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Fashion Designer Job Description & Career Opportunities

Gucci. Vera Wang. Dolce & Gabbana. Oscar de la Renta. All of these are big name fashion designers. But you don’t have to be a big name designer in order to have a fulfilling career. Having an excellent eye for style is what makes a great fashion designer, be they major or minor. Everyone loves to look their best and there’s a designer out there that knows how to cater to our personal styles, no matter how sophisticated, upscale, or relaxed that style may be.

Fashion design careers are greatly enhanced by a relevant degree, which increases employment opportunities and salary.

Fashion Designer Job Responsibilities

Fashion designers help make billions of shoes, belts, coats, dresses, shirts, and several other clothing and accessories bought every year by consumers. Designers observe current and past fashion trends, make sketch designs of accessories of clothing, pick out colors and fabrics, and manage the final production of their creations. Clothing designers help to produce and create women’s, men’s, and children’s apparel, including, suits, casual wear, seasonal clothing, maternity, and intimate apparel. Designers of footwear help to produce and create various styles of boots and shoes. Designers of accessories help produce and create handbags, bracelets, belts, scarves, hosiery, eye wear, anything that adds just the right amount of flair to an outfit.

Some fashion designers may have multiple levels of involvement in separate aspects of production and design depending on their experience and the size of their design firm. In larger firms, designers are usually the leaders whose task it is to create the designs, pick out colors and fabrics, and to also oversee technical designers who spin the designs into the final product.

Fashion designers employed by apparel wholesalers or manufacturers produce designs for the mass market. These designs are made in multiple sizes and colors. A small percentage of haute couture (high fashion) designers are self-employed and make tailored designs for individual clients, usually at rather extravagant prices. Other high-fashion designers sell their designs in their own retail stores or cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores.

Computer-aided design (CAD) is being used more and more in the fashion design industry. Although most designers first sketch designs by hand, an increasing percentage also shift these hand sketches to the computer. CAD lets designers view designs of clothing on virtual models and in a multitude of colors and shapes, saving time by needing fewer changes of samples and prototypes later.

Fashion Designer Training and Education Requirements

An associate or bachelor’s degree is usually required of a fashion designer. Some designers also combine their fashion degree with fashion merchandising, marketing, or a business degree, especially any that have a desire to have their own business or retail store. Fundamental coursework includes textiles, color, tailoring and sewing, fashion history, pattern making, and the design of various clothing such as outerwear or menswear. Classes in human anatomy, psychology, and mathematics can help as well.

Hopeful fashion designers can gain the needed skills through internships with manufacturing or design firms. Some designers also gain useful experience by working as a personal stylists, retails shops, or as custom tailors.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design awards approximately 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools offer degrees in fashion design. Several schools do not allow formal entry into a program until a student has successfully completed fundamental design and art courses. Applicants normally have to submit sketches and other demonstrations of their artistic skills.

Fashion Designer Salary and Wages

Wages in fashion design can vary widely depending on the employer and amount of experience. Starting salaries in fashion design are usually rather low until designers establish themselves in the industry. Salaried fashion designers usually have higher and more stable incomes than freelance or self-employed designers. Although, a few of the most successful self-employed fashion designers might make many times the salary of the highest paid salaried designers. Self-employed fashion designers must provide their own benefits and retirement.*

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at

Fashion Designer Certifications

Although there is no certification per se in fashion design, novice fashion designers usually begin as pattern makers or sketching assistants for more experienced designers before moving on to higher level positions. Designers with experience may advance to design department head, chief designer or another overseeing position. Some designers may choose to start their own design company, or sell their creations in their very own retail stores.

Fashion Designer Professional Associations

The Council of International Fashion Designers was founded in 1999 to “promote the Latin American designers as international rather than folkloric and continues to advance the status of all international designers entering the US through cultural exchange, raising artistic and professional standards, promoting ethical practices within the industry, and promoting fashion design as an international and creative form of art.”

Fashion Group International was started in 1928 when 17 women, gathered by Edna Woolman Chase, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, assembled for lunch in a midtown New York restaurant. The organization’s mission is to be the leading authority on fashion business and design and to assist members become more proficient in their careers. To do this, FGI provides opinions on major trends in person, in print, and online.








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