How Can I Become an Accessory Designer?

Research what it takes to become an accessory designer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average 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 an Accessory Designer?

Accessory designers create such fashion items as hats, handbags, belts and scarves. They study current trends and fashions from which they develop their own unique style. They also draw inspiration from various cultures, landscapes, experiences and more. They may create an entire collection based on a theme or individual pieces. Sometimes they will collaborate with other fashion designers to create pieces for their line of clothing. Accessory designers create their designs, select the materials and oversee the making of their creations. They often attend trade shows and fashion shows to showcase their different pieces or source materials. They may choose to sell their products directly to consumers or to larger retailers. In addition, they may be involved in the marketing of their products. Learn more about this career in the chart below.

Degree Required No formal requirements; associate or bachelor's degree may be helpful for some positions
Education Field of Study Accessory design or related fashion field
Key Skills Creativity, artistic ability, knowledge of fashion trends
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% increase for all fashion designers*
Median Salary (2015) $63,670 for fashion all designers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overview of Accessories Design

To be an accessory designer, you'll need a strong eye for detail and design elements as well as artistic ability and an awareness of fashion trends. You could start out by making your designs at home, improving as you go, and gaining a customer base by selling pieces at local events. Some designers sell their products through e-commerce websites, like Etsy.com and advertise their design services through social media outlets. You can also use this time to develop a portfolio that highlights your best designs. A really good portfolio is often the greatest factor in getting hired.

Formal Training

There are no formal education requirements for accessory designers. Employers typically look for applicants who demonstrate creativity and expertise in accessory production; however, many designers earn associate or bachelor's degrees or take at least some coursework in a fashion-related field. Some schools even offer Bachelor of Fine Arts in Accessory Design programs specifically for aspiring accessory designers. You can expect to take courses in handbag and footwear design, accessory sketching, rendering and computer-aided design. You'll also gain instruction in portfolio development.

Career Options

Accessory and fashion designers are usually employed by apparel wholesalers and manufacturers, who sell their products to retailers. In such cases, you'll generally work as an in-house designer, creating items for a specific brand or line of accessories. You might also find work directly with a retailer. Another option is to work for a design firm, a theater company or a dance company. Note that accessory designers are often located in New York City, Los Angeles or other major cities. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly three-fourths of salaried fashion designers were employed in New York or California in 2015.

Job Duties

Designing accessories is a process that often begins with researching the current fashion trends and determining what fashions will be popular in the future. You'll then develop the design of your accessory by sketching the product by hand or using computer-aided design software. You'll also need to select the materials, colors and various embellishments, and then you'll create sample accessories to present to employers, manufacturers and retailers. The entire process can take up to six months. If you work for an apparel company, you can expect to work with a team of designers and under the supervision of a creative designer.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Buyers and purchasing agents, graphic designers and art directors are all related careers that require a bachelor's degree. Buyers and purchasing agents work for various organizations and buy products, such as clothing and accessories, for the organization to resell. Graphic designers are responsible for creating the visual concepts and images found throughout things like magazines and advertisements. Their work is meant to inform and attract consumers. Art directors may also work for magazines or advertising companies, as well as television or movie productions and more. They create and maintain a certain visual style throughout the production or publication.

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