Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising: Which Career is Right for You?

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

June 28, 2006

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You've decided to pursue a career in fashion, but can't settle on which professional path to take--the creative or business one. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you make this important career choice.

Do you consider yourself more creative or analytical? What gets your blood pulsing--the idea of conducting market research on a segment of the apparel market or coming up with a silhouette for next season?

Do You Enjoy Drawing? How often do you find yourself sketching designs? Have people told you that you have a natural gift for sketching? Many fashion designers form their first conceptions of a design through a pencil and paper.

Are You a Trend Setter? Fashion designers are trend setters--there's little doubt about that. Do others look to you for fashion cues or do you wait to see what's going to be popular before you commit to a new look?

How Do You Prefer to Dress for Work? Visualize yourself working in the fashion industry--are you wearing a well-cut conservative Prada suit or a design of your own making, something experimental and utterly unconventional. Of course, not all designers express themselves in clothing as wildly as, say, John Galliano. Your penchant for expressing yourself in clothing, however, may hint at a strong creative streak.

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Of course, answering these questions alone will likely not bring you to a definite sense of which career in fashion is right for you. If you are still unsure, try taking a couple of classes in fashion design and fashion merchandising. Find out if you prefer working with textiles and creating your own designs or learning about apparel manufacturing, distribution channels, and branding strategies.

Opting for a career in fashion merchandising shouldn't lead you to think that the business side of fashion is for dull, unimaginative people. Quite the contrary, fashion merchandising requires business acumen as well as creativity. After all, figuring out themes for store front windows requires a great deal of creativity, as do advertising campaigns.

Having said that, some designers prefer to shun all business activities. They enjoy working with a team of sewers, assistants, and models in a studio that is far, far away from board-room meetings and marketing strategy sessions.

These tips should help you get closer to deciding whether a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising is right for you. Take the next step--whether it's fashion school or a fashion internship--and start living your dream now.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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