Fashion Designers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Fashion Designer Jobs

  • Assistant Production Coordinator - Renshun Accessories - New York, NY

    Ability to create and sketch own prints with illustrator.Assist with re-coloring and re-designing prints and must be proficient in Illustrator

  • Public Relations Assistant - HL GROUP PARTNERS - New York, NY

    Media monitoring and clipping  Sample trafficking and reporting  Supporting account team on administrative duties  Updating contact lists

  • Designer - Danielrainn - Los Angeles, CA

    Candidate must have flair for fashion and be detail oriented, and know Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator & Microsoft

See all Fashion Designer jobs

What Fashion Designers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they design.

Duties of Fashion Designers

Fashion designers typically do the following:

  • Study fashion trends and anticipate designs that will appeal to consumers
  • Decide on a theme for a collection
  • Use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create designs
  • Visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabric
  • Select fabrics, embellishments, colors, or a style for each garment or accessory
  • Work with other designers or team members to create prototype designs
  • Present design ideas to the creative director or showcase them in fashion or trade shows
  • Market designs to clothing retailers or directly to consumers
  • Oversee the final production of their designs

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 using trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Other fashion designers create collections from inspirations they get from their regular surroundings, from the cultures they have experienced and places they have visited, or from various art media that inspire them.

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 out 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.

Although the design process may vary by specialty, in general it takes 6 months from initial design concept to final production, when either the spring or fall collection is released. Some companies may release new designs as frequently as every month, in addition to releasing designs during the spring and fall.

The Internet and e-commerce allow fashion designers to offer their products outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These designers can ship directly to the consumer, without having to invest in a physical shop to showcase their product lines.

The following are examples of types of fashion designers:

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.

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 takes place, or they work with directors to select and create appropriate attire. They also must stay within the costume budget for the particular production.

Work Environment for Fashion Designers[About this section] [To Top]

Fashion designers hold about 23,800 jobs. The largest employers of fashion designers are as follows:

Apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers 32%
Self-employed workers 19
Apparel manufacturing 11
Motion picture and video industries 9
Management of companies and enterprises 8

Many fashion designers work in-house for wholesalers or manufacturers that sell lines of apparel and accessories to retailers or other marketers for distribution to individual stores, catalog companies, or online retailers.

Self-employed fashion designers typically design high-fashion garments and one-of-a-kind apparel on an individualized or custom basis. In some cases, a self-employed fashion designer may have a clothing line that bears his or her name.

Most designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest fashion trends. Designers also sometimes travel to other countries to meet suppliers of materials and manufacturers who produce the final products.

Most fashion designers work in New York and California.

Fashion Designer Work Schedules

Fashion designers occasionally work many hours to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows. Designers who freelance generally work under a contract and tend to work longer hours and adjust their workday to their clients' schedules and deadlines.

How to Become a Fashion Designer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Fashion Designers near you!

Many fashion designers have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as fashion design or fashion merchandising. Employers usually seek applicants with creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of the production process for clothing, accessories, or footwear.

Education for Fashion Designers

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 because employers rely heavily on a designer's portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual. For employers, it is an opportunity to gauge talent and creativity. Students studying fashion design often have opportunities to enter their designs in student or amateur contests, helping them to develop their portfolios.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 350 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and many of these schools award degrees in fashion design. Many schools require students to have completed basic art and design courses before they enter a program. Applicants usually have to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Other Experience for Fashion Designers

Fashion designers often gain their initial experience in the fashion industry through internships or by working as an assistant designer. Internships provide aspiring fashion designers an opportunity to experience the design process, building their knowledge of textiles and colors and of how the industry works.

Important Qualities for Fashion Designers

Artistic ability. Fashion designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used later to create prototypes. Designers must be able to express their vision for the design through illustration.

Communication skills. Fashion designers often work in teams throughout the design process and therefore must be effective in communicating with their team members. For example, they may need to give instructions to sewers regarding how a garment should be constructed.

Computer skills. Fashion designers must be able to use computer-aided design (CAD) programs and be familiar with graphics editing software.

Creativity. Fashion designers work with a variety of fabrics, shapes, and colors. Their ideas must be unique, functional, and stylish.

Decisionmaking skills. Because they often work in teams, fashion designers are exposed to many ideas. They must be able to decide which ideas to incorporate into their designs.

Detail oriented. Fashion designers must have a good eye for small differences in color and other details that can make a design successful.

Fashion Designer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for fashion designers is $65,170. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,050.

The median annual wages for fashion designers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $79,130
Management of companies and enterprises 76,300
Apparel manufacturing 68,260
Apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers 62,830

Fashion designers occasionally work many hours to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows. Designers who freelance generally work under a contract and tend to work longer hours and adjust their workday to their clients' schedules and deadlines.

Job Outlook for Fashion Designers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of fashion designers is projected to grow 3 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.

Most apparel continues to be produced internationally. As a result, employment of fashion designers in the apparel manufacturing industry is projected to decline about 33 percent over the projection period, slowing the overall employment growth of fashion designers.

However, employment of fashion designers in the retail trade industry is projected to grow about 22 percent over the projection period. Retailers are selling more fashion-inspired clothing, which increases the demand for fashion designers to design clothing and accessories for everyday wear for the mass market.

Job Prospects for Fashion Designers

Those with formal education in fashion design, excellent portfolios, and industry experience will have the best job prospects. However, strong competition for jobs is expected because of the large number of people who seek employment as fashion designers and the relatively few positions available.

In addition, it may be necessary for some fashion designers to relocate, because employment opportunities for fashion designers are concentrated in New York and California.

Employment projections data for Fashion Designers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Fashion designers 23,800 24,500 3 700


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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