How to Become a Fashion Designer

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Fashion Designer? What Fashion Designer do? Degrees for Fashion Designer, Steps to become Fashion Designer and much more.


Fashion designers design clothes, accessories and entire fashion ranges for designer houses and for retail companies. They study trends, create mood boards, sketch the initial design inspiration and attend trade shows and visit manufacturing units to decide on fabrics and trims. Designers conduct fittings and adjustments on prototypes of their designs and the end product is then marketed to clothing retailers. They oversee the design process right from creating the mood board to the final product that goes to the market. 

Designers work closely with garment technologists and sample machinists. The role could also involve liaising with manufacturers (often based overseas) to make sure designs are reproduced accurately

The nature of a designer’s job varies. Most designers work with designers and manufacturing firms for regular hours while some work as freelancers and work for longer hours. Some designers specialize in one category of apparel while others design across a range of clothing and accessories.

Steps to Become a Fashion Designer

Step1. Prepare in High School

If you are interested and thinking of taking up fashion designing as a career, you should start preparing for it. You can start preparing for it by taking up classes in basic art, drawing and design classes. Some schools even offer fashion design courses. The prerequisites for getting into any post-secondary design program are high school diploma or GED, a portfolio of sketches and other proof of artistic talent.

Step2. Earn a Degree

In order to get a strong foothold in the door of this already competitive industry, fashion designers need to hone their skills and it can be best done with an associate or a bachelor’s degree. Both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees train students in computer-aided fashion design, draping techniques, the history of fashion, textiles, pattern making, garment construction, product development among others. While an associate’s degree program in fashion design emphasizes basic and intermediate skill development, bachelor’s programs often devote more time to industrial production methods, fashion industry and specializations.

Step3. Get an internship

In order to sharpen skills and know how the industry works in the real world, students should get into an internship. This real time, hands on experience will give you the opportunity to observe day to day operations in a professional setting. An internship is also a great way to build your network and make new contacts.

Step4. Create a Portfolio

Making your own portfolio is one of the basic criterias for a fashion designer before they start applying for jobs. A portfolio is a collection of a designer’s best work intended to showcase their style or method of work. A portfolio is used by the designer to show employers their talent and versatility by showing different samples of current work. A fashion designer can fill their portfolio with all the work that they have done during their degree program.

Step5. Obtain a Job

 In order to know the functioning of the industry, it is important to obtain a job. Behind the creative flair is the business acumen that is needed to run a business successfully and a real time job will help you hone your business skills. In addition to learning the creative side of the field, a real-time job will familiarize students with the concepts of finance, sales, strategic thinking etc. 

Step6. Work up the Ladders

Once you have obtained a job, you can work towards advancing to higher levels. There are at least three levels of advancement. As a part of a large design department, you can work towards being a department head or a head designer. If you have spent a required number of years in the industry and you’re pro at your game, you could be hired by a specialty design service firm that caters to upscale clients. You can also start your own design label. 

Types of degrees for Fashion Designing

If you want to pursue a career in fashion designing, the basic requirement is creativity. Equipping yourself with a degree helps you be a step ahead in the game. Following are the degrees to pursue a career in fashion designing:

Associate’s Degree

For those wanting to begin a career in fashion designing in a relatively short period of time, an associate’s degree in fashion design is a great option. It typically takes two years to complete an associate’s degree and costs relatively less than a bachelor’s case. Associate degree programs in fashion design equip you with fundamentals of fashion, technical design skills such as tailoring, sewing, and basic fashion theories. Courses may include 3D design, color theory, computer-aided design, fashion business, computer-aided drafting (CAD), logistics, marketing, fashion and merchandising. Associate degree programs in fashion design are commonly offered by community colleges.

There are two kinds of fashion degrees offered by community colleges as associate degrees. They are Apparel design and Technology of Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. While the former helps you develop your portfolio through illustrations, computer-aided designs and pattern making. The latter option combines creative creativity with data analysis to drive sales and revenue. 

Bachelor’s Degree

If you don't have enough experience but want to establish yourself in the industry at a faster rate, a bachelor’s degree in fashion design might help you do so. Bachelor’s degree in fashion design is a more advanced way to substitute a lack of experience. A bachelor’s degree will provide with all the state-of-the-art facilities to enhance your learning experience which is unlikely to be found in community colleges. The subjects taught during a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design are creative design, technical design, and product development. The curriculum focuses on apparel construction, trend forecasting, conceptual design, fashion illustration, pattern making and the business principles of the fashion industry. As a part of the program, you will have to present a design collection at the end of your four-year graduate degree program.

Just like associate degree, bachelor’s degree programs in fashion designing have 2 major fields: design and fashion merchandising. As a design student, you will of course learn the design process that meet the functional, expressive and expressive needs and desires of consumers. Fashion merchandising will include subjects like planning, sourcing, development, communications etc.

