Fashion Designers Overview

Fashion designers with a 2-year degree or 4-year degree in fashion design who are knowledgeable in fashion trends, fabric, and textiles are what employers are looking for. Due to the creativity and glamour of the job, there is a lot of competition to become a fashion designer. Most jobs for fashion designers are in California and New York.

Nature of the Work for Fashion Designers

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers study fashion trends, sketch designs of clothing and accessories, select colors and fabrics, and oversee the final production of their designs in order to produce clothing items and accessories that consumers want to purchase.

Fashion designers can work in men's, women's, and children's apparel, including intimate apparel and maternity wear. Many fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear or accessories but some enjoy creating designs for all three. Between 18 and 24 months, fashion designers begin their design process and turn it into a final production. A fashion designer’s first step is to research trends in current fashion and to predict the trends that will follow. Whether they use trend reports or do their own research, fashion designers rely on the research to indicate what styles, colors, and fabrics will be popular in the upcoming season. Trend reports and research are also important to textile manufacturers who use the information to begin designing patterns and fabric simultaneously with the fashion designer who is sketching the design. Once a fashion designer’s sketch is complete, the fashion designer and manufacturer meet to discuss fabric and pattern choices. A prototype is created once the design and fabric are agreed upon which uses cheaper materials as a model to make any necessary adjustments.

Once a fashion designer make a decision, article samples are made and distributed to clothing retailers. Fashion designers can also see their design at fashion and trade shows throughout the year.

Though many fashion designers sketch by hand, many use computer-aided design (CAD) to translate the sketches into the computer where fashion designers can view their designs on virtual models.

The involvement of a fashion designer depends on the size of the design firm and experience. For large design firms, fashion designers usually take on the role as lead designer who create designs, choose colors and fabric and oversee the technical designers responsible for turning the idea into a final product. Large firms may also employ their own pattern makers and tailors as well. For fashion designers working in smaller firms, a bulk of their work includes overseeing technical aspects, pattern making, and sewing. Some fashion designers choose to work for apparel wholesalers or manufacturers. This involves fashion designers to design for the masses where designs come in various colors and sizes.

Many fashion designers are also self-employed and design for individual clients as well as those who sell their designs to retail or specialty stores. Fashion designers in costume design for motion picture, performing arts or television productions perform extensive research on certain styles and eras and then draw sketches, select fabrics and oversee production. They may also be restricted to a costume budget.

Fashion designers employed by manufacturing establishments, wholesalers, or design firms will usually work normal and regular hours while those who freelance can either work by job or under a contract. Freelance fashion designers can work long hours in smaller environments where pressure is intense from clients. Whether fashion designers work in large firms, small firms, or freelance, long hours will occasionally be necessary for all fashion designer who have to meet deadlines or prepare for fashion shows.

Communication is essential for fashion designers who are constantly dealing with suppliers, customers and manufactures.

Fashion designers may also need to travel for fashion shows or to get fabric.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Fashion Designers

A fashion designer typically needs an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in fashion design in order to find employment. Fashion designers who may be thinking about running their own business or store may also combine a fashion design degree with a business, marketing, or fashion merchandising degree. Typical courses for an associate or bachelor’s degree in fashion design includes color, textiles, sewing and tailoring, pattern making, fashion history and computer-aided design (CAD). Taking courses in human anatomy, mathematics, and psychology can also be useful for understanding the body and how to run a company.

Around 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Most schools expect a basic art or design course to be completed before formal admittance into a program is allowed. Sketches may also be requested before admittance.

Interning, working at manufacturing firms, working at retail stores or with a personal stylist can help fashion designers learn the necessary skills of the industry.

Those who want to become successful fashion designers can also enter their designs into amateur or student contents.

Fashion designers must have a strong aesthetic, good communication skills, be able to problem solve and sketch. A good portfolio is also important for an aspiring fashion designer to have. The ability to work well in teams is also important for fashion designers who will remain in contact with manufacturers, supplies, and buyers.

Though design is a big part of becoming a fashion designer, they must also be knowledgeable in pattern making and sewing. Knowledge of these skills will make it easier for fashion designers to instruct others on how garments should be constructed.

Those starting out as fashion designers usually begin as sketching assistants for pattern markers. After working for an experienced designer, fashion designers may be able to advance to such positions as design department head or chief designer.

Some fashion designers also go on to start their own business or begin selling their designs to stores.

Top 10 Most Popular Fashion/Apparel Design Schools

1. Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)
2. The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
3. The New School (New York, New York)
4. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California)
5. International Academy of Design and Technology (Multiple Campus Locations)
6. Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa)
7. Katharine Gibbs School, New York City (New York, New York)
8. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)
9. The Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
10. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Richmond, Virginia)

See All Fashion/Apparel Design Schools

Online School: The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

Employment and Job Outlook for Fashion Designers

Number of People in Profession

15,780

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to little or no change (decrease or increase by 2%).

About 15,780 jobs are held by fashion designers, 31 percent work for apparel, piece goods, and wholesalers while 13 percent work for apparel manufacturers.

With a high demand for clothing, footwear, and accessories, some new jobs may open for fashion designers. Middle-income consumers are demanding affordable yet stylish clothing which means fashion designers will be needed in apparel wholesalers.

Since most apparel manufacturing is done overseas, cut and sew manufacturing jobs will likely decline.

Design firms that design mass-market clothing in department stores and retail stores will offer the most job opportunities for fashion designers.

Earnings and Salary for Fashion Designers

Median annual wages for salaried fashion designers are $64,260. The middle 50 percent earn between $44,110 and $90,020. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $32,320, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $130,900.

Annual Salary for Fashion Designers

On average, Fashion Designers earn $64,260 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $32,320/yr $44,110/yr $90,020/yr $130,900/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook