How to Become a Fashion Designer: Facts, Training & Job Description

We are sure that if we ever dipped our toe into the world of fashion design that our creations would land us squarely on every worst dressed listed imaginable. Who knew that plaid and stripes together was such a crime against fashion? We’ll stick to our day jobs and leave the fashion designing up to you if that’s ok.

Today we were flipping through a copy of Elle magazine and it got us thinking about what it takes to be featured on the pages and to have people drooling over your designs. That’s what brought us to write this today. We wanted to know how to become a fashion designer, so we did a little digging to find the answer. Here’s what we came up with!

How to Become a Fashion Designer

There are no rules of becoming a fashion designer and you can certainly march to the beat of your own drum if it floats your creative boat. There are some things that you can do to improve the chances of your success in the fashion world. Let’s talk about how to become a fashion designer now.

First Stop: Go to School

A lot of successful fashion designers start out by earning a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or fashion design. Enrolling in fashion courses will give you a great opportunity to learn about the different types of textiles, fabrics, technical techniques and new technology that aids designers with executing their ideas. Another big plus about going to fashion school is that it gives you a chance to start designing pieces that can go into your portfolio.

There are around 300 institutions that the National Association of Schools of Art and Design has accredited and a lot of them have degree options specifically for fashion design. Some of these schools will require you to submit sketches or other various types of artistic work. There may also be a requirement that you have completed a few introductory art and design courses before acceptance as well.

Here are a few examples of schools with fashion degree programs:

Sorry, we could not find any matching schools

Next on the List: Internship Bound

It’s very common for fashion designers to vie for a spot as an intern with different designers or fashion houses. This is one of the best ways to get your foot into the fashion door. Some interns are able to work as design assistants or in the show rooms. This is a learning opportunity that is pretty priceless because when else are you going to have a front row seat into the world that you are trying to be a part of. You will learn all of the ins and outs of the industry while getting your face out.

Almost There: Now Climb the Ladder

Once your interning days are over and you’ve completed your degree, you have the chance to possibly snag a job with the designer you have interning for. You may work your way towards becoming chief designer, design department head, creative director or various other positions within a brand or company. You can still use this step as a chance to learn even more and you may even be ready to start selling your own designs and finding your ground as a solo designer while still getting a solid paycheck.

Here’s a Tip

While you are working your way through the yards of fabric, hungry models and temperamental lead designer, one this is super important. Don’t forget to keep working on your own portfolio. Build that bad boy up so that when you are ready to spread your wings, you can wow the fashion world with your awesome designs!

Should You Become a Fashion Designer?

We’ve told you how to become a fashion designer, but question now is – should you become a fashion designer? This is probably a question you’ve asked yourselves multiple times, but didn’t know how to really answer. Well lucky for you we came across a fun little quiz that asks you some hard hitting questions and will help you determine if a career in fashion is for you. If you’re up for a bit of fun and what to see what the quiz says, click here!

Fashion Designer School

We’ve covered a lot of really good ground so far, so let’s keep going and take a look at some schools that offer fashion design programs!

The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale

The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale offers quite a few different degree options that are sure to set you on the right path to become a fashion designer. Students that are interested in attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale have the option of selecting the following degrees:

There are a lot of interesting classes that you can take at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for all degree and diploma options offered. You’ll be able to cover courses in Fashion History, Apparel Pattern Details, Fashion Project Development, Digital Fashion Portfolio and Fashion Business Management.

Academy of Art University

The Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco and is known for turning out graduates that go on to make waves in the fashion industry. They even tout themselves as being one of the best fashion design schools around. Well if that’s not tooting your own horn, we don’t know what is! The Academy of Art University offers several degree programs that will open many doors for students and may even lead to a debut at Fashion Week. Here are the degree options:

  • Associate of Arts Fashion Degree
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fashion Journalism
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts Fashion Degree
  • Master of Fine Arts Fashion Degree
  • Master of Arts Degree in Fashion Journalism

With all of those degree options, the courses available seem endless. Here is a sample of some of the classes that are available at the Academy of Art University: Drawing for Fashion, Fashion and Merchandising, Introduction to Fashion Journalism, Introduction to Product Development and Fashion Figure & Rendering Techniques. Sounds like the students at this school have some interesting options, color us jealous.

