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How to become a Fashion Designer

fashion designer careers

What does a Fashion Designer do?

Fashion designers design clothes for designer labels or for the mass production clothing industries. They may also design accessories, footwear, sportswear or millinery.

Only a small minority of designers work for haute couture firms (which design one-off garments for individual customers) or produce their own collections. Most work as commercial designers for clothing manufacturers, producing designs for the mass market.

Designers usual produce designs for two seasons ahead, collaborating with other staff such as buyers and forecasters. The design process involves sketching ideas by hand or on a computer, developing a pattern, cutting and sewing a sample garment, and overseeing the production process. In smaller companies the designer may carry out all of these stages. In larger companies they will often focus on the design aspects – the preparation of patterns and samples will be undertaken by other staff.

What's the working environment like working as a Fashion Designer?

Fashion designers normally work from 9am - 5pm, but may have to work longer hours and weekends to meet deadlines. Part-time work is sometimes possible.

Freelance designers do not have set working hours and may be under considerable pressure to complete existing work and market new designs.

Fashion designers usually work in small studios or workshops, either alone or with a small group of designers. They attend meetings with textile designers, fashion buyers and customers, and visit fabric houses, exhibitions and fashion shows to gain information on colour and fabric trends. There can be extensive travel, both in the UK and abroad.

What does it take to become a Fashion Designer?

To be a fashion designer you need:

  • to be artistic and creative with an eye for colour, texture and pattern
  • good drawing skills
  • a good understanding of the properties of different fabrics
  • practical skills for producing clothes, for creating designs and for making up sample garments
  • skills in pattern-cutting and sewing
  • to be able to communicate ideas through sketches or computer-manipulated images
  • the ability to budget and cost out work
  • to be able to market your own work, negotiate with clients and buyers and organise the administrative and financial side of the business if freelance.

Fashion Designer Career Opportunities

Most opportunities are with clothing manufacturing or retailing companies. It may also be possible to find employment with design studios which produce designs for a number of manufacturers. There are comparatively few opportunities with top design houses.

Progression to senior and head designer may be possible with several years' experience. Further progression to design or technical director may also be a possibility.

Work as a free-lance designer involves marketing work through agents, trade fairs or through buyers from larger companies.

Some designers move into related careers such as fashion stylist, buyer or journalist.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Fashion Designer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Register of Apparel and Textile Designers
5 Portland Place
Tel: 020 7636 5577

Design Council
34 Bow Street
Tel: 020 7420 5200

Chartered Society of Designers
Bermondsey Exchange
179-181 Bermondsey Street
Tel: 020 7357 8088

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Creative and Cultural Skills
11 Southwark St

Richmond House
Lawnswood Business Park
Redvers Close
LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 2399 600

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