How to Become a Fashion Designer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a fashion designer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Fashion Designer?

A fashion designer is a creative specialist who conceives and produces designs for clothing and accessories. Designs may be marketed to specific retailers or to the consumer market directly. Your designs may be in a novel style or derived from styles that are currently popular. You could specialize in a particular category of apparel or a particular demographic, or you might generalize across categories and demographics. Depending on your style and what you hope to do, the use of CAD may be involved. You may be in charge of overseeing the final production of your clothing as well.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a fashion designer is right for you.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree is common
Key Skills Artistic ability, creativity, computer and decision making skills
Job Growth (2014-2024)*3% for all fashion designers
Median Salary (2015)* $63,670 for all fashion designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

You can begin developing the skills necessary to become a fashion designer by taking basic art, drawing, and design classes in high school. Some schools may even offer a fashion design course. Along with a diploma or GED, a portfolio of sketches, or other proof of artistic talent is an admission requirement at many postsecondary fashion design programs.

Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree or Bachelor's Degree

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in fashion design train you in the process of creating a new garment or accessory from conception to realization. Courses in both cover pattern making, stitching methods, draping, and the properties of fabrics. Associate's degree programs emphasize the development of basic and intermediate skills, while bachelor's programs often devote more time to industrial production methods, fashion history, and specializations.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship

An internship with a clothing manufacturer or design firm gives you an opportunity to observe operations in a professional setting, make industry contacts and practice the materials handling skills you've been learning as a student. If you work in a retail store as a custom tailor or stylist instead, you can learn to assess how people will look in different fabrics and styles. An internship option is part of the design program's curriculum at some schools.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 19,040 people worked as fashion designers in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment was projected to increase 3% from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than average for all occupations. Apparel manufacturers and wholesalers, piece goods wholesalers, and notions merchant wholesalers are among your potential employers. Most employed designers are concentrated in New York and California. You could also become an independent contractor. When starting out, you may have to work as a sketching assistant or pattern maker. As of May 2015, the median annual salary of fashion designers was $63,670.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

You have at least three advancement options. If you're part of a large design department, you could seek promotion to department head or chief designer. You could also establish your own design business or open a boutique to sell your designs. Finally, you could join a specialty design services firm that caters to upscale clients.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There designers with similar job descriptions to fashion designers that usually focus in certain areas of the clothing industry, such as footwear and accessory designers. Additionally, costume designers are in charge of making costumes for different businesses, usually theater or film. Graphic designers, although not necessarily involved with fashion or clothing, have a similar job by designing appealing visual art for a variety of industries and purposes.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

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  • The Art Institutes

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    • Virginia: Arlington
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  • Indiana Wesleyan University

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    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
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    • Texas: Lubbock