What Does a Fashion Designer Do and How to Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 2, 2022

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're creative and interested in fashion, becoming a fashion designer may be a good career choice for you. Fashion designers design new clothing based on their style or the needs of their customers. Learning more about fashion designers and what they do can help you determine if it's a role you're interested in pursuing. In this article, we answer the question, "What does a fashion designer do?", explain how to become one, discuss their average salary and working conditions, and answer frequently asked questions you may have about this career.

What does a fashion designer do?

To better answer the question, "What does a fashion designer do?" reviewing their responsibilities is beneficial. A fashion designer is a creative professional who designs clothing using industry trends, clothing materials, sewing techniques, and clothing construction. They can work either for larger clothing companies or smaller independent labels. They typically have training in sewing and the different stages of clothing production. Here are some things that a fashion designer may specialize in designing:

  • Formal dresses

  • Bridal gowns

  • Suits

  • Casual wear

  • Swimsuits

  • Intimate apparel

  • Shoes

  • Handbags

  • Jewellery

  • Sunglasses

Designers may design individual pieces, but they can also create collections of products that share common themes and design elements. Designing is the first step in the production process and involves gathering materials and sketching how the final product may look. Fashion designers can either work for companies selling cheaper merchandise sold in larger quantities or companies specializing in haute couture designing luxury goods sold in small amounts. Here are some of their primary duties:

Source inspiration

Fashion designers control the artistic direction of a fashion collection, a group of products the designers create at the same time that shares similar design elements. Before starting the design process, they may conduct market research to monitor trends and determine ways to meet customer interests and demands in the clothing industry. They may consult sales or retail team members and research their competitors. They create style boards and collect visuals to use as inspiration to better achieve the overall idea for the design.

Sketch designs

One fashion designer's primary responsibility is to sketch designs for new clothing pieces. They may create digital designs using a computer and specific software or hand-draw everything. These designs typically include the front and back of a two-dimensional model wearing a piece of clothing. The design may also include details about the materials, colours, or sewing techniques the production team can use to create the article. It's crucial that the design accurately portrays the fashion designer's vision as a production team then uses the drawings to guide them when making the final product.

Source materials

Designers source the materials they want to use in their designs, including patterned fabric, different metals, or specific leather qualities. They meet with vendors to determine what materials create different visual effects on their designs and develop relationships with manufacturers. They also possess extensive knowledge of fabric and material quality.

Additionally, they factor in cost and quantity when deciding what materials to use. For example, if they're designing for a company that creates large amounts of inventory, they may want to use a fabric that their vendors can reproduce quickly and in large quantities. If they're designing for a brand with luxury pricing, they may choose a more delicate and costly fabric.

Oversee production

Fashion designers oversee the production of their designs after they've created the sketches and selected the materials. They work closely with construction designers who take the two-dimensional sketches and determine a three-dimensional prototype. They may also consult on sewing techniques of specific design elements so that the finished product looks refined and fashionable.

Patternmakers use prototypes to create clothing patterns, a template with cutting and sewing instructions written on thin tissue paper. Factories and sewers use patterns as guides to re-create each piece of clothing the same way when cutting and sewing fabric. Patternmakers may change some aspects of the materials to more easily mass-produce their design depending on the company's needs. When fashion designers work independently, they may do the construction, patternmaking, and sewing themselves, so it's crucial that fashion designers are familiar with these tasks.

Present to buyers

Once the clothing is complete, fashion designers may sell it to wholesalers, retailers, or customers. To do this, they may create a presentation displaying the clothing and its features or present their collection in a fashion show. This can encourage retail stores to purchase the clothing to sell to their customers.

Related: 20 Dream Jobs to Consider (With Salary Information)

How to become a fashion designer

If you're interested in becoming a fashion designer, after answering "what does a fashion designer do?" here are the steps you can take to do so:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Although fashion designer is a creative position, designers have a lot of technical skills and knowledge. For example, in-depth understanding of textiles, constructing clothing, sketching, sewing, pattern making, and fitting. Many schools offer fashion design degree programs to help you get this knowledge and learn these skills. You can even consider applying to a fashion school to surround yourself with like-minded people.

Related: How to Become a Fashion Consultant (Your Step-by-Step Guide)

2. Get experience

Fashion design is a hands-on job, so it's important to have firsthand experience to develop the necessary skills. You may likely have hands-on training in school, but pursuing opportunities outside of the classroom is also important. Consider applying for internships with different fashion brands to understand the industry better and gain firsthand knowledge. Internships are a great way to learn and gain work experience in a controlled environment.

3. Build your portfolio

Before you can start applying for jobs, you may need a portfolio. A portfolio is a physical or digital collection of your work. It displays the pieces you're most proud of, allowing prospective employers to assess your skills and creativity. You can include pieces you created in school or in your internship or design new clothing in your free time. You may have to submit your portfolio when applying for jobs or bring it to any interviews you attend.

Average salary and working conditions

The national average salary of a fashion designer is $65,728 per year. This salary varies depending on your education, experience, and location. It also varies depending on the type of clothing you design. For example, fashion designers that design luxury goods may earn more than ones that design clothing for cheaper retail stores.

Fashion designers typically work in an office setting with their team to easily collaborate and access their resources, such as materials or drafting paper. When not in the office, fashion designers may travel to different fashion shows or presentations to perform market research and stay up to date with industry trends. Fashion designers don't have a strict schedule, but many typically work 40 hours a week. They may work longer hours if they have an upcoming fashion show or another strict deadline.

Related: How to Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

Frequently asked questions about becoming a fashion designer

To help you determine whether becoming a fashion designer is the right career choice for you, consider the following answers to frequently asked questions you may have:

What skills and attributes does a fashion designer need?

Successful fashion designers may need the following skills and attributes:

  • Creativity: The most important attribute for fashion designers is creativity. It allows them to create unique designs that reflect their passion and style.

  • Attention to detail: Designs include many small details, from the type of fabric to where to place a zipper, so having strong attention to detail is essential. It ensures fashion designers create pieces that clients can enjoy.

  • Artistic ability: Artistic knowledge, such as an understanding of colour theory, styling, and cohesive outfits, can help fashion designers create clothing that appeals to their target audience.

  • Communication skills: As fashion designers typically work with a team, good communication skills are essential. These skills help them ensure their team understands the design to create the physical version easily.

Related: What's the Difference Between Hard Skills and Soft Skills?

How long does it take to become a fashion designer?

There's no set amount of time to become a fashion designer. Completing a bachelor's degree can take three to four years, giving you the knowledge you need. But getting hands-on experience and building a portfolio can take as long as you want. Once you have a solid portfolio to show prospective employers, you can start applying for jobs.

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