You know you’re destined to be a fashion designer if you (1) spent most of your childhood making clothes for your Barbie dolls instead of playing with your friends, (2) read fashion magazines instead of your school books, (3) ran a boutique out of your basement at age 10.
What does a fashion designer do?
Fashion designers design clothing and fashion ranges. They may work in high fashion or designer ready-to-wear fashion, as well as in high-street fashion. Designers often specialise in particular types of clothing – for example, in men’s, children’s or sportswear.
This role would normally involve:
working to design instructions (known as a brief)
analysing or predicting trends in fabrics, colours and shapes
producing concept and mood boards (a collection of items to capture a mood, such as photos, fabric pieces and colour samples)
developing basic shapes (‘blocks’) through patterns
estimating costs for materials and manufacture
supervising the making up of sample clothing items
making in-house presentations, for example to finance departments and merchandisers
Designers often work closely with garment technologists and sample machinists. The role could also involve liaising with manufacturers (often based overseas) to make sure designs are reproduced accurately.
What do I need to do to become a fashion designer?
To be a fashion designer, you will need to have a good eye for colour and shape. You’ll need skills such as pattern-cutting and sewing. You’ll also need to able to spot trends.
You will usually need a relevant higher education qualification, such as a foundation degree, HND or degree to be a fashion designer. A course that teaches both design and technical skills will give you the practical knowledge that you need to work in the industry.
It is important to do your research when choosing a course by reading industry literature and speaking to different course providers. You should check carefully what areas are covered over the length of a course and what kind of links the fashion department has with the industry.
A good starting point for research into training providers is the list of colleges who are members of the British Fashion Council. The Council recognises these institutions as offering high quality training in fashion.
You will need to put together a portfolio of your work that you can take to course and job interviews. Your portfolio should include mood boards, designs and technical drawings. An employer or college may also ask you to take along actual garments that you have produced.
There is strong competition for jobs in this industry, so any contacts and work experience you have, for example through an internship, will help when looking for work.