Master’s Degree

Master’s degree in fashion design helps you further specialize in a subcategory or provides opportunity to attend an international school of art. Most bachelor’s degree graduates work for a few years in the industry building contacts and getting to know how the industry works before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in fashion design.

Concentrations to consider

Following are the concentrations to consider while in culinary school:

Associate Degree: Under the 2 years undergraduate degree program in fashion designing, you will be equipped with the basics of the fashion world including design principles, illustrations, fundamentals of the fashion world and brand awareness. 

Principles of design teach how the elements of art actually work. There are seven building blocks namely contrast, rhythm, proportion, balance, unity, emphasis, movement, and variety. The subject teaches how those building blocks are arranged. 

The illustration is the art of communicating ideas through sketching, drawing and painting before beginning to actually work on a design. An illustration is basically the entire design sketched out on a paper. 

Brand awareness will teach all about how to craft an emotional experience for the target audience.

Bachelor’s Degree:  Bachelor’s degree in Fashion design typically is a four years degree program and students will learn in detail including concentrations like fundamentals of design like illustration, garment construction, pattern making, and product development. Students will also be taught computer-aided design tools (CAD), trend forecasting, buying and merchandising. Bachelor’s program will involve many projects, especially based on real-world programs. You will have to create a portfolio and a graduation project which will basically be a design collection. You will have to present your portfolio and design range to a panel of jury members at the end of four years.

Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in fashion is a rare and far less popular degree option. Most people start working after 4 years of graduation. Those that decide to pursue a master’s degree mostly go for an MBA in fashion management and a master’s in fashion design. This degree program includes management subjects like entrepreneurship, fashion marketing management, retail management, supply chain management, etc. This two-year degree program will allow further specialization and deepen your understanding of fashion.

Job Concentrations to consider

With an Associate degree, you can start your career in the fashion industry as an assistant designer , an assistant buyer or a sales assistant.

Assistant designers are practically right and left hands of a head designer. Their jobs include current trend research, preparing color board, crafting ideas and attending fitting sessions.

Assistant Buyer’s main job is to assist the buying head. Their key responsibility areas include vendor management, retail and pricing strategies, inventory management and keeping up with the current fashion and industry trends.

Sales Assistants typically work with retail companies. As a sales assistant, your primary job would be to assist a customer choose from an array of merchandise and services, process payments and maintain a high level of customer service. 

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion design, you will be qualified to work as fashion designer, textile designer, pattern maker, retail manager, e-commerce specialist, fashion communications- fashion photographer, Fashion Journo, fashion stylist among others. 

As a fashion designer you will either work with a design house or you will open your own fashion label. Most fresh graduates work with design houses, retail companies and export houses to gain knowledge about practical work. A fashion designer’s primary job role includes studying trends, sketching designs, making a prototype before creating the actual garment. 

e-commerce specialist is responsible for understanding customer requirements and accordingly planning implementation of appropriate electronic commerce solutions by interacting with embedded systems management, merchant payments and third parties.

A textile designer is a highly skilled person. Textile designers create designs and patterns for woven and knitted fabrics, carpeting, upholstery and other patterned and printed surfaces.

Fashion photographers work closely with designers and fashion houses to ensure that they are portraying the desired image of the brand. They work in studios and on locations for shoots.

With a Master’s degree, you will have opportunities to teach in colleges and universities. Master’s degree will help you develop skills to reach the top position like chief marketing officer and fashion channel directors. 

A chief marketing officer is responsible for determining the best market for their company, and their business using their research and analytical skills to develop strategies and campaigns to increase sales. The chief fashion marketing officer is incharge of creating appeal to the ideal target audience for their fashion company’s product.

As a fashion channel director, your main job responsibilities would be to establish what designs should be created, what will appeal to the target market and how the concepts will be applied and distributed in collaboration with fashion designers who are responsible for creating clothing and fabric.

Stand out skills to become a Fashion Designer

Artistic and Creative: Designers must have an innate sense of creativity when it comes to fashion and styling. They should also be able to express their vision for the design through illustrations. Together with artistic and creativity will help you turn your imagination into a real finished product. 

Detail Oriented: As a fashion designer one of the most important skills is to have an eye for details. A fashion designer must have a good eye for small differences in color, designs, pattern and even the stitching and sewing Part. 

Strong Visualisation Skills: As a fashion designer, to have a strong visualization of your product even before starting illustration is a must. A designer must have strong abilities to visualize how a product will look right from its illustration to being a finished product so that it becomes easier for their colleagues to understand the product while ideation.

Computer Skills: There are many design software tools in the market some of which are an absolute must for a designer to know. They must know how to use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools and some other graphic designing tools. These are the basics that a designer is assumed to know.

Excellent Interpersonal Skills & Team player: A fashion designer cannot work alone to design an entire range. While the initial idea is of the designers, to design an entire collection you need pattern makers, seamstress, sewers  and of course the assistant designers, it is an exhausting process. Sharing a good rapport with the team and mutual understanding helps make your work easier.

Fashion Designer Salaries

Fashion Designer