How to become a Fashion Designer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Fashion Designer do?
As a fashion designer, you could work in one of three different areas – high fashion (known as ‘haute couture’), designer ready-to-wear and high-street fashion. Within these areas, you would often specialise further, for example in men’s, children’s or sportswear.
Your work would typically involve:
- working to a design brief
- analysing or predicting trends in fabrics, colours and shapes
- producing concept and mood boards
- developing basic shapes (‘blocks’) through patterns
- estimating costs for materials and manufacture
- finding suppliers
- supervising the making up of sample garments
- making in-house presentations, for example to finance departments and merchandisers.
You would often work closely with garment technologists and sample machinists. You could also liaise with manufacturers (often based overseas) to make sure that designs are reproduced accurately.
You would often work long hours and weekends in order to meet deadlines – for example the launch of a new collection.
You would be based in a studio or workshop, but could have opportunities to travel to visit manufacturers (often overseas). You could also go on research visits, for example to art galleries, trade shows or to particular places or countries that are linked to a design theme.
How much does a Fashion Designer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be around £18,000 a year.
- With experience and increased responsibility earnings can range from £24,000 to £64,000 or more.
Freelance designers may charge per design or per collection and rates vary widely. Agents may take up to 30% as commission.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You will usually need a relevant degree. A course that teaches both design and technical skills will give you the practical knowledge needed to work in the industry, so you should check the content of courses before making your choice.
Universities offering relevant courses include:
- London College of Fashion
- De Montfort University, Leicester
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh
To search for fashion-related courses, visit the UCAS website. Entry requirements vary, so you should check with the individual colleges and universities.
You will need to put together a portfolio of work that you can take to course and job interviews. Your portfolio should include moodboards, designs and technical drawings. It is also important to take along actual garments you have produced.
Because the industry is very competitive (more than 4,000 fashion and textiles students compete for just 500 jobs each year), any work experience you gain will give you an advantage when it comes to getting a job.
See the Can U Cut It website for advice on finding work experience and more information about careers in the fashion industry.
Training and Development
You will often start as a design assistant before working your way up to designer – practical experience in the job and a good track record are crucial to progressing in your career.
You can develop your knowledge and skills by attending short courses and masterclasses. For example, London College of Fashion offers a range of courses covering aspects of design and related technical skills.
Postgraduate degrees and diplomas in specialised areas of fashion design and related subjects are available. You will usually need a relevant first degree before doing one of these.
You can gain professional recognition by joining the Textile Institute (TI) and applying for qualifications on three levels: Licentiate, Associate and Fellow. The TI also runs conferences, seminars and short courses.
Skills and Knowledge
- a good eye for colour, texture and shape
- an understanding of the properties of fabrics and how they can be used
- technical skills such as pattern cutting and sewing
- the ability to spot and develop trends
- drawing skills
- the ability to use computer design packages
- an understanding of production processes
- the ability to solve problems
- commercial awareness
- the ability to work as part of a team.
You will usually work for high street retailers or independent labels.
Once you have developed the skills you need to be a successful fashion designer, you can progress to positions such as senior designer or head of department (for example head of womenswear design) or design director.
Alternatively, you may decide to become a freelance designer (employed by a company for a specific project) or become self-employed and launch your own collection.