How to Become a Fashion Designer (A Step-By-Step Guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have a keen interest or passion for fashion, you may find a career as a fashion designer to be fulfilling. While a formal education is not always necessary, there are several key skills that you can develop with professional training to benefit your career prospects. Understanding the requirements and daily responsibilities of a fashion designer can be essential for determining whether this is the right career path for you. In this article, we explain how to become a fashion designer, list their day-to-day responsibilities, discuss their required skills and provide the average salary of a fashion designer.

What is a fashion designer?

A fashion designer creates items of clothing, shoes and accessories. They oversee the fashion process from the initial design concept to the final production. When learning how to become a fashion designer, it can be essential to have a good understanding of what the profession requires. Fashion designers typically oversee all aspects of the manufacturing process, such as the handling of textiles, finalising any design details and creating the physical product. They can either be independent or work as part of a design and clothing company.

Independent fashion designers usually work for themselves on their own clothing lines. They often have more freedom and control when it comes to design concepts, as clothing companies that employ fashion designers usually provide briefs or guidelines to work within. These skilled professionals may additionally specialise in producing a certain type of clothing, such as children's wear, or a particular style, like athletic wear or high fashion.

How to become a fashion designer

Here is a seven-step guide showing you how to become a fashion designer:

1. Pursue a university degree

While not always necessary, obtaining a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject to fashion design can provide you with the latest technology, marketing and design skills employers often require. You may consider modules specific to freelance work and business enterprise if you want to become an independent fashion designer. Your university is also likely to have access to studio space and professional opportunities that you can use to build your portfolio. Examples of relevant degrees include fashion design, fashion marketing, textiles, fashion management and art and design.

2. Choose a specialist design area

You can decide if there is an area in fashion design that you want to specialise in. This can focus on age, such as children's wear, or encompass a specific style of clothing, such as sportswear or high couture. Having a specialty often means you can develop a more detailed skill set to boost your career. You can also find placements with fashion companies that focus on your specified area of expertise and network more easily with this common ground.

3. Build a design portfolio

Developing a portfolio can be essential for booking freelance work, gaining internships and succeeding in job interviews. A portfolio encompasses all your design work alongside brief pieces that detail any reasoning or justifications for design choices. The purpose of your design portfolio is to naturally convey your artistic ability and achievements, which can highlight your skills along with your unique approach to project briefs.

4. Gain professional experience

Gaining relevant professional experience is valuable for learning the role of a fashion designer in a more direct way. For those choosing not to go to university, getting industry experience is often essential for building your portfolio and technical skills. You can gain this experience through part-time work, internships and apprenticeships. While employers may offer to pay for these positions, it is likely to be on a voluntary basis because of the high demand. To find work experience, try emailing design houses or searching on the Indeed Job Board.

Related: What Is an Internship: Everything You Need to Know

5. Build a network in the industry

Networking can be helpful when pursuing a creative career, as the fashion industry advertises opportunities differently compared to other industries. Many professionals within the fashion trade utilise their contacts to fill job positions or share opportunities, so building a network can be important. You can consider building a network by making connections with people through university or internships and online via social media. These connections are often valuable resources. From asking for product feedback to receiving apprenticeship offers, your connections can help to build your career as a designer.

Related: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

6. Apply for jobs

Once you have gained enough training and professional experience, you may be ready to apply for full-time jobs. You can search for fashion designer jobs online or reach out to clothing companies through email to ask about openings. It can be beneficial to ensure that you read the job description and requirements thoroughly to certify that you qualify. You can also use this information to help personalise your cover letter, portfolio and CV to the specific job opening. For example, look at the skills the job description lists and highlight where you have used them within your cover letter.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter

7. Become self-employed

If you have decided to be self-employed, you may want to start a freelance fashion design company or a clothing brand. You may consider starting a website, attending trade fairs or using your network to promote the business. You can build up your brand using social media platforms to help you gain followers and increase sales.

What does a fashion designer do?

The daily responsibilities of fashion designers can depend on whether they are independent or employed as part of a design team. Below you can find some of their typical duties:

In-house fashion designers

An in-house fashion designer typically works as part of a design team on behalf of a clothing company or design house. The design team usually receives a client brief or project to work with. In response to a brief, their primary duties may include identifying fashion trends, which can comprise a specific colour, style or clothing material. In-house fashion designers can use these fashion trends to organise concept boards. Concept boards portray a concept inspired by the brief and provide designers with an effective method of keeping the client updated on the general shape that the design is taking.

Fashion designers may also produce and add fabric samples, illustrations and mini prototypes to help create a clearer vision for the design. They often budget these ideas in line with the brief guidelines, which involves estimating the material and production cost. The design team liaises with other departments, such as merchandise, marketing and finance, to gain approval on their project.

Related: 20 Jobs in the Fashion Industry

Independent fashion designers

Independent fashion designers are not only responsible for creating and producing their designs, but marketing them too. This means that their daily duties are likely to include the management of their social media and product marketing strategies alongside more creative tasks. They may create and market their own brand for sale online or in a store.

Like in-house fashion designers, freelance or self-employed designers commonly observe emerging fashion trends, produce high-quality visual designs and manufacture items of clothing.

Related: How to Be Self-Employed (With Steps and Career Options)

Key fashion designer skills

Fashion designers generally require a dynamic skill set to be successful. The following skills can be beneficial in becoming a proficient fashion designer:

  • Attention to detail: This skill can help ensure accurate measurements and benefit the overall aesthetic of the finished design.

  • Interpersonal skills: Effective communication and interpersonal abilities can help you understand client briefs and work efficiently alongside other designers.

  • Lateral thinking: Having a unique approach to project briefs can set your designs apart from the rest, aiding product engagement while advancing your career.

  • Technical skills: These include sewing, tailoring and digital design skills that can be beneficial for manufacturing high-quality items of clothing.

  • Business skills: Independent fashion designers often require basic business skills to market themselves, from establishing competitive rates to sourcing new clients.

Related: How to Improve Your Attention To Detail in 4 Steps

What is the average salary of a fashion designer?

The national average national salary of a fashion designer is $68,336 per year. These figures may vary depending on the employer, the designer's area of expertise and their experience level. Pay may also vary between two fashion designers with the same training, skill set and experience, depending on their base location.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles