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Is a Career in Fashion Design Right for You?

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18th October 2016

“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” Ralph Lauren 

The art of designing clothes is about so much more than just creating something 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’s also arguably one of the most creative jobs in the industry, allowing you to get to grips with garments 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? What exactly is involved in a career in fashion design? How do you get your dream job once you’ve finished school? 

At the Fashion Retail Academy, our Level 3 Fashion Design course will teach you all the fundamental skills you need for a successful career in fashion design. We’ll build on your natural talent to make sure you’re ready to take the first steps into your dream career.  

What does a career in fashion design involve? 

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

It’s the job of the fashion designer to design garments, choose fabrics and patterns, and guide manufacturers on how to make original fashion pieces.

As a fashion designer, your other duties might include: 

  • Keeping up-to-date with current fashion trends to keep their fashion brand relevant 
  • Designing individual pieces or whole collections. For collections, it’s important to create a theme that ties the range together 
  • Bringing designs to life using CAD (computer-aided drawing) 
  • Working alongside other team members to fabricate designs 
  • Pitching 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. You’ll also work alongside garment technologists, who will help you make sure your creative ideas are practical for customers.  

fashion design career path job progression

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. But 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. You’ll also have a sound understanding of different fabric types and their properties. This will help you create designs that work in real-life as well as on paper. 

Skills with sewing and pattern-cutting are a huge advantage. Fashion designers do a lot of experimenting and mock-ups before they even get to work 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 a deep understanding of the whole world of fashion. This is an industry that changes daily, and designers need to know what’s new every moment. Having a working knowledge of fashion brands and the latest trends is invaluable when researching the nature of your newest collection. This helps you make sure what you design works for and appeals to your target audience.  

how to become a fashion designer

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 always being one step ahead of the crowd. 

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, so you’ll need to be able to draw digitally and on paper. 

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 they work for. 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 headfirst. To help illuminate all the aspects of a career in fashion design, we spoke to those already in the industry about what it takes. 

Lucy Sampson, Assistant Menswear Designer at Next, says that “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.” 

fashion design career

When you work, you’ll likely draw inspiration from the world around you, and Lucy is keen to stress the many benefits of being a fashion designer too. “The most exciting element is the travel. I love going to new cities to find inspiration and see what trends are out there; it helps the creative process. The best thing about my job is 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. Designer John Monsalve says, “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 launch a successful fashion design career is to get the required qualifications when you leave school. 

Our Level 3 Fashion Design course takes two years and is the equivalent of three A-levels. 88% of our students at the Fashion Retail Academy go on to further education or a fashion role. Many of our students have gone on to study fashion design undergraduate degrees at prestigious universities like Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Westminster. And you’ll benefit from personalised support from our amazing FRACareers service every step of the way. 

What will I learn on the course? 

The Level 3 Fashion Design course at the Fashion Retail Academy is unique; it’s developed alongside our industry partners to prepare you 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, TKMaxx, 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 academic elements, Level 3 Fashion Design will also give you the opportunity to showcase your designs to the public at an end of year show. When you complete the course, you can choose to go straight into an industry role or continue your studies. Almost all our tutors have experience in industry themselves and have plenty of first-hand knowledge to share with you.  

If you’d like to find out more about the courses we offer at the Fashion Retail Academy and where they could take you, contact our Applicant Services team at info@fra.ac.uk  

[Updated 6 December 2021]

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