How to Become a Fashion Designer

Many dream of becoming a fashion designer. With enough hard work and studying, you could make that dream come true. But being a fashion designer isn’t just coming up with designs and getting a label named after you. You have to put in a lot of work as a Jenny Humphrey before you become an Eleanor Waldorf.

So what does it take to become a professional fashion designer? Let’s take a look at the type of degree you need, what types of fashion designers are out there, and what you could make in this career.

Careers in Fashion Design: How to Become a Fashion Designer

Careers like civil engineering have a fairly defined path: go to college, get your degree, maybe find an internship, take your FE, get a job, then in a few years, take your PE.

Unlike civil engineering, fashion design has less concrete steps towards becoming a professional. Designers may work in a variety of different positions before they reach the peak of their career.

That’s because there are so many different types of fashion designers. Yes, you have variety in civil engineering, like whether you work on bridges or buildings, but each avenue of fashion design operates by its own rules. In fashion design, you could:

  • Create haute couture garments for the runway for the cutting edge of fashion
  • Work at a theatre production company and create costumes for performances as one of the costume designers
  • Work in wholesale to figure out how to take high fashion and bring it to the mass markets in ready to wear product lines

The rules of your job will change depending on where you are along the line of fashion and where you are in your career. Are you setting the rules or following the trends? Only people at the peak of their career will break the mold and set the rules.

Everyone else needs to anticipate where the styles are heading before each major runway as they study trends and make educated guesses. By researching current fashion trends, they can extrapolate and anticipate where the trends will go next. Then, they design clothes with those trends in mind.

But to truly understand fashion design, you can’t just come up with concepts. You need to have the technical knowledge to create designs and then turn them into physical pieces of clothing.

Understanding garment construction and textile types informs the type of designs you can come up with. You have to understand the physical limitations of the materials before you develop high end ideas that simply aren’t possible.

And you don’t just stay stuck in the studio. Designers will visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabric and immerse themselves in the work of other designers. Attending trade and fashion shows allow you to get inspiration that will inform your own art and design.

Fashion Design Schools 

With a skill and career as specialized as fashion design, you can’t just go to any college to get your bachelor’s degree.

Many designers get started by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in either fashion design or fashion merchandising. It depends on what end of the industry you’d like to specialize in.

In these type of programs, students learn about the properties of different textiles and fabrics. Plus, they will learn technical skills like computer-aided design (CAD) programs. Part of the work will include expanding their portfolio with different projects that showcases their designs. The specific projects will vary from program to program.

This portfolio is essential for furthering your career. Anyone interested in hiring a designer will need to see your portfolio.

Here are some of the top design schools you could attend to get degrees in fashion design or merchandising.

1. Parsons, The School for New Design

When going to Parsons, you have the option to pursue a track in Fashion Design, Fashion Studies, or Fashion Marketing. You’re studying in one of the fashion capitals of the world: New York City.

2. Fashion Institute of Technology

Also in New York, you can major in Design, Business, Marketing, Styling, or Illustration. This is a comprehensive but affordable program, as it falls under the SUNY network.

3. Pratt Institute

Once again located in New York, the Pratt Institute offers electives in fashion magazine/editorial publishing to round out the educational program.

4. London College of Fashion

Open for over a century, London College of Fashion offers courses in everything from business to fashion curation and design.

5. Paris College of Art

The Paris College of Art offers a degree in fashion design in the fashion capital of the world.

Fashion Designer Salary

The only thing with more variety than the different careers you could choose as a fashion designer is the pay.

So how much do fashion designers make?

According to the national average surveyed in May 2021, salaries in the US could range from $37,480 to $130,870. If you look at Zippia, the median annual wage for fashion designers is $57,155.

Of course, famous fashion designers could make significantly more.

Here are some famous fashion designers and their current net worth:

  1. Marc Jacobs: $200 Million
  2. Donatella Versace: $400 Million
  3. Vera Wang: $650 Million
  4. Tory Burch: $1 Billion
  5. Christian Louboutin: $1.6 Billion

Clearly, these designers are making more than $130,870 a year. So the sky’s the limit, but there will also be no limit on the work you need to put in to get to that level.

What a Career in Fashion Designing Could Look Like

A career as a fashion designer is just as unique as the possible garments you could produce. It all depends on the type of fashion you want to work on and what stage of the design process you want to focus your talents on.

The employment of fashion designers can vary widely, and you can do some really incredible things in the field. If you put in the work, have a unique spark, and have a bit of luck, you might just make it big as a fashion designer.

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Author, Artist, Photographer.

Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.

She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.

She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.

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