A career in fashion design requires not only an expansive skillset, but also tenacity, proactiveness, and focus. You need to consistently learn, work on your skills, and network in order to be as successful in the industry as you strive to be. While it can seem overwhelming at the start, there are tips and guidelines you can follow to effectively jumpstart your career. These are the top ten tips that will start you on the pathway of success in the fashion design industry.
Get a Degree or Certificate in Fashion Design
If further education is an option for you, look into professional training programs. There are many four-year schools that offer fashion design degrees, as well as shorter certificate programs. Immersing yourself in some type of fashion design education will help you learn applicable skills while also exploring different pathways and styles. You will also have the opportunity to collaborate with peers who may become future colleagues, as well as connect with professors and instructors who can open doors for you in the industry.
Continue Learning and Developing Your Skills
Your learning process shouldn’t stop once you are finished with school! Stay at the top of your game by continuing to learn new skills—while also staying sharp on the basics. Work on personal projects that will keep your drawing and sewing skills in shape. Pick up some books to read during your free time, or look for workshops and classes in your area or online. Learn about different materials, design techniques, the history of a certain designer—whatever sparks your interest. It is important that you put in the work to stay sharp and be the best you can be.
Stay Up-to-Date on Current Trends
Trends are constantly evolving, and you need to stay ahead of them as they shift. Subscribe to different magazines and online journals. To see how to best implement trends as they emerge, take a page out of the book of designers you admire and see how trends influence their designs. You need to keep an eye on the industry and take your designs in unique directions as it transforms.
Evaluate Your Passion and Skills to Find Your Niche
As you begin to launch your career in fashion design, it is important to zero in on a niche (or a few niches) within the industry. Ask yourself what you are passionate about and feel inspired to design. While you don’t necessarily need to bind yourself to just one specialty, it will be beneficial to get a clear vision of the pathways you are pushed towards following.
While looking at your passions, it is equally as important to evaluate your skills and decide what area of the industry they would best serve. If you are passionate about designing one style but need to improve specific skills that are necessary to work in that niche, brainstorm how you can work on those skills. It’s important to follow your passion while also looking at how you can best market your skills.
Once you take an inventory of both your skills and your passions, you can more productively and effectively start your search for the perfect job opportunities for you.
Don’t Neglect the Business Side
If you truly want to be successful in the fashion industry, you need to have a well-rounded understanding of the business side. For those who are in school, explore the business class options, such as marketing and finance, so that you can approach your career with a full scope understanding of the industry, rather than just design.
Even if you aren’t in school, there are ways to learn and expand your knowledge through books and online resources. Dedicate time to learning how the supply chain works, and learn about the different duties of each job in the process. Developing an understanding of the whole process will help you become a more business-savvy designer. Keep tabs on other designers who could be potential competitors, and see what they are doing to create, market, and sell to their customers.
Study the Paths and Styles of Successful Designers
Fashion design can be a tricky career to navigate, so gather insight from successful designers who were once in your shoes. Each successful designer has their own unique path that led them to where they are today. Take time to learn the history of some of the fashion designers that inspire you, and learn from both their mistakes and triumphs. In addition to learning the career paths of your favorite designers, study their styles, techniques, and the evolution of their design. You can find so much inspiration from a designer’s body of work, so continue to study and expand your vision as a designer from what they have created.
Build a Stellar Portfolio
In order to get a job in the fashion industry, you need to be able to prove yourself. Put together a portfolio that shows not only your technical skills, but your vision as a designer. Your portfolio should include your resume, sketches and designs created on the computer, and any other pieces that will help you market your skills. The physical portfolio should also be neatly organized in a quality binder so that you present yourself in the most professional way possible.
Be Willing to Start at the Bottom
As you are starting off in the industry, don’t let your ego get in the way of an incredible opportunity. Internships and apprenticeships are excellent entries into the industry. They allow you to make connections, learn from working professionals, put marketable experience on your resume, and possibly get an offer for full-time work. However, in these positions, you’ll likely be doing the less desirable tasks while the higher ups take on the exciting, challenging work. Remember that this is just the beginning, and make the most out of the experience—even if you are fetching more cups of coffee than you’d like.
Be Open to Advice (and Criticism)
You will never grow if you keep your designs to yourself. Share your work with peers, professors or instructors, and potential customers to get valuable feedback—both positive and negative. It can be difficult to receive criticism on something you’ve put your heart into, but take that feedback and use it to help you grow as a designer.
Network and Maintain Connections
A career in the fashion industry is not a solo endeavor. It takes a talented, hardworking team to design, produce, market, and make profitable sales, so do your part to make and maintain important industry connections. A simple cup of coffee with a friend of a friend could lead to a significant career opportunity, so put yourself out there and continue to connect with industry professionals.
As you embark on your journey towards a career in fashion design, implement these tips and stay focused in your pursuit. It takes time to cultivate a career, but with dedication and persistence, you will begin to take enormous strides towards your goals!