Fashion designers typically do the following:
Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative director. Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design; others create designs in all three fashion categories.
For some fashion designers, the first step in creating a new design is researching current fashion and making predictions about future trends, such as by reading reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Other fashion designers create collections using a variety of inspirations, including art media, their surroundings, or cultures they have experienced and places they have visited.
After they have an initial idea, fashion designers try out various fabrics and produce a prototype, often with less expensive material than will be used in the final product. They work with models to see how the design will look and adjust the designs as needed.
Although most designers first sketch their designs by hand, many now also sketch their ideas digitally with computer-aided design (CAD) programs. CAD allows designers to see their work on virtual models. They can try different colors, designs, and shapes while making adjustments more easily than they can when working with real fabric on real people.
Designers produce samples with the actual materials that will be used in manufacturing. Samples that get good responses from fashion editors or trade and fashion shows are then manufactured and sold to consumers.
The design process may vary by specialty, but it generally takes 6 months, from initial design concept to final production, to release either the spring or fall collection. In addition to releasing designs during the spring and fall, some companies release new designs every month.
The Internet and e-commerce allow fashion designers to offer their products outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These designers ship directly to the consumer, without having to invest in a physical shop to showcase their product lines of collections.
The following are examples of types of fashion designers:
Accessory designers design and produce items such as handbags, suitcases, belts, scarves, hats, hosiery, and eyewear.
Costume designers design costumes for the performing arts and for motion picture and television productions. They research the styles worn during the period in which the performance is set, or they work with directors to select and create appropriate attire. They also must stay within the production’s costume budget.
Clothing designers create and help produce men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, including casual wear, suits, sportswear, evening wear, outerwear, maternity clothing, and intimate apparel.
Footwear designers create and help produce different styles of shoes and boots. As new materials, such as lightweight synthetic materials used in shoe soles, become available, footwear designers produce new designs that combine comfort, form, and function.
Many fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. In these programs, students learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also work on projects they can add to their portfolio, which showcases their designs.
For many artists, including fashion designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential. Students studying fashion design often have opportunities to develop their portfolios further by entering their designs in student or amateur contests. When making hiring decisions, employers rely on these portfolios to gauge talent and creativity.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and many of them award degrees in fashion design. These schools often require students to have completed basic art and design courses before entering a program. Applicants usually must submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.