Handbag Designer: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for handbag designers. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, salary, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Handbag Designer?

Handbag designers use their creative abilities to create pocketbooks and accessories. They often incorporate the latest fashion trends when choosing materials and patterns to use. These designers may create a whole line or collection of handbags following a particular theme or for a specific season. Handbag designers may create their designs by hand, but usually will use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to draw their ideas. They oversee the production of their creations, and then showcase them in fashion shows or at trade shows. Handbag designers may sell their product straight to consumers, or work closely with retailers to sell their bags. The table below provides an outline of the general requirements for this career.

Education Required High school diploma, associate's degree
Education Field of Study General fashion construction, sketching and illustration, pattern making, handbag design
Key Skills Creative ability, good sense of style, comprehensive understanding of the fashion industry
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% for all fashion designers*
Average Salary (2015) $73,180 for fashion designers*

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

What Does a Handbag Designer Do?

Handbag designers, or accessory designers, work to conceptualize and produce accessories for the fashion industry. If you choose to focus on handbag design, depending on where you work and your level of experience, you will have varying levels of involvement in the design and production of handbags. When you begin in the industry, especially working for a larger design firm, you may start out making patterns or sketching renderings for more experienced designers. As you gain experience, you can advance to the level of chief or head designer and will have a much larger influence on the conception and design of your firm's products.

Rather than work for a design firm, many accessory designers are starting small businesses out of their home or working as freelance handbag designers. These options ensure that you will have more control over the design process and give you the chance to create and market your own products. For any type of career in handbag design, you will need creative ability, a good sense of style and extensive knowledge of fashion trends. To market your own product from your home or work as a freelance designer, you may also want to hone your skills in business and marketing.

Is There an Education Requirement?

Although there is no specific education requirement for the field, your career as a handbag designer will greatly benefit from the specialized knowledge you could learn in a fashion design program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers in the fashion industry are looking for individuals with at least a 2-year degree in fashion design or another art-related field (www.bls.gov). Fashion design programs tend to have strengths in different areas, so you should check with each school before applying to be sure the program can prepare you specifically for a career as a handbag designer. During your education, you will take courses in general fashion construction, sketching and illustration, draping, patternmaking and sewing. You may also have the opportunity to take specific courses in handbag design and accessory construction.

Fashion design schools generally offer bachelor's and master's degree programs or fashion design certificate programs. In order to be a competitive applicant, many programs suggest that you take a substantial number of studio art and art history courses in high school in order to prepare for the specialized work of an undergraduate fashion design program. You will also most likely need to submit some visual evidence of the art or design work you have done in order to be evaluated for admission. In the fashion design industry, this visual evidence takes the form of a portfolio.

How Important is My Portfolio?

If you are hoping to pursue fashion design education, the most important requirement for admission into any fashion design program is often your portfolio. A portfolio is intended to be a visual representation of your past art experience. It should be a collection of your best work, along with any fairly recent projects you have worked on. The benefit to taking a larger number of art courses in high school is that you may be better prepared to put together a collection of your visual work for entry into an undergraduate or certificate program. Every fashion design program will have its own requirements for the portfolio, so you should always check with each program to tailor your work accordingly. Additionally, you will benefit from having a solid portfolio in the industry even if you do not plan to attend a fashion design education program.

How Much Do Handbag Designers Earn?

The amount of money you can make as a handbag designer varies widely depending on your experience, your location and the success of your designs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most fashion designers earn between $33,170 and $125,270 per year. The BLS also reports that the average salary for the same group for May 2015 was $73,180. However, these statistics are for fashion designers in general, not specific to handbag designers. Consequently, the earnings could be slightly different for accessory designers. The BLS reported a 3% job growth for fashion designers between 2014-2024.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers that only require a high school diploma or equivalent include floral designers and jewelers and precious stone and metal workers. Floral designers work with all kinds of flowers, both alive and fake, to create beautiful bouquets, displays and more. They may also decorate their designs with ribbons, decorative containers and other accessories. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers create and make all types of jewelry. Some may even be trained to appraise stones and repair pieces.

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