Clothing Design Lessons from Project Runway

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

November 1, 2006

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What can aspiring clothing designers learn from season three of Project Runway? Here are a few lessons from the famed reality TV show.

Fashion Exists Outside of New York
The first lesson: not every fashion design hotshot hails from a top-tier fashion school. A notably high number of Project Runway contestants cultivated their design chops at places other than the venerable fashion schools at Pratt or Parsons. What is more, many of the contestants already had established careers before appearing on the show. Jeffrey, the winner of the contest, arrived at the show as the owner of a successful design business in Los Angeles.

So don't feel bad about not sinking into debt to attend the flashiest design school in one of the world's most expensive cities. As the rosette-loving Angela demonstrated, clothing design talent can flourish even on a farm in Ohio.

Innovative Styles Rule
Project Runway fashion lesson number two is that innovation over commercial viability can win the day. Uli's gorgeous flowy printed dresses--a look Elle magazine fashion editor Nina Garcia admitted every woman would want to wear--took second place to Jeffrey's ultra-chic and shamelessly bold take on his view of a modern woman's look.

Careers in Fashion Aren't Always Made Overnight
Most of the show's designers had been making clothes from a very young age. Both Alison and Laura, for example, apparently had mothers who sewed, and exposed them to the craft at an early age. A majority of the designers were also more mature, having decades of experience in the industry, and yet were still looking for a break that would take their careers in fashion to the next level. Clothing design lesson number three: careers in fashion, like careers in any field, can take time to advance.

Fashion School Can Help
Whether or not you had a clothing design mentor at a young age, you can make up for lost time (and instruction) at fashion school. Learn the fundamentals for clothing design and construction, and advance to more complex, sophisticated silhouettes.

Final fashion lesson--careers in fashion take many forms. Find the one that fits your style, interests, and abilities and devote yourself to it fully.

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

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