How To Become a Fashion Designer

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Fashion DesignerWhat fashion designers do

Fashion designers generate ideas and design concepts to create new accessories, clothing and footwear. These designs may be mass produced or created for a smaller client base. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (, 2012) reports duties of fashion designers may include being knowledgeable about fashion trends, mocking up designs for new fashion wear, being familiar with different types of fabrics, textures, and colors, presenting ideas to clientele, working with other members of a design team, and managing production of a concept.

Fashion design may require slight physical skills such as sketching ideas by hand or using a computer-aided design program for concept mockups. Fashion designers may need to be physically dexterous and know how to cut fabric, use needles and thread, and operate sewing machines and similar equipment. The BLS notes that an actual design can take six months to complete from initial concept to actual production.

How to become a fashion designer

Fashion designers traditionally do not need a postsecondary degree, but may want to take related classes or work on a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree. Classes may introduce them to couture design, fashion illustration, pattern drafting, working with color, and tailoring. Students might also learn about creating tear sheets and doing storyboards, conducting consumer testing, and working as part of a team including hair stylists, photographers and others (BLS, 2012).

Fashion designers could benefit from being a good communicator and decision maker, having creativity, and paying attention to detail, according to the BLS. Many fashion designers focus on creating a portfolio that reflects their ideas and strengths. Employers may look to this portfolio to determine a designer’s skill level and their ability to meet client needs.

The steps to becoming a fashion designer may vary and depend on skill, experience and even location. According to the BLS, fashion designers could make any of the following steps during their career:

  • Gain experience through an internship
  • Look for initial employment as a patternmaker or sketching assistant
  • Seek advanced employment as an assistant designer
  • Work to progress to positions of creative director or design department head
  • Advance to oversee a company’s fashion line or launch their own line

Other occupations that could interest fashion designers include those of art director, industrial designer, purchasing and buying agent, or sewer and tailor, according to the BLS.

No employment is guaranteed as additional qualifications, training or professional experience may be required.

Career outlook for fashion designers

The BLS projects little to no national growth for the field of fashion design between 2010 and 2010. Strong competition should be expected for current positions since the field is relatively small and greater numbers of people are seeking opportunities. According to the BLS, fashion designers earned a national annual wage of $64,690 median in 2011. The lowest 10 percent earned up to $32,700 nationally and the top 10 percent earned up to $127,820 nationally. Wages can vary according to a number of factors such as years of experience, skills and abilities, and specific industry.

According to the BLS, the following industries employed the most fashion designers in 2011: merchant wholesalers, apparel manufacturing, company and enterprise management, specialized design, and market agents and brokers. States with the highest employment level of fashion designers include California, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio and Washington.

Quick Facts: Fashion Designers
*All facts from*

2011 Median Pay

$64,690 per year; $31.10 per hour

Entry-Level Education

None required, but formal education may help

Work Experience in a Related Occupation


On-the-job Training

Internships helpful

Number of Jobs, 2011


Job Outlook, 2010-20

0% nationally


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, July 2012, Fashion Designers,

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 27-1022, Fashion Designers,

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Similar Occupations, July 2012,

Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Fashion Design Certificate,

The Design Academy, Professional Certificate in Fashion Styling: What You Will Learn,