Fashion designers are essentially artists who create with fabric and other related materials. Many in the industry claim to have felt the initial pull towards the profession at a young age; preferring to play with clothing and accessories than the more standard amusements enjoyed by their peers. They read the top fashion magazines, dream in fabric and colors, track fashion trends with the enthusiasm that sports fanatics memorize athlete statistics, and have the innate ability and imagination to create clothing and/or accessories suitable for various body sizes and shapes. A fashion designer usually has a passion for clothing and an aptitude in creativity. Essentially, fashion designers are driven, ambitious and savvy individuals with exceptional business, communication and artistic skills; willing to sacrifice with long, hard hours for the privilege of working in the industry.

Fashion Design is a versatile profession offering aspiring designers a range of career paths. Most often, people aspiring to become a fashion designer do so with the hope of one day owning their own clothing line. Unfortunately, this dream may not be realized for every individual. However, there are many other professional positions and opportunities within the field of fashion design which provide aspiring fashion designers employment in the field they love. Positions in the fashion design industry include costume designers for the performing arts in television or movies, designing clothing for apparel wholesalers or manufacturers, self employed contractors who sell their own designs to stores or boutiques and various design positions within existing design firms.

The field of fashion design is glamorous, challenging, exciting and fiercely competitive. Successful professionals in the fashion design field often have the opportunity to work with celebrities and leaders of industry. Becoming a successful fashion designer requires determination, perseverance, education and skill. According to the United States Department of Labor, the fashion design industry is concentrated in specific limited regions and account for a limited number of jobs within the United States. An increase in the job positions available for fashion designers over the next ten years is expected to be rise around 1%. Competition for the positions which do become available will be intense. Education, job experience and the quality of the applicants’ portfolios will likely make the difference between receiving a job offer and having to take a position in another field.

High School

With the competitiveness of the fashion design industry becoming increasingly keen, education and training are imperative to the success of aspiring fashion designers. High school lays the foundation for all future education and training. Complete the basic requisite courses necessary to graduate and to gain college admission. The courses in mathematics, science and English provide training beyond the course specific knowledge. These courses help develop analytical thinking, problem solving skills and communication skills. Complete courses in technology and computers. Computers have become an essential tool utilized by every field and industry in the current job market. Developing a proficiency in understanding and operating computers and the basic programs will not be optional, but required, in order to be employable in most professional markets.

High School students are generally permitted to choose some elective courses. It is important to take home economic courses if they are offered. Home economic courses generally provide basic training in sewing and sometimes patternmaking. Knowledge in these areas will be especially important in the fashion design field. Entry level positions within the fashion design industry are sometimes in these types of positions. Even if you do not perform these tasks yourself, understanding the basics of these areas will be necessary in order to accurately produce your designs. If the school doesn’t offer this type of course, check the local college or community centers to see if they offer instructional courses in this area. Not only will this provide training and experience in these essential skills, but it will also provide substance for the portfolio you will likely need to submit to college.

Technical School programs are often offered as an alternative to the traditional high school curriculum. These programs can be invaluable in providing an early beginning to understanding and becoming skilled in various fields. Receiving concentrated education in fields requiring practical skills at an early stage is helpful in developing an expertise in the subject. A fashion design program may not be offered at most technical schools. Take advantage of the opportunity if the school does offer a program in fashion design. However, fashion design is a creative field which requires a range of skills that may be offered in similar programs. If the technical school doesn’t offer a fashion design program, find out if the technical school offers programs in other creative or visual arts fields. The training in fields such as web design, graphic design, fashion merchandising or advertising will be immensely beneficial.

High School students should seek out opportunities to develop skills and gain experience in fashion design. Activities within and outside of high school can provide invaluable experience. Participate in clubs which utilize creative skills; such as photography clubs and year book committees. Both provide experience with certain skills in creating layouts and recognizing coordinating colors and backgrounds. Volunteer your services to the school drama club. Design and create the costumes for the plays. Local community theatre groups might also need someone to help with their costumes. As a high school, you have access to a substantial population of potential critics and customers. Organize a fashion show to display your own clothing designs. Offer students the option of purchasing your selections. Look for after school job opportunities in clothing retail stores, small boutiques or with a design firm which may require intern type services.