International Academy of Design & Technology

The International Academy of Design & Technology is a stop that many fashion designers make on their way to the runway. This school offers hands on training from experienced professionals that have been in the fashion business for quite some time. There are a few different degree options offer here as well, so let’s see what the choices are:

Fashion Designer Salary

We all know in this day and age money makes the world go ‘round. You won’t be able to fund your many trips to Mood for fabric and other fashion accoutrements, so it’s time to talk about the dinero!

 The Bureau of Labor Statistics is our one stop shop when we need to find out the wages for the careers that we write about. We consulted their website for the salary expectations of fashion designers and found just what we needed. As of May 2013, the annual median salary for fashion designers was $63,760.

If pop culture tells us anything, we know that some designers make significantly more than that once they are reached mainstream success. We also know that there will lean times at the beginning of your career that you may make substantially less as well. There may be a bit of ladder climbing to do in order to see those dollar signs, but that’s pretty common place for any profession.

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Bow Down to the Gods and Goddesses of Fashion

As a designer-to-be, we are sure that you have a list of your favorite fashion designers that you find to be particularly inspiring and whose work you go gaga over. We also figured that knowing a bit about some of the other interesting, innovation and amazingly talented designers out there would be cool too. So it is in that vein that we bring you this section loaded with giants of the fashion world. Behold their glory and be inspired.

Alexander McQueen

This amazing designer from the UK burst onto the scene in 1992 and immediately sparked controversy while working for the legendary Savile Row tailoring house. Rumor has it that he got a little cheeky and spray painted some not so gentleman like words on the inside of a suit that he made for Prince Charles. His larger than life style and personality later translated into his own fashion line where he showcased his showmanship and superb talent. Tragically, McQueen died in 2010 leaving his company to his best friend and colleague, Sarah Burton. Burton hasn’t missed a beat and continues to let Alexander McQueen’s legacy live on in pieces that meld British tailoring with French couture.

Diane von Furstenberg

If you have even worn a wrap dress it’s because of Belgian born design powerhouse, Diane von Furstenberg. The very first release of her fashion line in 1972 made von Furstenberg an instant fashion legend. Her DVF fashion house is still in full swing to this day and continuously produces full lines of ready-to-wear clothes, swimwear, accessories, luggage and of course more wrap dresses. In 2005 Diane was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2006 she was elected to be president of the CFDA.

Marc Jacobs

Current fashion would likely be lost without the influence of fashion designer, Marc Jacobs. Never one to miss a beat, Jacobs infusing his style and creativity to each season’s line. He has kept the fashion world on the edge of its seat since the release of his signature collection in 1986. He was the creative director of the icon Louis Vuitton from 1997 to 2013. He ultimately decided to leave the design house to focus more on his Marc by Marc Jacobs collection that he launched in 2001.

Rebecca Minkoff

If you would have heard the name Rebecca Minkoff 10 years ago your likely response would have been “Rebecca Who?” Minkoff’s name is now synonymous with edgy accessories and trendsetting apparel that celebrities and fashionista alike go bananas for. In her short 9 years on the fashion scene she has had no problems with elbowing her way to the top of fashions most coveted designers.

Zac Posen

Zac Posen is easily deemed as the golden child of the fashion world. Few designers have had the immediate success that Posen as experienced since his 2001 debut collection. He had his very first runway show in 2004 that earned him the CFDA Swarovski – Perry Ellis Award for Ready – to –Wear. Posen is never one to shy away for designing pieces that are premium examples of elegance, impeccable tailoring, flowing details and show stopping trends. Posen has become the fashion darling that is adored by fellow designers, fashion critics and of course his bevy of celebrities bodies that are clamoring to wear his creations.

Say Hello to Nick Verreos!

If you’re anything like us, you have been watching Project Runway since the old days when it was still on Bravo and you likely remember season two designer Nick Verreos (Gasp…that was all the back in 2005!). Nick didn’t make it to the Project Runway finish line, but that hasn’t stopped him from kicking down fashion doors since his time on the show.

Nick has gone onto great things since his stint on reality TV. He has a very successful gown line creatively named NIKOLAKI Designs. He and his partner in life and work, David Paul, create beautiful gowns that are coveted by models and celebrities all over the globe. Nick also spends times as a fashion expert and has a web series on the Look TV channel on YouTube.

