MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How to Become a Fashion Designer

Fashion designers design and create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch out their designs, choose fabrics and patterns, and oversee the production of their clothing designs. Their designs may be inspired by market and consumer trends, international culture, and/or the visual and fine arts. General job responsibilities of fashion designers include:

  • Researching fashion and consumer trends for ideas for potential designs
  • Hand drawing and/or utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create designs
  • Choosing fabrics and patterns for each clothing design or accessory
  • Marketing designs to retailers or directly to consumers

The BLS predicts fashion designers will experience 3% total job growth between 2014 and 2024. Increases are due, in part, to a slow, yet steady uptick in consumer demand for clothing that is comfortable, fashionable, and affordable. Employers will continue to favor fashion designers with formal education, strong portfolios, and industry experience.

Becoming a Fashion Designer

Although fashion designers are not required to hold a degree, a bachelor’s program in fashion or fashion design can provide the knowledge and skills needed in what is a small and competitive industry. Fashion degree programs can also help students develop a professional portfolio of design ideas. Students also learn industry standards for the design and production of clothing.

To prepare for the job market, students may choose to take classes or earn an associate in related areas of fashion design. Several schools offer online and on-campus bachelor’s degree programs in fashion and fashion design. The Academy of Art University (AAU) offers an online bachelor of fine arts in fashion with a curriculum that includes classes in design, textiles, and merchandising, as well as computer skills and CAD programs. Some of the classes from AAU’s fashion degree program include:

  • Fashion Sketching
  • Textiles for Fashion
  • Computer Graphics for Fashion Design
  • Clothing Construction

Fashion designers may begin their career through an internship, working as a pattern-maker or sketching assistant, or working under the direction of a head designer. As fashion designers build their knowledge of the design process, textiles, and clothing production, they may advance to a position as chief designer or creative director. Some fashion designers start their own company to market their designs to retailers or directly to consumers.

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