Job Description

A fashion designer creates the patterns for clothing, accessories and footwear for a company. They use visual art to show their ideas and work with seamstresses or textile workers to help create their design.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Seeing designs made into real world clothes and accessories.
  • Being able to connect with a creative community.
  • Given opportunity to travel.
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

A fashion designer can have many different tasks in a single day, or focus on a single task for several days. They may work for a larger apparel manufacturer or retail corporation. Some fashion designers are also able to self-employ and perform their work on a contract basis.

It can take an average of six months for designs to become reality. During this time, a fashion designer can expect to:

  • Keep an eye on trends and guess which designs the public will enjoy, as well as visiting trade shows to review samples.
  • With a team, or on their own, plan a theme for a larger collections and design the garments within it.
  • Create designs with paper/pencil, and with Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Work with manufacturers to determine fabrics, styles, and colors for your designs.
  • Work with marketing to sell designs to apparel stores or directly to consumers.
  • Supervise the making of your final design.

After working on a design, either with paper or a computer, designers will sometimes sew their own prototype and use this experience to select the best fabrics for the garment’s use. They will determine the final textiles used when the product is manufactured.

Fashion Designers may be assigned specific areas: accessories, footwear, clothing, or costuming (for performing arts).

Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Strong written and oral communication skills.
  • Creativity and problem solving.
  • Attention to detail and well organized.
  • Flexible and innovative in problem solving.
  • Self-motivated.

Technical Skills

  • Accounting and spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel for budgeting
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) such as AutoCAD, or pattern making software.
  • Graphic design and photo editing skills (such as Adobe Photoshop)
  • Understand of design techniques and blueprint creation for garments.
Different Types of Organizations
  • Apparel Merchant
  • Contract/Self-Employed
  • Company Management
  • Theatrical or Motion Picture Industry
  • Apparel Manufacturing
Expectations and Sacrifices

Becoming a fashion designer can be done without a bachelor’s degree, those this can help build a network and connections for employment. This is a challenging industry to break into. You will need a strong portfolio, good connections, and the right opportunity to take advantage of. It is possible you will need to spend many years in a different graphic design, or similar career, before being hired as a graphic designer.

In order to be seen and known in this industry, it is likely you will have to work long and flexible hours, be willing to travel, and be willing to set your ego aside so you can take good criticism. If you do choose to attend school, you will likely be able to take and internship which you can use to help build connections and have a better chance of finding employment.

Current Trends

Like many consumable good industries, the fashion industry is incorporating more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. There is also a movement to make fashion more inclusive, especially toward individuals of different sizes.

The market is also increasing its need for digital purchasing. Online sales are continuing to grow every year. Fashion is also more focused on athletic wear that can be worn in a variety of settings – athleisure.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Drawing and visual arts.
  • Playing dress-up
  • Working in theater, especially costuming and backstage.
  • Designing clothing for dolls or action figures.
Education and Training Needed
  • Bachelor’s – Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising
  • Develop a portfolio
  • Internship
Things to do in High School and College
  • Participate backstage in Drama productions helping with costumes.
  • Learn to sew and work with textiles and variety of fabrics.
  • Take Computer-Aided Design courses
  • Take visual arts, especially illustration
  • Intern at an apparel company.
Typical Roadmap
Fashion Designer roadmap
How to land your 1st job

It can be very difficult to become a fashion designer. You will likely need to work in similar positions until you are able to find an opportunity to showcase your designs. You will be expected to have a portfolio showcasing your designs – this will be the primary way you are chosen for a position.
In addition, creating a strong network via an internship or similar work is key. It is not an easy career to find volunteer work for, so work hard during college to secure an internship in a company where you can learn more about the industry.

Recommended Resources


  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design
  • Fashion Group International
  • The Underfashion Club
Plan B
  • Advertising/Promotions Managers
  • Marketing Managers
  • Interior Designers
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Fabric/Apparel Patternmakers
Words of Advice

Becoming a Fashion Designer is a very challenging career path. Be sure you are prepared to have a different job, one that you enjoy, while you wait for the dream opportunity to come along. If being a fashion designer is the career you truly want to work in, keep your eyes open for any opportunities and be sure to keep you portfolio up to date at all times.


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