We checked out his videos on YouTube and we were instantly amused and drawn in by the great information that he provides to aspiring designers. We want to share one of his videos in particular with you today. In the video below, Nick describes what it is that he really does as a designer. We know that we kind of already told you what a designer does in a section at the start of the marathon fashion extravaganza, but Nick has a unique perspective that we are definitely lacking as a lowly writer. So watch his video and prepare for a much needed giggle or two.

3 Important Things Every Fashion Designer Needs

The fashion industry is cut throat and as Heidi Klum aptly states at the beginning of each Project Runway episode, “One day you are in and the next day you are out.” Well said, Heidi…well said indeed. It is with that in mind that we feel compelled to tell you about the 3 most important things that you will need to have to be an amazingly successful designer that will give even Giorgio Armani a run for his money.

Put your sketch book down and take note of these 3 things:

 If Creativity is Your Name then Fashion is Your Game

This is probably the single most important thing that you’ll need and want to have as a budding fashion designer. Having a rocking creative edge and just the right artist prespective will take you places in the fashion industry. As a fashion designer you want to stand out in neon among a sea of beige. Striking the balance between stylish, distinctive and functional pieces is going to be your ticket to being featured in Vogue and having Anna Wintour sitting front row at your runway show.

Having Excellent Skills Will Pay Your Bills

Once you have nailed down your creativity, it will be time to put it into motion with fabric. Many in the fashion industry underestimate the power of having technical skills beyond being able to sketch. Knowing how to cut fabric, sew, tailor, and use the most updated computers and software will prove to be invaluable skills that will give you an advantage over those that are still drawing stick figures. The more you know about the entire design process from first sketch to final product, the better your odds of getting somewhere in fashion are.

Stay in the “Know” and You’ll Be Ready for the Show

Ok, we are sure you are over our bad attempts at rhyming to keep you interested, so we will stop now. Keeping your finger on the pulse of fashion and staying submersed in the industry will not only make you a better designer, but also a more intuitive one. Seeing what trends are hot at the moment is a great way to guide you to creating what the trends of tomorrow are going to be.

Final Grade

We like to think of our final grade section like the highly anticipated September Issue that is released by Vogue each year. Ok, so that may be a bit of an overzealous comparison on our part, but we take our job just as seriously as Anna Wintor. Take a look at the real stitch of becoming a fashion designer.

Degree vs. Debt: B+

Most fashion designers go to fashion design school and earn a bachelor’s degree, so that’s usually about 4 years of school. If you have to get a loan to fund your time in school, we feel pretty confident that you will have zero issue with paying your student loan back once you become a designer. You read our salary section, so we are sure that you can see where we are going with this. Even in the most entry level position in fashion design makes pretty darn good money. If mediocre sewing skills and superb stick figure drawing could garner us a career as a fashion designer we would totes “make it work” as Tim Gunn would say.

Difficulty of Degree: B+

We can’t find much to cringe about when reviewing a great many of the courses that are taken during fashion design school. It’s a great place to let your creative juices flow and to learn anything and everything that you can about design, technique, fabric, art and the fashion industry as a whole.

Happiness Quotient: A

This is a career that you enter into because you love fashion and everything that has to do with it. You get to be around creative people, use your own creativity and possibly make beautiful clothes that are in magazines and worn by many people. None of that sounds too bad to us! Sure, if you make it to the big leagues with runway shows, magazine pictorials and best/worst dressed lists, you may feel a bit of pressure and stress. The positives far supersedes the negatives in this career and we are sure that you will be grinning from ear to ear the first time you see that Kate Winslet is wearing your gown to the Academy Awards.

Job Outlook: D

No, you don’t need to get your eyes checked. Yes, we really did just give the job outlook for designers a D for a grade. Sorry, guys…but the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t lie and they are projecting the job growth to expand by an abysmal 3% from 2012 to 2022. That number pretty much speaks for itself, so we will leave this section with a simple: yikes.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We’d like to take a moment to thank you all for reading our lame fashion jokes and for reading this piece. As payment for humoring us, here are some super helpful links that will expound upon the information that we have already laid out for you. Do us a favor and remember us fondly when you are rubbing elbows with Stellar McCartney and Christian Siriano.

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