Do you dream of creating clothes, accessories, or shoes? Then you might want to consider a career in fashion design!
There’s no formal path to becoming a fashion designer: some designers become well-known and successful without any formal education or training. Others, however, take a more traditional route into the industry. In this article, we’ll explain how to become a fashion designer, the average fashion designer salary, and the skills you’ll need to be successful.
What Does a Fashion Designer Do?
A fashion designer is someone who designs how garments look: their shape, color, fabric, texture, trimmings, etc. Fashion designers are responsible for bringing beauty and function together to create clothes (and shoes and accessories) that we not only need, but want, to wear. There are fashion designers at all ends of the spectrum: those who design clothing for the masses and those that design haute couture items that are only designed to be worn by the extremely wealthy and famous.
How to Become a Fashion Designer: Step by Step
There’s no formal training or licensing required to be a fashion designer, so there are no set steps for this career path. That being said, there are steps that you should take to determine what kind of fashion design you want to pursue and get the training you need.
#1: Develop Your Skills
Before you start a career as a fashion designer, you’ll need to develop your skills in several key areas. Fashion designers need to have a strong understanding of art, as fashion designers will draw renderings of their clothing before they create them.
You’ll also need to practice sewing. Most fashion designers, particularly those that are just starting out, create their clothes themselves, either by hand or using a sewing machine. You should have an understanding of how to sew well across different types of fabrics.
You’ll also want to study fashion itself. Learn about the different designers that exist (and have existed). Study their work and their career paths. Decide what you take inspiration from and what you would rather not learn about or emulate.
#2: Decide Which Type of Fashion You’re Interested In
The type of fashion you’re interested in will dictate your career path and training as a fashion designer. A critical step in your career is to decide what type of fashion designer you want to be. Do you want to design ready-to-wear clothing for a common brand, like Gap? Or are you more interested in the avant-garde styles that grace runways? Deciding what kind of fashion you’re interested in will help you understand the educational path you’ll need to take.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to go to fashion school, you’ll need to get some on-the-job experience to make it in the industry. Since fashion is a visual medium, potential companies will be interested in your portfolio. They’ll want to see samples of garments you’ve created and designs you’ve drawn. Working as an intern or apprentice is a great way to build up your portfolio while getting feedback from real, working fashion designers.
Similarly, when you work at or for an established fashion designer, you’ll learn about all aspects of the fashion business: not just design, but sourcing fabrics, fitting clothes to models, pattern-making, draping, styling a shoot and more. It’s important to have all of these skills if you want to succeed as a designer yourself.
How to Become a Fashion Designer: What Classes to Take
If you decide to go to fashion school, you’ll take classes in a variety of areas: art, business, design, and more. What you take will depend on your eventual major. If you study at a fashion school, you’ll have many different options for your degree, like Accessories Design, Fabric Styling, Fine Arts, and more.
Choose a degree that aligns with your ultimate fashion aspirations. Do you want to be an accessories designer? Then you should take classes (and potentially major in) Accessories Design. If you don’t want anything to do with accessories, then there are better courses for you to take.
Having an understanding of what you want to do after graduation will help dictate the best course of programming for you to take while you are in school. If you’re not sure what to take, trying speaking with your college counselor or advisor.
Fashion Designer Salary
As you might expect, fashion designer salaries range widely, with the highest-end fashion designers making billions and billions of dollars every year. That being said, the average fashion designer salary is around $65,000 per year.
How to Become a Fashion Designer: Top Schools
Have you decided that you want to go to fashion school? Then you will want to attend a program that trains you well and gives you a good chance at securing your dream job after graduation. These are the top three fashion schools in the United States.
For a more comprehensive list of the top fashion schools, check out this blog post.
#1: Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, NY
FIT is arguably the most famous school for people who want to be fashion designers. Its programs prepare students for professional excellence in design and business. FIT offers many different undergraduate degree programs, including Accessories Design, Fabric Styling, Fashion Business Management, and Jewelry Design. FIT offers 48 degree programs in fashion and other creative and business professions and is consistently ranked as one of the best fashion schools in the world.
The school takes students on frequent field trips to corporate headquarters, design studios, galleries, and museums. Finally, many alumni are particularly successful in the business side of fashion and act as VPs, presidents, and CEOs.
#2: Parsons The New School, New York, NY
Unlike FIT’s wide-range of fashion degree options, the New School takes a more focused approach to fashion, offering only a BFA in fashion design for fashion-minded undergraduates. There are many other strong programs offered through the school, however. The New School is a well-respected school in all sorts of design fields, including Fine Arts and Interior Design.
The fashion design program is housed in Parson’s School of Fashion, which has some strong fashion Master’s programs. Students can take advantage of the many professional opportunities available in NYC, especially with the school’s list of notable alumni (including Isaac Mizrahi and Donna Karan).
#3: Pratt Institute, New York, NY
Fashion design students at the Pratt Institute have access to some great resources, in part due to the school’s location in New York City. Guest lecturers from all areas of the industry often give talks and seminars. Students at the Pratt Institute also end up with some great internships at companies like Rag & Bone, for example.
The school also has strong design programs in other areas, including industrial and interior design. Students also get strong career support from Pratt’s Center for Career and Professional Development, which presents dozens of programs each year on topics like career prep and innovation.
Looking for other unique ways of combining your interests in college? Consider a dual degree or double major, two other degree programs that let you explore multiple subjects.
Curious how long it'll take to complete your fashion designer program? If you're doing a bachelor's degree, this article about how many years it takes to complete a bachelor's program can help!
Struggling to figure out what you want to study in college? Have no fear—our guide will help you choose the best major for you, one step at a time.Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.