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Pursuing a career in the fashion industry can be exciting and rewarding. If you are starting to research jobs in fashion, it is helpful to understand what is required of various positions. In this article, we discuss 15 common careers spanning all three main sectors of the fashion industry: sales, design and development.
What does a career in fashion involve?
Fashion careers require creativity and an understanding of different types of clothing. The type of creativity used varies depending on the specific job. A fashion designer needs to be artistically creative, while a technical designer uses creativity in engineering. Most importantly, a passion for style is necessary to excel in the fashion industry.
Popular careers in fashion
Here are 15 common professions in the fashion industry:
National average salary: $10.86 per hour
Primary duties: Sales associates help customers find the right product for them, complete transactions, restock merchandise and maintain a neat appearance in the retail store. They greet the guest as they enter the store, alert them of any current promotions and ask if they are shopping for anything in particular. If the customer is seeking a specific item, style or size, the sales associate will strive to find the best match.
Throughout the guest’s shopping experience, the sales associate can start a fitting room and suggest other items to go with the pieces the guest likes.
National average salary: $12.76 per hour
Primary duties: Merchandisers are responsible for ensuring the right products are available in the right stores, at the right time, in the right quantities and set at the appropriate price. They can work in retail stores or for an apparel brand at the corporate level. Corporate merchandisers partner with designers and product developers to ensure the design lifecycle stays on track.
Merchandisers also work closely with designers to create a profitable product the customer will buy. If the profit margins become risky, the merchandiser may request changes to the style or review a possible retail price increase to ensure the brand remains profitable.
National average salary: $13.43 per hour
Primary duties: Stylists are responsible for creating outfits and advising various ways to wear an article of clothing. A stylist can work for a clothing brand or individual clients. A brand’s stylist creates outfits for photo shoots to show the customer how to wear their clothes and accessories. Personal stylists work with clients to help them choose styles that flatter their body type and fit within their budget. The stylist must listen to the client’s desires and give them options that suit their needs. The stylist can suggest new styles or twists on the client’s current wardrobe to elevate their style.
National average salary: $54,111 per year
Primary duties: Public relations specialists who work for apparel brands create and maintain a positive brand and public image. They work with marketing specialists to plan events that raise consumer awareness and interest in the brand and product. The public relations specialist is also responsible for developing press releases and handling media inquiries. In a corporate environment, they may also plan employee events involving notable members of the public, speakers or performances.
National average salary: $59,744 per year
Primary duties: Inventory planners begin the apparel development cycle by determining the quantity required of various product types. They review current inventory levels, seasonal needs and geographical data to forecast the consumer demand for their product category. The inventory planner is also responsible for allocating and distributing merchandise to warehouses and stores across the country. Throughout the selling season, they track inventory levels and advise on product performance to their teams.
National average salary: $59,846 per year
Primary duties: Account managers are employed by companies that sell products to other entities, stores or businesses and work to build a relationship with them. They specialize in promoting their product to an entity instead of an individual and building a client portfolio. Accounts for a branded company often are for store or business uniforms, which could include service companies, banks and rental car companies. Some wholesale fashion companies sell their products to department stores and have account managers who develop and maintain the corporate relationship.
7. Retail buyer
National average salary: $62,597 per year
Primary duties: Retail buyers work in retail or department stores and choose the merchandise assortment available for customers to browse. They take the market demands, current style trends, price, quality and their customer’s shopping habits into consideration when selecting products to sell. The retail buyer is responsible for ensuring the store’s stock stays competitive and relevant to their customer’s needs. They also analyze buying patterns, forecast trends for their target market and develop plans to maintain inventory levels.
National average salary: $16.13 per hour
Primary duties: Fashion designers use creativity to design new styles for their target customers. High-end fashion designers exercise greater creativity to develop innovative, original designs. Most fashion designers work in street fashion, where clothing is mass-produced at an affordable price point. These fashion designers gather inspiration from the previous season’s top sellers, runway shows and seasonal trends to design marketable styles for their customers. They choose colors and fabrics and design the number of tops, bottoms and dresses allotted by the inventory planning and merchandising teams.
National average salary: $17.50 per hour
Primary duties: Graphic designers combine hand drawing and computer-aided design to create individual images that are printed on garments. Graphic designers have a strong sense of color and design cohesiveness and use these to develop visually-pleasing graphics. They primarily develop designs in CAD programs but can start by hand drawing and transferring it into the CAD software. Graphic designers also use creativity to create a feasible design. In production, they are often limited to eight colors and will save money by using fewer colors.
National average salary: $23.45 per hour
Primary duties: Textile designers hand illustrate or use CAD software to create designs that can be printed on or woven into a fabric. Textile designs are developed as repeats to cover the fabric yardage with the design. Textile designers can work as freelancers or for a company, such as a fabric manufacturer or clothing brand. They work closely with fashion designers and merchandisers to create textile designs that suit the clothing styles, season and customer. Textile designers also conduct trend research and forecasting for their products to ensure their designs are on-trend.
National average salary: $76,572 per year
Primary duties: The creative director is responsible for determining the overarching theme, color palette and styling of an apparel season’s collection. They can work for an apparel company or fashion magazine. An apparel creative director conducts trend research and reviews high-level sales data to determine what trending colors and styles their customers will likely purchase. At the beginning of each season, they meet with senior designers to establish the color palette, theme, inspiration sources and any key design elements they want to see in the collection. Throughout development, the creative director ensures the designs are staying on track and maintaining cohesiveness.
National average salary: $46,890 per year
Primary duties: Product developers oversee the apparel process from design conception to production completion. They are the apparel company’s primary contact with the factory and are responsible for choosing appropriate factories to produce each product. The product developer handles the cost and timeline negotiations with the factory. They also develop or source the fabrics, buttons, zippers and trims that the designers want to use in the product. The product developer must ensure all materials and the final garment meet the brand’s quality standards.
National average salary: $62,318 per year
Primary duties: The technical designer is the garment engineer and the liaison between the design and product development teams. The design team gives the technical designer the creative vision for each garment, and they determine what stitches and hem finishing will be used. The technical designer is responsible for communicating these sewing details to the factory, along with the garment measurements. Their primary responsibility is fitting the garments when the samples arrive from the factory and revising the measurements, pattern or sewing methods as needed to make a high-quality, well-fitting garment.
National average salary: $71,861 per year
Primary duties: The quality assurance manager is responsible for ensuring garment quality standards are maintained throughout production. They can be employed by the apparel brand, manufacturer or a third-party auditor. The manufacturer’s QA manager sets up checkpoints throughout the production line to review the quality. They then have a final quality inspection after the garment is complete.
A third-party auditor QA manager visits factories after the production lot is completely boxed up and randomly opens boxes to review the quality and packing methods of the garment. An apparel brand’s QA manager oversees the stock as it arrives in the warehouse and randomly checks pieces to ensure quality standards have been met.
National average salary: $72,784 per year
Primary duties: The production manager is responsible for overseeing all elements of the garment manufacturing process, including fabric testing, cutting, sewing, final garment appearance and packaging. Production managers can be employed by the apparel brand or by the manufacturing plant. They ensure the manufacturers are complying with all legal and ethical requirements. The production manager is also responsible for ensuring the timeline negotiated by the product developer is met during production and shipping. The production manager and product developer roles can be combined or duties interchanged depending on the company’s structure.