How to Become a Fashion Designer?

by Alex Russel
Fashion School Review Columnist

February 24, 2005

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Do you consider yourself to be fashion conscious? Do you have an eye for color and a feel for fabric? Were you the kind of kid who asked Santa Claus for a sewing machine? Do you jot down notes and pictures in your note pad about people's clothes and how they could look better? Then you might just have a future as a fashion designer.

Fashion designers need to be artistic and creative, while working with fabric. You should be able to express your ideas in sketches. You don't have to be a great artist, but you should be able to combine color, shade and tone in an original and practical fashion. Having a few marketing and business classes doesn't hurt either -- while creativity is your bread and butter, you shouldn't be ignorant about the business side of the fashion world.

Going to School

Pursue A
Fashion Degree
The Art Institutes

The Art Institute

For most, first step to start your fashion design career may be with a fine arts degree in fashion at a well-respected school or college. Don't discount online education--you can often find the program you're looking for or get a head start on some of your coursework. Not only will a good school teach you the skills you need, but it'll also add important credibility to your resumé. "We live in a brandname society, and having the name of a good school behind you really does help," says Carol Mongo, Director of the Fashion Department at Parsons School of Design in Paris.

Most fashion programs are three to four years long and consist of classes in study drawing, color composition and form, as well as development and training in pattern making, draping and cutting techniques. Design schools can also provide opportunities for close work with industry professionals -- either as faculty or through internships. Ambitious students also have the chance to win prestigious awards and grants, which bring them a lot of attention as well as financial support. One very important event is the fashion show at the end of the last semester, when graduating students show their collections. A lot of important people from the fashion industry attend these shows to scout new talent. It's also an opportunity to be really outrageous and get noticed by the media.

Real-World Experience

It's important to take advantage of internships while you're in school -- that way you'll get real-world experience and make the industry connections you'll need once you get out of school. (Some people forgo school altogether and jump straight into internships and working, but -- unless you have personal connections -- it can be tough to get an internship without some education.) Seeing is believing and no school can provide you with the real live nuances of marketing, buying schedules, show production and licensing possibilities that you will witness in person.

No matter where you're working and what you're doing (even slaving away as the lowest assistant on the totem pole), you need to develop good designer habits. Carry a notebook or sketchpad wherever you go. Find inspiration in art galleries, film, the street, current events and pop culture. Never worry about what the designer next door is working on and never be afraid of your vision... just follow it!

Going for It!

If you love fashion and dream up entire clothing lines in your sleep, you can achieve your dream of becoming a fashion designer by working hard, honing your skills, and getting a good education. But, perhaps most importantly, you'll need to have faith and a strong inner drive, even when things aren't going well; the fashion world is rough, and competition (for jobs, for everything!) can be incredibly fierce. Keep your chin up and your head full of ideas -- and you'll get there eventually!

About the Author
Alex Russel is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Since graduating from Syracuse University he has worked at many different media companies in fields as diverse as film, TV, advertising, and journalism. He holds a dual bachelor's degree in E

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