How to become a Fashion Designer

HBAF01Did you spend your childhood raiding your mom’s closet for her scarves and shoes? When you are shopping, do you feel a desperate need to redress the mannequin in something more flattering? Do you spend hours pouring over fashion magazines, all the while knowing you could come up with better designs? Perhaps a career as a fashion designer is right for you. Fashion designers merge a keen creative sense and a flair for fashion with the business world.



Job Overview

High School or GED
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fashion designers influence the future of fashion by visualizing new concepts and creating detailed designs for clothing, accessories and footwear. They also oversee the initial production of their designs.

The typical day of a fashion designer might include…

  • Sketching      designs by hand or with computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Selecting      fabric and colors for new designs
  • Studying      purchasing data and anticipating upcoming fashion trends
  • Creating      and sewing prototype garments
  • Presenting      ideas at trade shows or to retail companies
  • Marketing      clothing and designs

Is Fashion Design Right For You?

Fashion design may sound like a fun occupation, but it isn’t all about playing with clothes and putting together outfits. Fashion design is hard work and requires dedication. There are several qualities fashion designers need to be successful.

Creativity: Designers need to be able to visualize a concept from start to finish. Creating unique designs is necessary to make you stand out from the pack.

Artistic Ability: It’s not enough to see a design in your head; you must also be able to share it with others through sketches or computer-aided design.

Decision-Making Skills: Designers will visualize many more ideas than they will ever produce. It’s important to be able to filter through the cloud of ideas and commit to the ones you believe will be successful.

Detail Oriented: Only the best clothing designs will ever make it into stores and there are many small details between an idea and a finished product. A successful fashion designer must be able to carry out their design down to the last button and stitch.

Business Sense: Though creativity is key, designers must also focus on practical aspects of the fashion business. Designers must be able to analyze sales data and create project budgets.

Not sure if you have all the skills it take to be a fashion designer? Never fear. As long as you have the passion and drive, the right education can help you fill in the gaps.


Though a post-secondary degree is not strictly required, to really get your foot in the door and embark on a successful career in fashion design you will need at least a 2-year or 4-year degree. There are several different degrees available in fashion, all of which will be helpful in launching a career in fashion design.

A bachelor’s in fashion design in the most obvious choice. This 4-year degree will focus on the creative aspects of the field with classes in design and clothing construction, as well as fashion history. This tends to be a very hands-on course of study with much attention paid to developing your portfolio of designs.

A bachelor’s in fashion merchandising is also helpful and blends design aspects with business and marketing. This 4-year program will focus more on how to market and sell a designer’s work.

According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a graduate degree is also a helpful tool for successful designers. There is quite a bit of leeway in choosing a master’s degree program. However, a Master of Business Administration is a good choice because it will give you a deeper understanding of the business trends behind the fashion industry.

Salary & Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for fashion designers in 2010 was $64,530. Between now and 2020 there is expected to be little job growth in the fashion design field. Few jobs being added to the market means that education will become an even more critical part of preparing for a job in the fashion industry.

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