Fashion designers love to study fashion trends, sketch designs, select materials, and have a part in all the production aspects of their designs. They contribute to the creation of millions, if not billions, of pieces of clothing and accessories purchased by consumers on a yearly basis. Fashion designers create women's, men's and children's apparel. This might include sportswear, maternitywear, outerwear, underwear, formalwear, eyewear and footwear. There are also accessory designers who design belts, scarves, hats, handbags and hosiery.
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The design process from design concept to final production takes many months. Researching current fashion and making predictions of future trends is the first step in creating design. Some designers do their own research, while others depend on trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Trend reports let you know what styles, colors, and fabrics will be popular for a certain season in the near future. Textile manufacturers use these trend reports to design fabrics and patterns while fashion designers begin to sketch designs. Designers then visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabrics and figure out which fabrics to use with which designs.
A fashion designer takes part in just about every aspect of bringing fashion to the public. Creating the basic design can be done in different ways. It can involve storyboards with sketches, to working with a dummy and sewing pieces of material together. This creating phase is when the designer takes his/her vision that's swirling in the mind's eye and puts it into a visual expression. This first draft of the design is then worked on as the designer develops the first basic prototype.
Note: Computer-aided design (CAD) is being used more and more in the fashion design industry. Although most designers initially sketch designs by hand, a growing number take these hand sketches and put them on the computer. CAD allows designers to look at designs of clothing on virtual models, in many colors and shapes, therefore saving time by needing fewer adjustments later.
The fashion designer's next step is to take the rough sketch or model and develop a more specific working pattern. Usually the designer will make a rough model of the design by creating a toile. This is made by sewing inexpensive material (like muslin) to make a rough model of the design. When this is placed on a manequin-like dress stand, the designer can see how the material will drape or hang on a human form.
Large design houses hire their own patternmakers, tailors, and sewers who create the master patterns and sew the prototypes. Designers working in small design firms, or those new to the business, usually do most of the technical, patternmaking, and sewing tasks, in addition to designing the clothing. When the garment is complete, the designer will either modify, scrap or approve the design for showing in a collection.
A fashion designer usually has full control of a fashion show, often picking the models, determining the price of each garment, and arranging how the garments will be presented. Most designers have assistants to help with all the many small details, but overall, the designer retains full control.
Employers usually look for a person that has a two to four year degree and is knowledgeable about textiles, fabrics, accessories, and fashion trends.
A bachelor’s degree of fine arts, or associate degree programs in fashion design are offered at many colleges, universities, and private art and design schools. Some fashion designers combine a fashion design degree with a business, marketing, or fashion merchandising degree. This is especially good for those who want to run their own business. Basic classes - color, textiles, sewing and tailoring, fashion history, pattern-making, computer-aided design (CAD), and design of different types of clothing (for example, menswear or footwear). Classes in human anatomy, math, and psychology would also be useful.
Internships with design or manufacturing firms can help aspiring fashion designers learn necessary skills. Valuable experience can be gained by working in retail stores, as personal stylists, or as custom tailors. This type of experience can help designers gain sales and marketing skills, and at the same time learn what styles and fabrics look good on different people.
Fashion designers that work for wholesalers or manufacturers create designs for the world market. These designs are manufactured in various sizes and colors and materials. A small number of high-fashion (haute couture) designers are self-employed. They create custom designs for individual clients, usually at very high prices. Other high-fashion designers sell their designs in their own stores or cater to specialty stores or high-end fashion department stores. These designers create a mixture of original garments and also established fashion trends. Fashion designers employed by manufacturing establishments, wholesalers, or design firms generally work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings.
Some fashion designers specialize in costume design for the performing arts, movies, and television productions. The work of costume designers is similar to other fashion designers, except they must extensively research the styles worn during the period in which the performance takes place. They may also work with directors to select and create certain attire. Costume fashion designers make sketches of designs, select fabric and other materials, and oversee the production of the costumes. They also must stay within the costume budget.
Designers who freelance usually work on a contractual basis, or by the job. They often have to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, meeting with the clients during evenings or weekends. Freelance designers tend to work longer hours and in smaller environments, and are under constant pressure to please clients and to find new ones in order to have a steady income. Regardless of their work setting, all fashion designers occasionally work long hours to meet deadlines or get ready for fashion shows. The nature of the fashion business requires consistent communication with suppliers, manufacturers, and customers all over North America and the world. Many fashion designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest fashion trends. Designers may also travel frequently to meet with fabric and materials suppliers and manufacturers.
Fashion design superstars may make hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, but entry level fashion designer salaries are far from the million dollar mark. North American fashion designers with approximately three to five years of experience can earn between $35,000 and $55,000. As with any profession, when you move into more senior positions, you can expect your pay to increase.
A fashion design career takes persistence, dedication, and of course, a love for fashion. An entry-level position can certainly pay off in the long run.