Fashion Design – Beneath the Frills and Frocks

Fashion Design


“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams,” Ralph Lauren once famously said, and we tend to agree with him. The art of designing clothes is about so much more than just creating an item of clothing for somebody to wear. Clothes are an expression of creativity and uniqueness, so being a fashion designer comes down to being visionary. Recognising how people want to feel. Making your mark on the moment.

No wonder, then, that a fashion designer is likely the job that most people envisage when they think about a career in fashion. It is also arguably one of the most creative jobs in the industry, allowing you to get to grips with clothes at the very first step of the process. If you see yourself as artistic, and you just love to create, draw and imagine, fashion design might just be the right path for you.

Will you be the next Karl Lagerfeld or Diane von Furstenberg? Read on to find out more about a career in fashion design and what exactly that entails, as well as how you can get started on the next steps towards your dream job once you’ve finished school.

What does a career in fashion design involve?

A fashion designer exists at the very foundation of any fashion house or brand. They’re the ones who create those amazing clothes and collections that you see on the catwalks and on the high street. Fashion designers might specialise in one specific area, such as footwear or jewellery, and can either work in-house or on a freelance basis.

Put most simply, it is the job of the fashion designer to create designs, choose fabrics and patterns, and guide manufacturers on how to make original fashion pieces. Other duties might include:

  • Keeping up-to-date with current fashion trends to inform work and keep fashion brand relevant
  • Create individual pieces or collections – for collections, it is necessary to create a theme that ties the collection together
  • Bring designs to life using CAD (computer-aided drawing)
  • Work alongside other team members to fabricate designs
  • Pitch ideas to Creative Directors

As a designer, it’s likely you’ll work in a team with other creative individuals, all working towards the same season or collection.

In order to sufficiently equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in a career in career in fashion design, the Fashion Retail Academy offer the Level 3 Fashion Design course (download our prospectus for full details). It will build upon your natural talent to ensure you’re ready to take the first step into your dream career. Let’s take a closer look at specifically what skills you’ll need.

What skills do I need for a career in fashion design?

As a fashion designer, the most important thing you can have is a good eye. So what does this mean, exactly? You’ll be good at matching shapes, textures, colours and patterns. You’ll appreciate the visually appealing, as well as the unusual. Ideally, you’ll also have a sound understanding of different fabric types and their properties – this will help you to create designs that work in real-life as well as on paper.

Skills with sewing and pattern-cutting are a huge advantage, as fashion designers do a lot of experimenting and mock-ups before they even get to working on the final piece. You should be creative and imaginative – the best designers aren’t afraid to push boundaries and think outside the box. Think about the revolutionary designs of Alexander McQueen!

Additionally, you’ll have your finger permanently on the frenetic fashion pulse. This is an industry that changes daily, and designers have to keep on top of what’s in vogue at all times. In the same way, having a working knowledge of fashion trends and brands is invaluable when researching the nature of your newest collection. This helps to ensure that what you design is going to work for, and appeal to, your target audience. The ability to spot a developing trend from a mile away and quickly jump to work on it will put you at a huge competitive advantage. As a fashion designer, it’s all about being one step ahead of the crowd at all times.

You should be comfortable with sketching out your creations. This will be one of your primary methods of recording your ideas and sharing them with others, so it helps if you can quickly and consistently produce presentable designs. Another way you will bring your designs to life is through CAD drawings.

You should also be confident with pitching your ideas, as fashion designers constantly need to prove their designs are going to make money for the brand or fashion house in question. For this reason, you should be able to take constructive criticism! A lot of designers work in teams, so a successful applicant is a natural team-player.

What’s a career in fashion design really like?

Drawing all day and sharing your creative vision with the world – sounds great, right? As with any career, however, it’s a good idea to take the time to figure out what a career in fashion design is really like, before diving in head first. To help illuminate all the aspects of a career in fashion design, take a look at what those already in the industry have to say about what it takes.

Graduates should be wary of viewing fashion design as a purely artistic endeavour.

You may be producing fashion designs – but they still need to speak to an overall business need and the preferences of your audience at large. Put simply, it isn't just about drawing whatever comes to your head. You need to guide your imagination with your business savvy.

As a designer, you’ll likely draw inspiration from the world around you. “The most exciting element is the travel and I love going to new cities to find inspiration and see what trends are out there. This helps the creative process,” says Lucy Sampson, Assistant Menswear Designer at Next.

What’s more, there are many tangible benefits of being a fashion designer, and Lucy is keen to stress this: “the best thing about my job are seeing my designs in-store or on the high street, and knowing that something I created is a top 10 seller.”

It’s also worth keeping in mind that aspects of fashion design are not always as straightforward as they may seem: “working with the fabrics and other textiles, you can come across many difficulties because the materials might be problematic, or perhaps the idea on paper is not that easy to bring into reality,” says designer John Monsalve. Sometimes, it’s necessary to make compromises on your artistic vision to make sure you can achieve your goal.

How do I get into fashion design?

The best way to ensure success in a fashion design career is to get the required qualifications when you leave school.

Our Level 3 Design course takes place over 2 years and is the equivalent of three A-levels. What’s more, 90% of the graduates from this course go on to further education or a fashion role. It is, in short, one of the best ways to take those crucial first steps towards your dream job.

What will I learn on the course?

The Level 3 Fashion Design course at the Fashion Retail Academy is unique; it’s informed by industry to prepare students as thoroughly as possible for the “real world” of fashion design. You’ll also receive masterclasses from some of the most respected names in the industry, from well-known brands such as New Look, T K Maxx, and NET-A-PORTER. 

Here are some of the elements which will be covered in the course:

  • Use of textiles
  • Clothing construction
  • Digital print
  • CAD
  • 2D and 3D problem-solving
  • Textile manipulation
  • Hand and machine-stitching

Combining both practical and theoretical components, Level 3 Fashion Design will also give you the opportunity to showcase your designs to the public in an end of year show. This is invaluable practice: it’s your time to shine! Upon completing the course, students can opt to go straight into industry or to go on to an Level 4 course with us here at Fashion Retail Academy.

Download our prospectus to find out more about our Level 3 Fashion Design course.

Talk to the tutor

To guide you along the way, we enlisted the help of some of the brightest stars in the fashion industry. They bring their passions, experience and expertise to the FRA to help you succeed in your chosen field.

One of your tutors in Level 3 Fashion Design is Jacoob Kimmie.  Jacoob made his first dress aged 11, and by 20, he was working as a trends writer to keep up-to-date with everything happening in the fashion industry, as well as an illustrator in order to fine-tune his skills.

Jacoob is the perfect person to guide you through your Level 3 Fashion Design course – not only has he exhibited his work at the prestigious London Fashion Week, but he has also exhibited in countries all over the world.

To find out more about the Level 3 Fashion Design course at the Fashion Retail Academy and the opportunities it offers, download our prospectus today.