What Is a Fashion Designer? Qualification, Salary and Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 July 2021

If you have a passion for designing clothes, pursuing a career in the fashion industry may be rewarding and exciting. A fashion designer plays an important role in designing styles and outfits that fit the requirement of people wearing them. To excel in this industry, a candidate requires a combination of educational qualifications, experience and skills. In this article, we discuss what a fashion designer is, their typical responsibilities and average salaries, along with the skills and steps required to become a fashion designer.

What is a fashion designer?

A fashion designer is a professional who sketches and creates clothing and accessories. They select material, create a prototype of the design and sell it to their customers. Some fashion designers market their business through fashion shows, while others may own a retail store. Usually, these designers specialise in one area. You may specialise in apparel, footwear or accessories based on your interests or skills.

What do fashion designers do?

A fashion designer is responsible for creating both preliminary designs and finished products. Some of their job-specific responsibilities are:

  • Sketching and developing designs: fashion designers create innovative designs using pencil and paper or digital tools, such as computer-aided design software. Digital tools allow them to change the texture, colour and pattern of their work as needed.

  • Choosing materials: after finishing their preliminary designs, fashion designers determine the material for creating the final product. The choice can vary depending on several factors, including the season or current trends, and the designer may consider the fabric's sustainability, durability, colour and texture.

  • Developing prototypes: fashion designers create prototypes to try clothing or accessories on mannequins or models. With clothing, they may use inexpensive materials like muslin or their chosen fabric to understand how their design looks in the real world.

  • Modifying designs: after assessing their designs on mannequins or models, fashion designers might identify and make changes. They might also research current trends, prior seasons or other designers' work to ensure their designs look original and unique.

  • Marketing designs: once fashion designers create their clothing and accessories, they need to sell them. They might sell them directly to consumers or market their offerings to retailers that handle the sales process.

Work environment for fashion designers

Fashion designers' work environments can vary depending on their role or employer. For example, self-employed designers can set their schedules themselves and may work from home or rent studio space. They may also operate physical or online stores to sell their products. Designers might also travel for their job, to events such as trade shows or to visit manufacturing facilities to oversee the production process.

Fashion designers employed by a company or design house often work full time, about 40 hours per week, during regular hours. However, they sometimes work late or over weekends and holidays to meet deadlines. Examples of work environments for fashion designers include:

  • Wholesalers or manufacturers: fashion designers in this field create mass-produced clothing sold to retailers or individual stores. These organisations often produce their designs in various colours, sizes and materials.

  • High-end fashion houses: individuals working at fashion houses may create original designs or use inspiration from prior collections. They create clothing for fashion shows, later produced and sold to specialty retailers or on the brand's website, or custom items for customers.

  • Movie and television productions: costume designers plan and develop the clothing aesthetic for characters in film, television and performing arts productions. While they may source existing clothing, these professionals may also design and create the clothing and accessories themselves based on the production's needs.

Average salary for fashion designers

The national average salary for fashion designers is ₹19,741 per month. This salary varies depending upon several factors, including individuals' level of experience or education and geographical location. Their place of employment may also affect salary, as some fashion designers work for companies or design houses while others are self-employed.

Is a fashion designer a good career?

Fashion design represents a highly creative and competitive profession. Individuals seeking this career path need determination and skill to set themselves apart from others in the industry. It can take many years to establish yourself as a professional fashion designer and have your work sold by major retailers. You can determine whether fashion design is a suitable career for you by assessing your skills, core values and professional needs. For example, it can allow you to travel around the world but may not offer the earning potential or stability that other jobs might.

Related: Core Values: Overview and Examples

How to become a fashion designer

If you want to become a fashion design, you can follow these five steps:

1. Complete your 10+2

To start your career in the fashion industry, you need to pass your higher secondary or 10+2 in any stream. This step often represents the minimum educational requirement for enrolling in fashion design degree programmes. You can begin preparing for this career by practising your sketching, designing and sewing skills and reading about the industry and notable brands.

2. Get a bachelor's degree

You can enrol in a three-year bachelor's degree programme for fashion design or another related discipline, such as fine arts or graphic design. The coursework offered in fashion design programmes teaches you various skills and knowledge to help you excel in this career, such as:

  • Pattern-making

  • Fashion sketching and drawing

  • Sewing and tailoring clothing

  • Textile design

  • Computer-aided design (CAD)

  • Managing fashion events

Another option to pursue is a one-year diploma in fashion design. While completing your educational training, you can also identify your fashion design specialisation. You may focus on a particular type of clothing or accessory or customer group. For example, some fashion designers only create menswear while others design haute couture.

3. Complete an internship

Before seeking your first job, complete an internship under an experienced fashion designer or fashion house to learn about the role's typical responsibilities. You can often find internship opportunities as a student or recent graduate. This experience allows you to practice the technical skills necessary for this career and gain a better understanding of the industry and how it works. An internship can also help you build connections with industry professionals or prominent figures.

Related: Writing an Internship Cover Letter (With Examples)

4. Create a portfolio

Your portfolio provides examples of your work as a fashion designer, such as projects from your degree programme. When applying to fashion design internships or jobs, employers often ask fora digital or physical portfolio so they can assess and understand your skills and experience. Depending on the format, your portfolio may include images of design sketches and finished products or videos from fashion shows.

5. Build your professional network

The fashion industry is highly competitive, so building your professional network is essential. Your connections can help promote your work or identify potential opportunities for you. Being an active member of the industry can help you build your network. For example, you can attend fashion shows, compete in design contests or join professional fashion design associations. Remember to continue maintaining these relationships throughout your career, including with the people you met during school or internships.

Essential skills for a fashion designer

Here are examples of skills to master if you want to pursue a fashion design career:

Technical skills

A fashion design career requires numerous technical skills, which individuals can learn through their formal training or professional experience. They need to understand how to craft and sew clothing by hand or machine. When creating clothing items or accessories, they also benefit from understanding different fabrics or materials and how to use them effectively. As part of their job, these professionals may also need computer skills to use editing and CAD software for digital designs and sketching. Self-employed designers may also use their computer skills to create marketing materials to promote their brands, such as websites and flyers.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Creativity

While fashion designers need artistic ability, they also need creativity to create original and innovative designs. This creativity helps attract attention from customers and differentiate their offerings from competitors. With this skill, fashion designers are also willing to try various materials, textures and colours for their designs until they find the perfect option depending on their customers' preferences or the theme of an event or collection.

Interpersonal skills

Fashion designers often work with various people, including customers, other designers, stylists, creative directors, retail owners and fashion editors. Interpersonal skills, such as patience, empathy and teamwork, enable them to manage these interactions and collaborate effectively. The skill of active listening is also important when working with clients or under senior designers, as it ensures the designer can meet their specific design instructions or specifications for positive results.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Problem-solving

Fashion designers may encounter unexpected situations at work, especially when working on deadlines. For example, they may need to make alterations to a dress to ensure it fits the model correctly right before a fashion show. Effective problem-solving skills enable designers to remain calm amidst such stressful situations and develop solutions to solve the issue quickly. In situations with fewer time constraints, these skills let designers assess their options thoroughly and identify the solution that best meets their needs. For example, they may need to choose a manufacturer to produce their designs based on location and budget.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.

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