How To Become A Fashion Designer

Become Team
Become Team
November 9, 2020

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.
Discover your career fit

With Lantern's Career Quiz, you can be matched to career options that align with your personal characteristics. Take the free Career Quiz

FAQ on Earning Your Fashion Designer Degree

Should I choose a niche? 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.
Should fashion designers be on social media? 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.
Should I attend networking events? 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.

Alabama Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Alaska Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Arizona Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Arkansas Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

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

Currently Employed: 50

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Delaware Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

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

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Hawaii Mean wage annual: $44,240

Currently Employed: 30

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2.50%

Idaho Mean wage annual: $59,100

Currently Employed: 50

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.20%

Illinois Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 160

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Indiana Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 40

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 0.00%

Iowa Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Kansas Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Kentucky Mean wage annual: $54,300

Currently Employed: 60

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Louisiana Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Maine Mean wage annual: $69,060

Currently Employed: 70

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.20%

Maryland Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $88,390

Currently Employed: 360

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.90%

Michigan Mean wage annual: $59,300

Currently Employed: 210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 0.00%

Minnesota Mean wage annual: $56,430

Currently Employed: 110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): -2.30%

Mississippi Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Missouri Mean wage annual: $58,560

Currently Employed: 130

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.60%

Montana Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Nebraska Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Nevada Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

New Hampshire Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 90

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.80%

New Jersey Mean wage annual: $59,760

Currently Employed: 290

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.50%

New Mexico Mean wage annual: $59,200

Currently Employed: 50

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 0.00%

New York Mean wage annual: $83,980

Currently Employed: 7,590

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.00%

North Carolina Mean wage annual: $57,150

Currently Employed: 180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.10%

North Dakota Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Ohio Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Oklahoma Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Oregon Mean wage annual: $62,690

Currently Employed: 240

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.10%

Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $55,670

Currently Employed: 230

Change in Employment (2016-2026): -14.70%

Rhode Island Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

South Carolina Mean wage annual: $64,680

Currently Employed: 30

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.90%

South Dakota Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Tennessee Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 60

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Texas Mean wage annual: $55,850

Currently Employed: 460

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Utah Mean wage annual: $60,130

Currently Employed: 50

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 34.10%

Vermont Mean wage annual: $65,180

Currently Employed: 30

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1.90%

Virginia Mean wage annual: $43,780

Currently Employed: 50

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Washington Mean wage annual: $67,210

Currently Employed: 280

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.60%

West Virginia Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $61,800

Currently Employed: 140

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.60%

Wyoming Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

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.

BoF - The Business of Fashion

Provides business intelligence to help members of the fashion industry, from creatives to entrepreneurs. Readers can get daily industry news, as well as career advice and information on education.

WWD – Women's Wear Daily

Provides news on fashion and beauty.

The Emerging Designer

This publication provides news, information on marketing, and profiles of emerging designers.

Fashion Brain Academy

Offers online classes for fashion designers. Some of the topics covered in classes include branding, product pricing strategies, and selling products online.

Becoming a fashion designer: advice from the experts - The Guardian

This article delivers advice to those who want to break into the fashion industry.

The Successful Fashion Designer Podcast - SuccessfulFashionDesigner.com

Designer and educator Sew Heidi reveals industry secrets in this podcast. Topics covered include fashion media coverage, engaging an audience, planning a photoshoot, branding, and getting funding for a new business.

Dressed: The History of Fashion - Stuff Media LLC

This podcast explores the history of fashion movements, as well as the backgrounds of historical figures in the industry.

Day in the Life: Fashion Designer - ConnectEd

This video follows fashion designer Melissa Fleis, who was a contestant on “Project Runway.”

How to Break into the Fashion Industry with Alexa Chung - British Vogue

Includes advice to hopeful fashion designers.

How to Start a Clothing Label - Marie Claire

Article that has seven steps for launching a clothing line.


Related Careers at a Glance

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer

Latest Posts