College For Fashion Designers

The fashion design industry places significant importance on the quality of the design program or school attended. Industry professionals are expected to be familiar with historical trends, be knowledgeable about current trends and able to predict future fashion trends. Familiarity with marketing, advertising, business and technology are essential to becoming successful as a fashion designer. The school attended should provide training in each of these areas. Schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design are generally held in higher regard than other programs. The organization was founded in 1944 to help standardize the quality of programs offered within these fields. Attending one of the nearly 300 colleges accredited by the NASAD will ensure you receive the level of training expected and that your degree will be well received by the fashion industry leaders.

Gaining admission into a design school is extremely competitive. Colleges with fashion design programs will limit their consideration to those individuals who maintained high grades, score well on the college admission or SAT tests and participated in activities or have experience with design relevance. Maintain high grades in all courses and take advanced placement courses if you are able. Some students may be able to take college courses during their senior year of high school. Take advantage of the opportunity if it is offered as it is evidence of academic ability and commitment. Not only will applicants need to demonstrate academic aptitude, but a propensity for creativity as well. Students will have to submit a portfolio demonstrating the quality, type and extent of their work. Include only the best evidence of your work.

Both associate and bachelor degree programs are offered in fashion design. It is always advisable to obtain a bachelor degree when possible. A bachelor degree is held in higher regard and, again, exhibits the individual’s commitment to learning and essentially the fashion design field. The curriculum usually includes coursework in fashion history, computer-aided design, sewing, color, textiles, tailoring, pattern making and the general core courses. Degree programs include open electives which allow students to select their own courses without specific limitations. Use these electives to take courses in business or marketing. Increasing your knowledge in these areas will prove beneficial. Understanding the dynamics and basics of both fields will facilitate better decision making in regards to determining how to proceed when employed in the fashion design field.

Internships for Fashion Designers

Colleges develop affiliations with companies and organizations in various industries. These affiliations are used to the benefit of their students in a number of ways; among which are internships. Internships allow students the opportunity to learn first hand the business in which they are interested in working. Additionally, most industries prefer to hire job candidates with some experience in the field. In the fashion design industry, this is especially true. Companies need individuals who understand and are prepared for the fast paced climate of the industry. This understanding comes only from time spent in working within the field; performing the tasks while contending with the pressures. An internship satisfies the job experience preference of many employers. It also provides networking connections which may be advantageous after graduation.

Professional Portfolio

Most of the creative fields require industry professionals to have a portfolio of their work. A professional portfolio will be a compilation of only your best designs. These can include designs you did during college, while working in an internship position, for friends or family, for a community event or even ones you created for no particular purpose or person. Fashion designers find inspiration for designs are unpredictable and may arise at any time. These designs of inspiration can be used to advantage; augmenting your design portfolio. The portfolio can contain sketches of your designs or photographs of designs that you have created worn on mannequins.

Potential employers or clients viewing the portfolio expect it to exhibit the individuals passion for the field. Continue to add to your portfolio as you progress from high school to college to internships and/or paid positions. If you have a particular area of interest in a certain fashion category such as career wear, accessories or junior wear, you can dedicate a section of your portfolio specfically to those designs. Some designers include only designs for the area in which they are most interested. Creating clothing designs of varied categories can be a helpful resource in case a position arises outside of that particular area. You may also want to include sample garments. Sending the portfolio to fashion houses and to design houses will help trigger interest in your work or, at the very least, provide exposure for your designs.

Work and Research Experience

Successful fashion designers are not usually born overnight. Success in the field of fashion design requires years of hard work, experience and industry knowledge. Entering your designs in amateur contests is one avenue for gaining experience and exposure. Staying current on emerging trends is essential to success. Continue to read fashion magazines and attend fashion events which offer the most cutting edge designs. Most experience is gained through working within the industry. But some knowledge and success is directly attirbutable to research. Research will always be an essential aspect of the design process. Expect to begin your career in an entry level position such as sketching assistant or a pattern maker. As you become proficient with computer aided design software and familiar with the various aspects of the design production process, employers will take notice and offer advancement opportunities. After time, an experienced fashion designer may become chief designer or head of the design department.