Fashion Designers conceptualize, design and produce garments and textiles, as well as other creative items such as jewellery and handbags for film, television, theatre and video productions, models, and/or retailers. They are employed by clothing and textiles companies or may be self-employed.
Some fashion designers work across the full spectrum of clothing, while others choose to specialize in specific categories, such as menswear, sportswear, or formalwear. They may also dive into designing handbags, jewelry, accessories, perfumes, hats, outerwear, and costumes, among others.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Fashion Designers are required to complete.
- Designing and creating garments and accessories for men, women, and/or children:
- Being able to design casual, semi-casual, formal, and business attires;
- coming up with a concept, drawing the initial sketches, and being able to convey ideas through those sketches;
- designing garments to be manufactured in bulk, using different kinds of fabrics, colours and patterns;
- using their artistic flair and expert knowledge of clothes, fabrics and fashion to produce original clothing designs; and
- tweaking and improving the designs.
- Designing everyday clothing (High Street Fashion Designers) and/or one-of-a-kind, haute couture outfits for fashion shows (High-end Designers).
- Defining technical specifications for the garments and being knowledgeable about fabrics, patterns, shapes, and colours:
- Selecting and testing different fabrics;
- knowing about pattern-making and fittings, creating patterns as needed; and
- cutting, sewing, weaving, and pinning the different fabrics in order to transform them into actual clothes.
- Working closely with other professionals, such as buyers, merchandisers, and technical personnel in conceptualizing, planning, and developing new styles or upgrading existing styles, based on popular trends and customer demand:
- Ensuring strong relationships with vendors and suppliers;
- providing design direction for each season; and
- analyzing sales and creating products that support business objectives.
- Keeping up to date on the latest fashion trends and techniques, as well as finding the best quality fabrics:
- Exploring and evaluating new and emerging trends for fashion and graphics by going to stores, scouring the internet and magazines, and traveling to trade, fabric or fashion shows.
- Coordinating with the design/production department to ensure proper measurements, adjustments, or fittings, and communicating all essential corrections, if any:
- Conducting fitting sessions and approving all production elements related to design (e.g. color, trim, fabric); and
- reviewing prototypes to make sure they are in line with the brand direction.
- Organizing, procuring, and maintaining fabrics, trims and other materials.
- Overseeing the production progress in case the clothes are to be produced on a mass scale.
- Ensuring deadlines are met.
- Creating and participating in sales presentations.
- Combining active product use experience, market knowledge, trend research, and collaboration between different designers to create functional, innovative, and quality designs.
- Conveying an idea through a sketch.
- Working with different fabrics.
- Researching trends, colours, fabrics and silhouettes for the upcoming seasons.
- Estimating costs and materials.
- Creating a network of vendors and suppliers.
The average Fashion Designer salary is $65,156 per year or $33 per hour. This is around 2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $46,000 while most experienced workers make up to $91,000. These results are based on 8 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Creativity and a strong artistic sense, always willing to try out new ideas:
- Having an excellent fashion sense and the ability to translate trends into garments.
- Interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to convey clear instructions;
- displaying strong customer service skills, as well as leadership; and
- being able to work cohesively with design assistants and other staff members.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- having time management and prioritization skills in order to satisfy the demand;
- being highly responsible, reliable, and organized; and
- having strong attention to detail.
- Self-motivated and willing to work independently, as well as part of a team.
Aside from the skills listed above, in order to become a successful Fashion Designer, a person needs to have good instincts, have a keen interest in fashion and a certain amount of commercial awareness, as well as technical knowledge in the area (e.g. sewing, trimming, pattern-making, and weaving). Although a person doesn’t necessarily need a degree to enter this profession, it’s highly advisable to complete a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design, Fashion Technology, Textiles, Fabric Design or other similar disciplines.
For Fashion Designers that want to go the extra mile and launch their own brand or clothing line, a degree in Business is a must. Another option is doing extensive research first in order to find information about start-up costs, design copyrights and licensing, manufacturing, and other information specific to the clothing industry. It's important to have this information before starting a line in order to be fully prepared when the launch time arrives.
It’s also vital to gain sufficient work experience before applying for entry-level positions by working under the supervision and guidance of an experienced professional. Some established Fashion Designers take on a select number of interns or assistants who work with their mentors for a period of two or more years, before branching out on their own. Most Fashion Designers are required to have at least 2 to 5 years of experience in the field.
Fashion Designers are also required to be proficient in designing software applications, including Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, as well as Microsoft Office Suite.
Career progression for self-employed Fashion Designers is mainly dependent on their experience, talent and portfolio, while progression for salaried Fashion Designers is based on the size of the company, organizational hierarchy, location and the individual’s experience and performance.
Finally, Fashion Designers working on a salaried basis usually work between 8 to 10 hours on a daily basis, in a standard five-day week, and they can be required to travel in order to visit factories and attend fashion/fabric shows. Working extra hours is likely during seasonal peaks and when product launch deadlines need to be met. Additionally, designers trying to establish themselves in the market need to spend a significant amount of time out of the office, networking, socializing and publicizing their work.