Becoming a Fashion Designer

It seems like everyone is jumping on the designer bandwagon these days. And why not? The fashion industry is sexy – fashion shows, parties, celebrities, recognition, and even fame go along with a career in fashion.

Now herein lies the question: do you go to design school or go straight to starting a business? Not all fashion designers go the traditional route to design school, instead drawing on an entrepreneurial spirit, some “designers” turn their head for business into a thriving fashion enterprise.

Ralph Lauren is an example of a fashion designer who bypassed the sewing machine and headed straight for the marketplace. Which path you take depends on your personal motivation. If you love sewing and pattern making, the traditional route is going to bring the most satisfaction. If you love the fashion world but don’t have the patience for needle and thread, a career in the fast-paced and exciting fashion biz is still possible … read on.

So you want to go out on your own, what’s first?

You’ve always admired fashion designers and their ability to design trendy, unique and wearable fashions season after season, as if by magic. But it’s not magic; it’s a business. And to succeed in business, nobody is an island (meaning that everyone needs a little help to accomplish his or her dreams). And it’s not all glitz and glamour. Being a fashion designer means you have to actually run a business.

Before you print up those business cards, ask yourself if you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves and tackle the not-so fun aspects of fashion.

At first, running a fashion business could mean fulfilling orders yourself (i.e., packing boxes until the wee hours of the morning), steaming clothes repeatedly during fashion shows, and bookkeeping. You could spend only a small percentage of your time actually designing; instead you’re networking, schmoozing and negotiating with suppliers and vendors.

If you’re planning to take the direct-to-consumer path, you’ll have to create a website and maintain it (and most likely have to pay someone to handle these tasks), get a merchant account to process credit card transactions and manage charge back cycles. If you’re not interested in learning what these things mean, then you may decide to work for a large fashion house to learn the ropes.

But if you have the endurance and enough friends with skills or services you can trade for, you could go out on your own and succeed. Today is the age of entrepreneurship, why shouldn’t you get a piece of the pie?

The fashion biz: a reality check

Exciting industries are rife with competition-some that will fade away and others that will give you a run for your money. You have to compete against the big names out there and trendy emerging designers fresh out of the best design schools or veterans of big fashion houses-not to mention all the celebrities popping up with their own labels.

Running your own fashion biz may require you to reach out to suppliers and potential customers all over the world, which means you better be organized. Are you prepared to coordinate the procurement of raw materials like fabric, trim and hardware, so that your manufacturer gets what they need at the right time to deliver a finished product on deadline?

Think of yourself as a business person first and a fashion designer second. If your fashion business fails, you’re the one that suffers. Always keep the business aspect in the forefront of your mind. Some people find this prospect exhilarating, while others can’t think of anything more horrifying. Still interested in starting your own fashion business?

I’m not a designer, can I still work in the fashion industry?

Yes … and no. If you have the design vision, you can pay people to take your idea and turn it into a tangible pattern or design. This is sort of like what a creative director does. If this fits your situation, then you’d better have the business chops to get your business off the ground and you’d better have a solid Core Value Proposition.

What this means is that you must have a strong business proposal and offer a product that’s valuable and in demand. That doesn’t mean you have to sell high-end couture clothing to rich people. Clothiers H&M and Zara focus on fast ready-to-wear fashion at affordable pricepoints.

There is more than one path to becoming a fashion designer. You can learn to sew and go to design school to learn the ins-and-outs of the business. But not everyone learns to draw patterns and stitch together garments. The keys to succeeding in the fashion business are creativity, a good business sense and determination.

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Train For a Career in Fashion Design

Do you notice what everyone is wearing? Do you stay on top of the latest trends in clothing and accessories? Do you have a passion for fashion?

If so, then you should consider a career in fashion design. From the design table to the showroom floor, there are many steps involved in bringing fashionable clothing to the marketplace. Many highly skilled people are involved-designers, pattern makers, cutters, stitchers, photographers, fabric experts, wholesalers, and fashion models. With the right training, you could be one of them.

Fashion designers often work for big companies, helping to make both haute couture (high-priced custom-made clothing) and the off-the-rack clothing that is sold in department stores and boutiques. Fashion designers can also work for themselves, and many own their own independent fashion companies. Specialized designers create footwear and accessories such as purses and hats. From the neighborhood tailor to the international artist who designs “red carpet” dresses for movie stars, the world of fashion is diverse and multi-faceted.

The fashion industry is becoming increasingly global. A ready-to-wear apparel company may have designers in one country, the manufacturing facility in another, and retail outlets all over the world. Successful fashion designers enjoy travel, are interested in all aspects of creating clothing, work well with a variety of people, have a keen eye for trends, and know how to design clothing that people want to buy. Pricing is important, too, because mass market designers need to create clothing that can be manufactured and sold at the lowest possible cost.

Computer skills are increasingly important. Many designers sketch initial ideas with paper and pencil, and then translate these hand sketches to the computer. Computer-aided design (CAD) is increasingly being used in the fashion design industry. CAD allows designers to create clothing designs on virtual models and in a variety of colors and shapes. These CAD templates can then be used to direct the manufacturing process, which is often located thousands of miles away.

