What a Fashion Designer Does
It takes several months or longer for an idea to become a finished garment. Fashion designers are involved in every aspect of this, from sketching out initial concepts, to creating an initial prototype, making adjustments, and overseeing the production of the item. Fashion designers are also responsible for overseeing fashion shows that highlight their garments and even select the models who represent their brands in them.
Who would enjoy a career in Fashion?
Creative, tenacious people who love the fashion industry and can predict trends with a high degree of accuracy may do well in the career. Social butterflies also do well because success often depends on networking with the right people who can help you further your career.
Who mightn't like the career?
The industry is very intense and competitive, so it can be difficult for those who aren’t resilient enough to keep trying after an idea several months in the making flops. Equally, independent fashion designers must invest a great amount of time and money into designing a product, with no guarantee that the item will sell. The high cost of entry, as well as risk of failure, makes it difficult for people to enter into the industry and stay there.
It’s very difficult for an unknown person to break into fashion and have a commercial label of their own. Networking is an imperative aspect of this and interning can help a person get his or her foot in the door. Most degree programs include training on fashion sketching, computer-aided design (CAD), and using technology to predict trends in textiles, colors, and designs.
The majority of people enter into the field as an intern, and even though most internships are unpaid, the application and interview process is still highly competitive. It’s important to learn about the company in advance, as well as who will be making the hiring decision and, whenever possible, to get a personal reference from someone who already works for the company.
Role: Interns don’t get to do much in the way of actual design, but they do get to learn how the industry works, gain insider information on how brands operate, and have the opportunity to network. A prized intern may be trusted with shipping out and tracking samples or ensuring items make it to a fashion show or photo shoot. Most get to attend events as an assistant to the designer and may help plan events as well. They’re also responsible for researching trends for the designer and handling a myriad of administrative tasks.
Role: Design assistants are a step above interns and usually take the position after about a year in the industry. Although they still don’t do actual designs, and are largely responsible for the same duties as interns, they may also be responsible for making sure that the designer’s wishes are being carried out as an item is produced. They also have greater involvement in fashion shows and photo shoots, often fitting models and making sure the brand is represented well.
Role: Independent fashion designers usually fulfill the role of fashion designer and creative director. However, most fashion designers work for a brand or large manufacturer and they answer to the creative director. They typically work with a team of fashion designers and may pitch ideas to the creative director or collaborate with other designers on the team to create garments. An average day is spent designing, either with sketches or CAD, following up on the progress of existing designs, and sometimes creating patterns for prototypes. They’re also responsible for setting up and attending events.
Role: Creative directors must know fashion inside and out as well as have a good mind for business and a deep understanding of emerging trends. They get the final say in whether pitches designers make will progress and may come up with new designs as well. On the business end, the creative director is constantly networking in order to get the brand more exposure, whether it’s in fashion shows, magazines, or online buzz. Sometimes creative directors are involved in the actual marketing, merchandising, and sales aspects of the business too.
Fashion designers may travel quite a bit or not at all. For example, those who work for major retailers as part of a team will work out of an office most of the time. On the other hand, those involved in high-fashion are likely to travel a lot, particularly to fashion hubs, such as New York, LA, Milan, and Paris.
Salaries vary quite a bit, depending on where a designer works. For example, independent designers may make next to nothing or earn millions, depending on their success and clientele. Working for a major brand may limit the amount a designer makes, but earnings tend to be fixed and predictable.
Intern: Most internships are unpaid.
Design Assistant: According to PayScale, design assistants usually earn about USD$42,000 in America, while those in Canada take home CAD$36,000, and those in Australia and the United Kingdom earn AU$45,000 and £20,000, respectively.
Fashion Designer: USD$63,000, CAD$50,000, AU$51,000, £42,000
Creative Director: USD$140,000, CAD$120,000, AU$99,000, and £99,000
Why a Fashion Designer moves on
The industry is highly competitive and there are no guarantees of success, even if a designer is incredibly talented. The long hours that are sometimes involved in the profession can lead to burnout as well.