Become a Fashion Designer: Go From Design School to Fashion Jobs

While some art and design jobs, such as multimedia art and graphic design, are integrating more into online endeavors, there are other more traditional ventures you can take with your online art and design degree, such as fashion design. Check out more information regarding the types of online degrees you can get with an art and design program and what coursework is taught.

The Work and Everyday Tasks of a Fashion Designer

Fashion designers help put together all the dresses, suits, shoes and other clothing and accessories consumers purchase every year. Designers:

  • l Study fashion trends
  • l Sketch clothing and accessory designs
  • l Select colors and fabrics
  • l Oversee the production of their designs
  • l And more

Clothing designers create and help produce men's, women's and children's apparel.

Footwear designers create and produce different styles of shoes and boots. Accessory designers create and produce items such as handbags, belts, scarves, hats, hosiery and eyewear.

Designers first have to research current fashions and make predictions about future trends in their initial design process. Designers then visit manufacturers to procure samples of fabrics and decide which fabrics to use with which designs.

After this decision, a prototype of the article using practical materials is created and then tried on a model to see what adjustments to the design need to be made. After the final adjustments and selections have been made, samples of the article using the actual materials are sewn and then marketed to clothing retailers.

In large design firms, fashion designers are the lead designers responsible for creating the designs, choosing the colors and fabrics and overseeing technical designers, who then turn the designs into a final product. Large design houses also employ their own patternmakers, tailors and sewers to create the master patterns for the design and sew the samples.

Designers working in small firms usually perform most of the technical, patternmaking and sewing tasks, as well as design the clothing.

Training and Qualifications: From Fashion Design School to Fashion Jobs

Employers typically seek individuals with a 2- or 4-year degree who are knowledgeable about textiles, fabrics, ornamentation and fashion trends.

Some fashion designers will also combine a fashion design degree with a business, marketing or fashion merchandising degree. This is especially useful for those who want to run their own business or retail store. Basic coursework includes color, textiles, sewing and tailoring, pattern making, fashion history, computer-aided design and design of different types of clothing such as menswear or footwear.

Designers must have an eye for color and detail, a sense of balance and proportion and an appreciation for beauty. They also need to possess excellent communication and problem-solving skills. Sketching ability still remains an important advantage in fashion design, despite the booming digital age. In addition to creativity, fashion designers need to have sewing and patternmaking skills.

Employment/Job Outlook for Fashion Design

Fashion designers held about 20,000 jobs in 2006. 28% of fashion designers worked for apparel, piece goods and merchant wholesalers. The remainder worked for corporate offices involved in the management of companies and enterprises, clothing stores, performing arts companies and specialized design services firms. Roughly 24% were self-employed. 

Employment of fashion designers is only projected to grow 5% between 2006 and 2016, slower than the average for all other occupations. Competition for jobs is intense.

Average Earnings for Fashion Designers

Median annual earnings for salaried fashion designers were $62,610 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,140 and $87,510. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,000, and the highest 10% earned over $117,120.

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