Fashion Designer Career Path Tips

Choosing a fashion designer career is the beginning of an exciting journey of hard work, creativity and tenacity. What's fashionable and "in" one day can be old and outdated the next. So launching a successful career as a designer requires preparation, dedication and ambition.

Facts about Fashion Designing

  • The 2 hubs of fashion in the US are New York and California, where the most concentrated number of fashion designers find work.
  • The international hubs of fashion are Paris and Milan.
  • Nearly 25% of fashion designers are self-employed.
  • Employers typically require designers to have a 2- or 4-year degree in a fashion-related course study.
  • Job seekers with a keen understanding of fashion trends, textile fabrics, ornamentation and accessories will be in higher demand. 
  • Both sketching and sewing skills are critical to employers looking for new talent.

Education/Training Needed for Fashion Designing

Some designers are able to create successful careers as fashion designers without formal education or training, but that is the exception more than the rule today.

Talented, creative designers who've learned their sewing skills as an apprentice to a skilled tailor or seamstress can be successful as a self-employed designer if they also are willing to work hard and have some business savvy on how to market their product.

However, traditional training for designers includes a Bachelor's of Fine Arts with an associate's degree in fashion design from a design school, art school, college or university. Coursework will include:

  • textiles, 
  • tailoring and sewing,
  • fashion history, 
  • color, 
  • pattern-making and possibly
  • computer-aided design like CAD.

Most nationally accredited design programs require applicants to submit sketches, garments or some tangible demonstration of their artistic ability.

Additional ways for aspiring designers to gain skills and exposure are working:

  • in retail clothing stores,
  • as a personal stylist,
  • as a custom tailor, or through
  • an internship for a manufacturing or design firm.

What to Expect of Fashion Designing

As a fashion designer, you'll be part of an industry responsible for creating the suites, dresses, tops, bottoms and shoes purchased and worn by consumers the world over. You'll:

  • sketch designs, 
  • study fashion trends,
  • create apparel lines, 
  • produce accessories, 
  • select fabrics and color,
  • style models and 
  • oversee the production of garments.

Typical Fashion Designing Salaries

The average fashion designer's salary begins somewhere around $44,000, with entry-level designers earning less and experienced, senior-level designers earning much more.

Designers that create their own line, company or work for exclusive, celebrity clients can earn in much higher wages--even in the thousands for a single garment. 

The Future of Fashion Designing

Projections for a career as a fashion designer are expected to grow more slowly than other occupations. Continued population growth will require more clothing but demands for more affordable fashions will dominate. 

Since fashion design jobs typically have a low turnover rate and few new openings (due to the popularity of the industry), competition for jobs are high. The best industry opportunities will be found in the median market for apparel, providing stock for retail chains, department stores and wholesale apparel companies to the middle class market.