Fashion designers work in wholesale or manufacturing establishments, apparel companies, retailers, theater or dance companies, and design firms. Most fashion designers work in New York and California.
Despite limited employment growth, about 2,300 openings for fashion designers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative director. Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design; others create designs in all three fashion categories.
For some fashion designers, the first step in creating a new design is researching current fashion and making predictions about future trends, such as by reading reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Other fashion designers create collections using a variety of inspirations, including art media, their surroundings, or cultures they have experienced and places they have visited.
After they have an initial idea, fashion designers try out various fabrics and produce a prototype, often with less expensive material than will be used in the final product. They work with models to see how the design will look and adjust the designs as needed.
Although most designers first sketch their designs by hand, many now also sketch their ideas digitally with computer-aided design (CAD) programs. CAD allows designers to see their work on virtual models. They can try different colors, designs, and shapes while making adjustments more easily than they can when working with real fabric on real people.
The Internet and e-commerce allow fashion designers to offer their products outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These designers ship directly to the consumer, without having to invest in a physical shop to showcase their product lines of collections.
Footwear designers create and help produce different styles of shoes and boots. As new materials, such as lightweight synthetic materials used in shoe soles, become available, footwear designers produce new designs that combine comfort, form, and function.
Many fashion designers work in-house for wholesalers or manufacturers. These wholesalers and manufacturers sell apparel and accessories to retailers or other marketers for distribution to individual stores, catalog companies, or online retailers.
Self-employed fashion designers typically create high-fashion garments and one-of-a-kind (custom) apparel. In some cases, a self-employed fashion designer may have a clothing line that bears his or her name.
Most designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest trends. Designers also sometimes travel to other countries to meet suppliers of materials and manufacturers who make the final products.
Fashion designers often gain experience in the fashion industry through internships or by working as an assistant designer. Internships introduce aspiring fashion designers to the design process, building their knowledge of textiles and colors and of how the industry works.
Artistic ability. Fashion designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used to create prototypes. Designers must be able to express their vision for the design through illustration.
Communication skills. Throughout the design process, fashion designers must be able to communicate effectively. For example, they may need to instruct sewers about garment construction.
The median annual wage for fashion designers was $77,450 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,870.
The increased demand for a constant flow of new fashion designs has been accelerated by social media influencers and by retailers advertising and selling directly to consumers online. Growing consumer preference for sustainable options in the fashion industry also has created a desire for designs that use eco- and vegan-friendly materials. However, there will be fewer opportunities for self-employed fashion designers, who are unable to compete with large-scale clothing production, limiting overall employment growth of these workers.
The fashion design career offers above-average salaries. But how do fashion designers start their careers? Like other art and design careers, fashion designers often put in long hours before breaking into the industry. This page explores how to become a fashion designer.
Designers research fashion trends to create forward-looking designs. They often rely on design software to create pieces, and they collaborate with designers on projects. At the beginning of a design project, fashion designers make sketches, evaluate textiles, and create a prototype.
Some designers create collections or fashion lines that showcase a theme or trend. They design pieces to show during fashion weeks in New York, Paris, Milan, and London. Other designers work for major brands, where they pitch ideas to creative directors and design seasonal lines for the brand.
In addition to fashion training, many designers learn marketing and business skills. Fashion merchandising experience helps designers get their pieces in retail establishments and market their work to customers.
Fashion designers work for major fashion brands on the wholesale and manufacturing sides. In these roles, they create apparel and accessories that brands distribute to retailers. Nearly a quarter of fashion designers work in freelance roles, where they contract with clients to create pieces. Some of these designers launch their own clothing lines or create high-end custom apparel.
The career often requires long hours and travel. Designers who work on production deadlines or put together fashion shows often work long hours. Most fashion designers based in the U.S. work in New York or Los Angeles.
Fashion careers require a variety of skills. Designers draw on their creativity and artistic sensibilities to create designs. The career demands strong communication skills, an ability to collaborate, and a detail-oriented outlook. Hard skills like the ability to use design software, clothing construction training, and a deep knowledge of textiles and color also help designers.
Students planning to run their own fashion business also need strong marketing, sales, advertising, and management skills. Self-employed designers draw on sales and product development skills to understand their consumers and create in-demand designs. Overall, fashion designers must balance their passion and creativity with technical and business know-how.
Earning a fashion design degree can help designers launch their careers. But a degree alone does not guarantee success. Fashion designers also need a strong portfolio, work experience, and a professional network to break into the fashion industry. Career success also depends on skill. Designers must know their brand identity, aesthetic, and niche in the industry.
Successful fashion designers work their way up. Many start building skills long before entering a fashion program. Learning how to sew, following fashion trends, and practicing with design softwares all help future designers gain admission to competitive fashion programs. After earning a degree, designers often work as stylists, fashion buyers, and assistants to established designers. These roles help designers expand their skills and build a network.
Most fashion designers hold an art and design bachelor's degree. During a fashion design program, students study fabrics, fashion theory, and color theory. They also learn how to create styles using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Fashion design courses use project-based assignments to help students strengthen their skills and build their portfolios.
During school, fashion designers should pursue internship opportunities. Many colleges connect aspiring designers with companies hiring interns. During an internship, students work under the supervision of an experienced fashion designer. Internships provide practical experience with the business side of the fashion industry. While students hone techniques and aesthetics in class, an internship provides career training.
In addition to internship experience, students should consider part-time or contract work opportunities. Working for a small brand helps students build their portfolio and potentially launch their own line. Experience with a major brand helps designers build their resume and make valuable connections in the industry.
Like other artistic fields, networking helps fashion designers find professional opportunities, secure clients, and advance their careers. Designers should begin networking as early as possible, even before entering a fashion program. Networking events in school offer a valuable resource for meeting fashion professionals.
Careers in fashion require a strong design portfolio. Many fashion designers start building their portfolios before entering fashion programs. Students expand their portfolios to showcase their designs and skills. For example, designers might want to show range in their portfolio by including ready-to-wear looks and custom high fashion looks, or they may emphasize their technical skills.
Several resources help fashion designers stay current. Professional associations, fashion magazines, and fashion shows showcase trends and industry information. Following other fashion designers and watching red carpet events also help designers keep up with trends. Designers can then incorporate new styles into their upcoming projects. 041b061a72