Fashion & Apparel

Fashion & Apparel

Where Can A Career In Fashion Merchandising Take You?

The fashion industry is enormous, and there are a great many careers available 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.  Fashion merchandising is an area where business and fashion meet. Fashion designers want their designs brought to market, and the market (retailers and customers) want the latest in fashion.  Fashion is a competitive industry, but thankfully, many roles fall under the merchandising umbrella. To secure a job or be considered for promotion, you will probably need a certificate, an associate or bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or a closely-related field. 

But, what does a degree in fashion merchandising teach you? Of course, that would depend on the school, as each school has their own curriculum. Fashion merchandising is a broad industry but all programs offer basic classes that any degree in fashion merchandising will cover, such as fashion marketing, retail marketing and promotion, fashion buying, retail management, textile design and production, history of fashion, and economics of the fashion industry.  There are also a number of skills you will learn while in school. For example, you will learn problem- solving and analytic skills, business, and marketing. You will build your knowledge of buying, selling and promoting, target market, and market trends.  Communication skills and forecasting abilities are also vitally important. Learning these skills is only half the battle – you need to learn to utilize our talent and ability to network, to have success in the area of fashion merchandising you desire.

To get started, we have broken down the various career paths you can choose from as a fashion merchandiser, into eight general categories: 


Retail Store Manager

In this role, you will be responsible for the overall performance of a store to ensure it runs smoothly and meets sales goals. The best managers understand how to encourage staff productivity. You may also be in charge of human resources, and be asked to hire and fire employees. You will create and maintain budgets, and report accordingly to senior management. The best retail store manaagers understand how to merchandise the product to attract the customer to the products, while balancing inventories. It’s also necessary to have a number of other skills; thorough knowledge of the fashion market, leadership and time management skills, sales and marketing expertise, great communication skills, and previous experience in retail.


Fashion Buyer

As a fashion buyer, you will observe fashion trends and work with designers by attending trade shows and showrooms. in order to successfully select items for retail store stock. After all, the last thing any store wants is a large quantity of unsold inventory after the season ends. It’s important to choose and ultimately stock the latest fashions as these decisions impact the business. The responsibilities are mainly impacted by the type of retail businesses you represent. In larger companies, fashion buyers may be responsible for buying only specific types of products, such as coats or shoes. In smaller companies, they typically curate the entire inventory.  In this role, it is important that individuals have the knowledge and a natural ability to predict fashion trends, possess strong negotiation skills, fashion industry savvy, and retail experience. It’s common for fashion buyers to build experience by working as assistants first.


Showroom Sales Manager

Individuals in this role build relationships with fashion buyers. They provide customer service, share product knowledge and ultimately sell product to the buyers who represent stores. It is most commonly amanagerial position, as showroom sales managers work with both employees and customers in a supervisory role.They should have excellent customer service skills, a keen attention to detail, good communication skills, and prior experience in retail salesor as a showroom representative.


Product Development Manager

A PDMoversees the development of new lines of fashion. To build qualifications, PDM’s come from other product development roles and work their way up. This role consists of leading a team of product developers -work close collaborationwith technical and development teams to ensure products follow industry trends and standards, are delivered to the customer on time, and within budget.  Product development managers are industry savvy; they understand technical specifications of garment construction and development costs, have excellent communications and teambuilding skills and are experienced in fashion buying, garment technology, or fashion design.


Visual Merchandising Artists

Develop visual merchandising strategies for storefronts, online stores, or catalogs. They are skilled with design software used to create attractive designs (displays, point-of-sale displays, stands and panels for exhibitions) to capture the attention of customers, promote products and services of fashion businesses, and stay current with fashion trends. They are creative individuals with great attention to detail.  Most commonly, visual merchandising artists will start in an assistant role and move up the ladder to be involved in developing nationwide strategies.


Fashion Marketing

This job requires individuals to help their companies by analyzing marketing campaigns and branding efforts. It is an analytical role where you are forecasting trends and making strategic recommendations for product marketing, based on customer reactions to new product initiatives. In this role, you will develop and implement print and digital marketing campaigns to brand and sell new products. A bachelor’s degree is likely required. Some fashion marketers will start out as marketing assistants or in other areas of the fashion industry and advance up the ladder. Individuals in this role must creative, have excellent communication and writing skills, and be able to oversee a team.


Account Executive

Work closely with media outlets and advertising agencies to sell and promote brands to stores. Oversee print and digital marketing campaigns from start to finsh. Some AE’s work exclusively with small brands to sell into large chain stores like Macy’s or Target. AE’s are responsible for promotion and selling which can be stressful but financially rewarding for the top producers who find success.


Fashion Coordinator /Director

Individuals in this role oversee the day-to-day functions of an entire fashion design department.  They will coordinate with creative and developmental fashion-team members to ensure all projects are running smoothly.  For example, they may coordinate advertising as well as marketing activities with the help of the account exec. They will visit with major manufacturers to get new information on current fashion trends, organize photo shoots, fashion shows, and magazine events. This job requires an in-depth understanding of the fashion industry, excellent networking and communication skills, leadership, and vision. 

There are a variety of otherprofessional rolesto choose from within the fashion merchandising field.  For individuals with a creative and artsy eye, the obvious choice is becoming a fashion designer. You may decide that running your own fashion business is your passion instead. In high ranking jobs, you may have the opportunity to travel or attend industry events and work with many different clients. If you enjoy a challenge and are willing to constantly go outside your comfort zone, fashion is the ideal environment.  So, if you decide to follow your dreams and enter the exciting world of fashion and you want to learn more, check out our Fashion Merchandisers Career page. If you’d also like to explore the 100’s of other art careers, find tools to develop your skills and abilities, learn from experts, or research schools to further your education, you’ll find all the information you need at The Art Career Project.

  • Kathryn Pomroy
    Kathryn Pomroy

    Journalist, Artist & Lover of Puppies | Kathryn is a writing junkie and coffee aficionado who attended Arizona State University where she earned a blue belt in Shotokan-ryu Karate, graced the local stage as a ballerina, and graduated with honors with a degree in journalism.