How To Become a Fashion Designer in 7 Steps (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 27, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A person dresses a mannequin in the window display of a clothing boutique.

If you have a passion for design and clothing, working in the fashion industry could result in a rewarding career. To become a fashion designer, you may rely on a combination of postsecondary education, professional experience and role-related skills. Understanding this profession and how to pursue it can help you ensure you possess the necessary credentials and technical knowledge. 

In this article, we discuss what fashion designers do and how to become a fashion designer, and we answer some frequently asked questions about this role. 

What does a fashion designer do?

Fashion designers make apparel, shoes and accessories. They typically create both preliminary designs and finished products. They may also develop complete collections. Fashion designers are responsible for the following specific tasks:

  • Developing designs: Fashion designers use manual tools like pencils and paper, as well as digital tools like computer-aided design (CAD) programs, to create preliminary designs. Most prefer CAD designs, as they can easily change elements, textures and colors digitally to produce a satisfactory design.

  • Selecting materials: After completing a preliminary sketch, fashion designers choose the materials for the product. When making this decision, they may consider many factors, such as color, texture, durability, sustainability and adherence to current fashion trends.

  • Producing prototypes: After sketching a design and choosing materials, fashion designers make a prototype or a sample of the complete design. They often work with fashion models who wear the prototypes so fashion designers can see how they move and withstand wear.

  • Choosing collection themes: Instead of developing multiple standalone items, most fashion designers create collections of clothing, footwear or accessories. They choose themes and develop relevant designs based on seasons and trends.

  • Marketing collections: After producing collections, fashion designers may market their designs. Some market to retailers, which handle sales, and others market directly to consumers, which often involves online sales.

  • Overseeing production: Many fashion designers contract manufacturing houses and skilled laborers to handle the production process. Fashion designers typically manage the production process, which may include visiting the manufacturing facility and examining finished products.

Related: Should I Be a Fashion Designer? 10 Reasons To Pursue This Role

How to become a fashion designer

Here's a list of steps you can follow to pursue a career as a fashion designer: 

1. Get a bachelor's degree

To qualify for a position as a fashion designer, consider earning a bachelor's degree in one of the following areas: 

  • Visual art

  • Fashion design

  • Fashion merchandising

Studying visual art can help you master color theory and design elements, while focusing on fashion design allows you to work with fabrics and learn how to develop clothing and accessory prototypes. If you major in fashion merchandising, you can learn more about the marketing and business aspects of the industry. 

Related: What Is a Bachelor's Degree in Art? (With 5 Jobs To Try)

2. Develop a portfolio

While you study fashion and practice creating designs, you can begin to build a professional portfolio. Save images of the sketches you make, the collections you create and the prototypes you develop. 

You can show your digital portfolio to future employers to demonstrate your accomplishments and style. This can help you apply for entry-level positions and internships by highlighting your training and skills, even if you've limited professional experience. 

Related: How To Create an Art Portfolio (With Definition and Tips)

3. Create a resume

To find your first job in the fashion industry, create a resume that you can share with potential employers. On that resume, consider including sections for:

  • Contact information

  • Education

  • Skills

  • Relevant work experience

  • Awards

  • Volunteer work

Consider reviewing the job description before creating your application documents to gain a better understanding of what your prospective employer is looking for in a candidate, and highlight these credentials in your resume, if applicable.

4. Apply for an internship or entry-level role 

Before looking for an entry-level job in the fashion industry, consider interning. Assisting an experienced fashion designer can help you:

  • Learn basic job skills

  • Develop a better understanding of the industry

  • Create connections with important figures in the fashion industry

Once you've gained this professional experience, you can submit your resume and other application documents to agencies and brands and begin applying for entry-level roles. 

Related: A Complete Guide to Internships

5. Build a professional network

To get the job you want in the fashion industry, seek out opportunities to grow your professional network. To do so, you might consider doing the following to connect with others in your field:

  • Attending fashion shows

  • Joining professional groups

  • Entering amateur fashion contests

These opportunities can help you learn about employment opportunities in the fashion industry and help you learn from established professionals.

Related: 10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro

6. Cultivate important skills

As you gain entry-level experience in the fashion industry, it's important to cultivate your skills. For example, you can read fashion magazines and blogs to learn about the latest trends and take classes to master essential design programs. You can also improve your creativity by challenging yourself to develop a certain number of sketches or designs each week.

7. Choose a specialty

To establish yourself in the industry, consider choosing a specialty. This strategy can help potential employers and collaborators distinguish your work in a crowded marketplace. It may also help you cultivate a loyal following. For example, you might focus on producing:

  • Luxury clothing for women

  • High-end accessories

  • Unique footwear

  • Elaborate costumes

Related: 40 Fashion Designer Interview Questions (And Sample Answers)

Fashion designer skills

As a fashion designer, you might use both hard and soft skills at work. Hard skills are the technical abilities that the day-to-day duties of fashion design require. These might include:

  • Drawing skills

  • Sewing skills

  • Presentation skills

  • Ability to use design computer programs

  • Color theory

  • Textile and fabric knowledge

  • Understanding of fashion history

  • Knowledge of current fashion trends

Soft skills are the personality traits that make a professional good at their job. Soft skills that might benefit fashion designers include:

  • Patience

  • Creativity

  • Attention-to-detail

  • Teamwork

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

Related: 18 Fashion Designer Skills

How much do fashion designers earn?

The national average salary for fashion designers is $64,526 per year. Fashion designers usually work full time and typically earn a salary rather than an hourly wage. The specifics of their salary may depend on their professional environment and other relevant factors, including:

  • Their experience level

  • Their geographic location 

  • Whether they work independently or for an employer

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How Much Does a Fashion Designer Make?

Fashion designer FAQs

To learn more about working in the fashion industry, browse the frequently asked questions below:

Frequently asked questions

What hours do fashion designers typically work?

Fashion designers who work for design houses and clothing, footwear or accessory manufacturers often work a regular schedule, which may require standard nine-to-five hours. When preparing for fashion shows, designers may work additional hours, which often requires working in the evenings and on weekends. 

Fashion designers may travel to attend fashion shows, view designs from different labels or meet with suppliers and manufacturers. Working in the fashion industry often requires domestic and international travel, which can impact the number of hours they work in a week.

Related: Fashion Designer Resume Tips (With Example and Template)

What's the work environment like for fashion designers?

Fashion designers usually work in studios that provide both office and manufacturing settings. During a typical workday, fashion designers may use computers to develop designs, sewing machines or other manufacturing equipment to produce prototypes and handheld tools to affix accents and details.

Can fashion designers be self-employed?

Although many fashion designers work for clothing, footwear or accessory manufacturers, others are self-employed. Some fashion designers opt to develop their own clothing labels. This requires developing, manufacturing and selling original designs. Others work in a freelance role, which involves accepting short-term contracts from fashion companies and developing products that meet predetermined specifications.

Related: 12 Steps to Becoming a Fashion Designer Without a Formal Education

Where is the fashion industry based?

In the United States, most designers work in New York City and Los Angeles, which serve as the largest hubs of the fashion industry. However, some designers work in smaller markets. Fashion designers may work around the country if they're self-employed or able to perform their job duties remotely.

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