & Groups

In order to be successful in the fashion field, professionals have to make many contacts in the industry, as well as stay current on the trends. The following are some associations professionals can join in order to connect with their peers and stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry.

  • Council of Fashion Designers of America

    This organization is made up of designers who produce jewelry, menswear, womenswear, and accessories. Every year, the group hosts an awards ceremony to celebrate excellence in the field.

  • Fashion Industry Association

    Provides opportunities for members of the industry to network with each other. The group is made up of designers, models, manufacturers, makeup artists, hair stylists, and retailers.

  • International Association of Professional Fashion Designers

    Organization that provides education for members of the industry, as well as students working to break into the business. Benefits of joining include receiving discounts on certificate courses, a newsletter, and a listing in a professional directory.

  • Association of Sewing And Design Professionals

    This association supports sewing and design professionals by providing networking opportunities, education programs, and referrals to their business.

  • International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives

    Since 1910, this association has worked to bring together leaders in the apparel industry. Members can attend a convention and receive industry news. The organization has chapters in the United States, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Germany.

  • United States Fashion Industry Association

    Group that caters to fashion industry professionals in the United States who are doing business internationally. Provides advocacy services, webinars, annual conferences, and a career center.

  • Americas Apparel Producers Network

    Represents professionals around the world, including North America, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. Provides conferences, research case studies, blogs, and leadership awards.

  • Costume Designers Guild

    This organization represents costume designers and illustrators who provide clothes used in commercials, movies, and television shows. To that end, it fights for the issues that affect members of the industry, including safe working conditions, health benefits, and procedures for resolving disputes and grievances.

  • International Textile and Apparel Association

    An association for professionals and scholars of the textile and apparel industry. Member benefits include mentoring services, networking events, career advancement tools, and access to news and research.

  • American Sewing Guild

    Provides conferences, awards, and publications for fashion industry professionals.

Resources for Fashion Designers

The fashion landscape can evolve in the blink of an eye, so designers must always keep their eyes open to the changes. The following are some resources that fashion designers can use to stay in touch with what’s going on in the industry.

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