How to Become a Fashion Designer

01

Learn the Basics of Fashion Design

Fashion design is an interesting and highly creative career that allows individuals to showcase their eye for fashion and fashion trends. The fashion design industry is highly competitive and requires anyone entering this field to be an extremely hard worker. 

A fashion designer is someone who works as a creative specialist to conceive and produce clothing designs and accessories. Designs can vary from novel styles to those derived from more current trends, and everything in between. With this type of creative career option, designers can specialize in a particular category of apparel or design for a specific demographic, such as sportswear for athletes, or designer handbags for celebrities, or designs can be generalized across multiple categories and demographics. 

The fashion world is multifaceted and to be successful, designers must have a thorough knowledge of the fashion industry, know how to draw and design, how to cut and sew fabrics, how to use specific computer programs like CAT and Adobe software to develop designs digitally, and also have the ability to network, communicate, and gain contacts within the industry. While a degree is not required to become a successful fashion designer, it can help to get your foot in the door after graduation.

02

Learn Fashion Concepts, Methods and Technique

To become relevant and successful in the fashion design field, it is necessary for aspiring fashion designers to learn about and continuously develop formal concepts, methods, theory, and of course technique, exclusive to the fashion industry. The fashion design industry is so fast-paced and competitive, often the only way to make an entrance is to earn a degree from an accredited college, university, or private art college. In fact, the field of fashion design is largely reserved for fashion design graduates. A few things you may learn while enrolled in a fashion design program is art and design, graphic design, fashion marketing and buying, clothing technology, and textiles.

When starting out, most fashion designers work as assistants. Then, as they learn and develop advanced skills, they gain more and more responsibility, often going on to create their own line. On the other hand, if you have strong leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and business sense, you may decide to start your own line right away. As a fashion designer, you can learn more about methods through practice and study. Whether you choose to study independently or through an accredited bachelor's degree program is up to you. 

The way people look and feel while wearing clothing and accessories has always carried a great deal of meaning. With formal concepts, fashion designers can come up with unique and individual ideas that will drive their designs. These concepts will serve as the underlying purpose behind each project or collection that a fashion designer presents. With a strong formal concept, you should be able to choose colors, shapes, fabrics, and cut for each of your designs. Formal concepts can also help you develop styling with hair and makeup, music and artwork to accompany your designs on the fashion runway, and add inspiration regarding how to photograph your finished pieces. A fashion designer should have a clear understanding of shapes, colors, lines, textures, movement, and how each of these aspects interacts with the human form, whether that be hands, feet, or the whole human body.

The actual method behind fashion design can vary slightly for each person. The fashion design method can largely be broken down by determining who you're designing for, what they need, when the design will be worn or modeled, where clients will wear your design, and how to execute your designs properly. The design process usually requires plenty of research, ideation, prototyping, and finally, presentation of a collection. However, each step of the creative process can vary greatly depending on your customer, medium (fabric, rubber, metal, etc.), and ultimately the purpose or functionality of the finished design.

In fashion adoption or distribution, there are three main theories that designers should become familiar with: trickle-down, trickle-across, and trickle-up. Within each of these areas, fashion designers can work to explain how and why fashion moves through society. Additionally, color theory is also a very essential, and often the most important part of fashion design. Color theory is a practical guide to mixing colors and the effects of specific combinations of colors, as well as the use of colors to solve spatial problems in your work. A fashion designer should be able to understand color harmony; the way that different colors interact and work with many varied color combinations and qualities.

Technique is all about the "how to" of fashion design. As a fashion designer, you are required to hold a specific set of skills that change rapidly. At the minimum, a fashion designer should be able to understand colors, learn basic cutting and sewing, pattern making, draping techniques, fashion sketching, and flat sketching for garment production.

03

Build a Strong Portfolio

In fashion design, it is vital that potential designers build a strong portfolio, a personal brand and industry connections to ensure success. Building your portfolio, whether online, in print, or with physical prototype pieces, is an important first step in a fashion design career. With a strong portfolio, you are more likely to be accepted for an internship and be better able to sell your work and start building your reputation. 

In our modern age, your success in the fashion industry also heavily relies on your own personal brand. While it is important to keep in mind who you are designing for, to get recognized and separate yourself from the pack, brand identity is key. Most often your designs will speak for themselves, but potential employers are not only looking for great designs. They also look for personality, creativity to ensure a long and prosperous future, and willingness to take criticism and creative advice.  Because you will often work within a team of other creative-minded people, you must also be able to work well with others, and communicate about, as well as stand up for your designs.  

And, because fashion design is such a highly competitive field, making connections within the industry is a great way to make sure your work is showcased. But, many new fashion designers aren’t sure where to begin. Securing an internship with a large or small design house, working in retail, or joining fashion industry associations and clubs are all great ways to make connections in the fashion industry.

Helpful Resources

  • Interview with Sara Rotman, Creative Director & Fashion Branding Expert

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsJun 16, 2012

    As Sara Rotman was rising through the ranks of corporate America, she quickly learned that if she wanted to reach the pinnacle of her industry she would more than just design talent. She would also need to become business-savvy, something she learned and handled with ap...

  • Interview with Abi Ferrin, Fashion Designer

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsJul 02, 2012

    When you read about the reality of fashion design, from the perspective of our featured artist Abi Ferrin, you may be surprised. To the outsider, the field may appear to be filled with glamour and glitter; but to those who have worked their way to the top—it is seriou...

  • Where Can A Career In Fashion Merchandising Take You?

    Kathryn Pomroy
    Kathryn PomroyJun 21, 2017

    There are many great careers in fashion merchandising for talented individuals. One job may suit your temperament and ambitions perfectly, while another may only frustrate your efforts, so finding a specialization where you can thrive is vital. Explore various career p...

img