What’s the job outlook? Opportunities are out there if you have the right training! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the current decade from 2008 to 2018 “the best job opportunities will be in design firms that design mass market clothing sold in department stores and retail chain stores, such as apparel wholesale firms.” But having the right training is key! Most fashion designers have an associate (two-year) or bachelor’s (four-year) degree in fashion design. Program areas may include design, business, marketing, merchandising, and even human anatomy and computers.

Is the fashion industry competitive? Yes, it is! Many people are lured by the promise of a glamorous lifestyle, but a career in fashion design means plenty of hard work and long hours. This is why quality career education can make a big difference to a person’s success in the competitive fashion marketplace.

How can you get started? Find an accredited school or degree program. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits nearly 300 postsecondary institutions with degree programs in fashion design. The best way to start is to log onto a reputable college directory website. You can enter the search terms that are appropriate for you, such as “fashion design college in New York” or “online fashion degrees.” You’ll be presented with the colleges that meet your criteria. Compare programs and financial aid and career services. You can request free information from the schools that interest you. It’s that easy! Then you can narrow down your choices and make your applications…and in less time than you think you could be training for a rewarding career in fashion design.

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Fashion Designer – Do You Have What it Takes to Get Into Fashion?

For an artist, the world of fashion can seem more like a business than a world of creative fashion design. Aspiring fashion designers need to understand that this is all necessary. Business is the life blood of fashion and the fashion itself is only the soul. Fashion simply wouldn’t be able to see mass production if it were any other way. So you may be a ‘creative’ but as a fashion designer you must develop a passion for not only design but manufacturing challenges, the excitement of marketing and overcoming competition.

In the professional world of fashion, you’ll spend less than 10 percent of your time designing your collections and the rest of the time working out money management issues, and executing marketing strategies. These are the only things that will give life to your creative work and allow you to survive as a fashion designer so your garment designs will hit the store shelves and not just remain the beautiful figments of your creative imagination.

You want to become well acquainted with the business aspect of fashion. Don’t even think of starting out on you own. Work for any designer, design house or clothing manufacturer first so you can become well versed in how the fashion industry works on a daily basis and carefully climb up the ladder from there. Study how other fashion designers made their way to the top. Most of the biggest name designers worked under other designers for years before they started their own labels. They often worked for more than one fashion designer or fashion house. Having different positions and seeing different ways of how business was handled, they gained hands on knowledge, experience, confidence and acquired indispensable assets of credibility and reputation at the same time.

So if you’re getting into fashion design you’ve got to plan on being a lifer if you’re going to one day own your own line. Here is a list of characteristics you need to either have already or acquire as you go along in order to become a successful fashion designer:

- A hard edge against negative feedback and rejection.

- You need a very competitive spirit.

- You need the ability to be organized and be able to function under extreme stress of dealing with difficult people, multiple deadlines and responsibilities.

- You need to love or learn to love the marketing, negotiating and networking game in the world of fashion.

- And you need the willingness to keep your mind open to learning new things as a fashion designer.

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How to Be a Fashion Designer

To be or not to be a fashion designer is a tough choice. Fashion designers are not people you get introduced to all the time. And successful fashion designers are usually too busy or too secretive to share how they got the job. So it can be a dilemma on whether you should take the plunge and invest a small fortune on an unknown future.

No rewarding career in life is ever made to be simple. Fashion design is no exception. Famous designers work extremely hard for their fame and money. But one thing is for sure – if you plan from the start to dedicate yourself, half the battle is won.

Many professionals in the fashion industry will readily agree that fashion students nowadays think that they deserve a paycheck without “paying their dues.” What dues, you ask? Most of them might sound like modern-day slavery. This includes frequent 18-hour work days; weekends spent at work; fetching coffee for the entire department; and being criticized and picked on constantly by co-workers.

Yes, the horror stories you see on reality TV are true. Some of them at least. In a creative industry, anything can happen. So be prepared for it.

Still want to be a fashion designer come hell or rain?

Here are three mantras you should memorize:

1) Your portfolio is your design identity

Just like how celebrity models value their looks and work on maintaining their charm, you have to do the same for your portfolio. Future employers and the public are going to judge you based on your skill to design fabulous pieces. And your portfolio is going to show them exactly what you are capable of.

No matter how hard you work, procrastination can be really hard to beat sometimes. So the best way to get the most versatile fashion design portfolio would be to enroll for a fashion course. Being in school will force you to leave your comfort zones. With the right training and dedication, results are often impressive.

2) Understand why people dress the way they do

The Japanese have their kimonos, the Indians have their saris, and the Chinese have their cheongsams. Even though global fashion is now mainly influenced by top fashion cities like Paris, New York, and London, people around the world still dress differently. A true fashion designer has the EQ to understand what customers want and need.

Are people feeling warm in tropical climates? Do others need to cover up for religious reasons? What kind of jobs do they have? Are your designs simplistic yet stylish enough to be worn every day?

