"Sew" Much to Choose From: Fashion Career Options

February 24, 2005

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The fashion world is made up of hundreds of different jobs -- including designers, buyers, illustrators, pattern makers, models, seamstresses, consultants, journalists, and many more. Here we'll take a brief look at a few career options to give you a glimpse of the breadth and variety of jobs available in the fashion industry.

Fashion Designer

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In a nutshell, fashion designers create clothing and accessory designs, but their jobs are far more involved than merely sketching some new clothes. Among other tasks, designers draw and cut patterns to make sample garments, select fabric and trimmings, fit and modify the finished garment and, of course, keep up-to-date with the latest fashion trends (especially those of competitors!). Many designers specialize in a particular type of clothing or accessory, such as men's or women's clothing, children's clothing, lingerie, shoes, etc. Most design teams consist of a head designer and several assistants, whose jobs are to make first patterns and samples and assist the designer in his/her various tasks.

Fashion designers, to their job properly, really need a firm background in both the creative and business sides of the fashion industry. They need to know the design techniques, principles, tools and instruments involved in the production and use of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models. But they also need to analyze needs and product requirements, visit textile manufacturers to evaluate fabrics, and handle the arrangements for showings for buyers and the press.


Fashion buyers are typically responsible for all the purchasing for a company, or particular department of a company, within a certain budget. Buyers develop the fashion themes and items for the season, search for the garments (sometimes traveling to do so) that best fit that theme, maintain contacts with suppliers and negotiate prices, and are sometimes even responsible for advertising and product placement in the store. To be successful, buyers must have both a sense of what is fashionable and an understanding of business, such as the target market, consumer trends, accounting and budget -- only then can they forecast trends and translate them into a profitable business plan for a specific company.

Fashion Illustrator

As the name suggests, fashion illustrators usually make drawings of clothes that have been designed by a fashion designer. Sometimes these illustrations are produced internally for a clothing company as a way of circulating the designs before they are produced. Fashion illustrators can also work at magazines and newspapers, drawing clothes for articles and advertisements. Illustrators need a solid background in drawing and art techniques and be able to work from different viewpoints and in different mediums. These days, being familiar and comfortable with computer illustration (on a program such as Adobe Illustrator) can be a big benefit.


Pattern makers work closely with fashion designers to create master patterns for the desired design. Pattern makers translate the designer's sketches into actual patterns that will be used for production, so it's important that the pattern maker has good visualization skills and experience with fabric and body construction. The pattern maker must also ensure that design concepts are correctly interpreted and all production capabilities are considered ("hmm... I don't think we can produce these pants with a light-up zipper...").

Fashion School Degree Programs

Regardless of the fashion focus you choose, you'll need to be educated and trained in order to be competitive. When researching campus and online degree programs, be sure to ask if they offer classes specific to your interests.  Also inquire as to whether if they place students in internship opportunities with fashion professionals and ask for a list of past internship locations to see there are opportunities within your area of interest.

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