Professional Ethics for Freelance Fashion Design Jobs

Freelance fashion design is a very creative profession. It’s also extremely demanding, and it’s quite possible to get lost in the maelstrom of money, deadlines, and ethical issues. Like any creative profession, the ethics are an important part of doing business. They’re also critical to reputations in an industry where mistakes are rarely tolerated.

“Professional ethics” can be a difficult and often unclear concept, and impose serious demands in different ways. Many people unintentionally do things which are unethical simply because they didn’t even know there were any ethics to be considered.

The results of unethical behavior can be nothing less than fatal to your business, in fashion. This industry is one big extended network, and if your behavior offends one person, you can assume it’s offended many others.

The areas for ethical consideration are well defined:

  • Employment practices: How you employ production and other staff
  • Design content: This is a “copyright” issue, where infringement of other designs can become very unpleasant
  • Commercial practices: How you do business, and your conduct of business relationships

Professional Ethics in Freelance Fashion in Practice

Freelance fashion design usually involves working with a lot of other people in various ways.

For example:

As a designer, you’re producing new original products, and forming business relationships with a wide range of suppliers and clients. Somebody may be doing piecework for you, someone else may be embroidering, and a supplier may be giving you discounts. You give some boutiques special deals, yourself, because they’re excellent customers.

What are the ethics in this apparently simple situation?

  • Your original products must be original. There’s no infringement of the work of other designers. That, alone, can be a business destroyer, because of the ethical requirements. The industry doesn’t like infringements, because it creates serious commercial problems for other designers. The associates of the other designers won’t like it, either, and some designers will sue. This behavior is not only unethical, it’s practically illegal, even if unintentional.
  • Your workers are paid a fair commercial rate. You don’t operate a sweatshop, which is loathed in the industry and by rights groups as exploitation. This sort of unethical behavior is also potentially subject to labor laws.
  • Your supplier’s special deals are respected. You don’t do or say anything which may reflect negatively on the supplier. For example, you don’t talk about getting great rates to another customer of the supplier. That can destroy the relationship between the supplier and their customers, and lose you a supplier automatically. Just be thankful you’re getting good deals. 
  • You give good deals to good customers, with clear rules about discounts. Some clients are better than others, but giving special deals to people can backfire. If one customer gets great deals, but another customer, who’s also a good customer, is paying more, and finds out about it, expect to lose a customer and a their sales. You can also expect to get a few holes in your reputation with other customers in the industry.

As you can see, there’s nothing theoretical about ethical behavior for freelance fashion designers. Play fair, and respect the rights of others.