When it comes to fashion psychology, the variables are endless. Yes, you may argue that it is more fun to design for haute couture. But in reality, fashion is more of a business than an art. Even the rich from the highest echelons are still humans. One of the best ways to grow as a fashion designer is to create clothes for everyday people.

The exciting bit about fashion is that it changes every day. So no two days will ever be exactly the same.

3) Find a good fashion school

It can make all the difference in your life. Good schools have the facilities you need. And they also hire lecturers who are well-connected within the industry. Have plans to be an international fashion designer? Consider enrolling into an international school. This allows you to meet many sorts of people from around the world. And it can help you learn a bit more about understanding people like mentioned earlier.

While in school, you will work on assignments necessary to build the best portfolio before you graduate. You will make your own fashion collections, sketch your best designs, and pay homage by studying about the various designs and designers that made fashion history. A fashion design student’s life is nothing short of colorful and exciting.

If you feel that your country may be too conservative for full creative expression, an alternative is to study fashion abroad. Countries like Australia and Singapore are ideal for an English-speaking environment and career opportunities after graduation.

Feeling adventurous? Studying in developing nations can help you save money on craft materials. Not to mention, countries with strong manufacturing industries allow you to build a contact list of reliable suppliers. This will come in handy when you want to start your own label. Living costs in a developing nation is also less costly, so you spend less on your overall education. Countries like China, Thailand, and Sri Lanka can offer you this experience.

Want to find out more about studying fashion design abroad?

Everyone’s case is unique and we want to give the best advice that works for you. To ensure quality education every semester, there are limited seats in Raffles. And they are filling up fast! Need more information? Fill up an enquiry form and an experienced Education Consultant will provide you with a free consultation.

Donald, International Admissions Director of Raffles Education Corporation, a leading education provider in Asia Pacific operating 36 fashion design colleges across 33 cities in 13 countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Sri Lanka & Indonesia). Certifications such as Advanced Diploma, Bachelor and Master Degrees are also offered for various design disciplines such as visual communication, animation, multimedia, interior design, product design, jewellery design, biomedical, infocomm security and early childhood.

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5 Career Options for Fashion Design Degree Holders

Society and parents in general tend to be wary towards encouraging people to work in Fashion for good reason. Firstly, they are right about the industry’s highly selective employment. They’re also right when they say that Fashion is “not what it seems” even though they probably have no idea what they really talking about. But before you decide to throw in the towel and take up accounting courses, or look for a no-brainer 9-5 job, here are a few fashion design careers to consider!

The Popular Path

A fashion designer’s job seems to be surrounded by the glitz and glamour of having your works appearing on glossy magazines and the season’s hottest celebrities. It’s a no-brainer that people want to be fashion designers just like how some covet to be millionaires. To take this career path, you need a strong design portfolio. Prior work experience in fashion will be an advantage. So this is where being an intern during your holidays pay off.

There are two kinds of Fashion Designers:

The In-house Designer:

You will work with a fashion company and design clothes according to their guidelines. The company will own the rights to your designs while you draw a monthly salary from them. Depending on the scale of the company, you may work alone or with a team. Be an in-house designer if you have plans to join the big wigs like Fendi, Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton.

The Freelancer:

Freelancers work for themselves and sell their designs to fashion houses, directly to shops or to manufacturers. After building a good name, you’ll probably start getting people commissioning you for design work. Freelance Designers have the flexibility of work hours and tend to command higher wages, but keep in mind that financial stability is at high risk. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to work as an in-house designer for some experience first before attempting a freelance career.

Other Possible Paths

Most people don’t study fashion design specifically to join these ranks, but if you found that designing isn’t your cup of tea somewhere through your course; these are jobs in the industry that you can consider:

Fashion Buyer:

You will be responsible for travelling around and buying suitable fashions for shops or departmental stores. Your knowledge in Fashion Design will help you to predict trends or identify quality, giving you an edge for this job.

Fashion Journalist:

You will write articles about fashion and source for newsworthy stories in your field. With in-depth fashion know-how and garment composition, you’ll make a perfect critic and can dish out fantastic fashion advice.

Wedding photography:

You will plan locations and carry out photoshoots with newly weds or bridal studios. By knowing the ins and outs of a fashion shoot, you can make a couple look awesome in their matrimony garb.

Verdict

If you find yourself jobless long after you’ve graduated with your fashion design degree, all is not lost. It just means that your portfolio needs a revamp. Read up fashion magazines for inspiration and start sketching for a variety of genres. Employers judge designers by their portfolio because it’s the most accurate representation of the owner that no résumé, job experience or testimonial can replace. It portrays your education, experience and personal style. With the right attitude, the possibilities are endless! If the world is not providing you with any shortcuts, the best solution is to make one yourself.

Donald, International Admissions Director of Raffles Education Corporation, a leading education provider in Asia Pacific operating 33 fashion design colleges across 30 cities in 13 countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, India, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Sri Lanka & Indonesia). Certifications such as Advanced Diploma, Bachelor and Master Degrees are also offered for various design disciplines such as visual communication, animation, multimedia, interior design, product design, jewellery design, biomedical, infocomm security and early childhood.

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