The Real Skills of Fashion Designers

by Joe Cooper
Fashion School Review Columnist

January 12, 2007

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Fashion designers have a reputation for being enigmatic, creative figures who spontaneously and successfully produce trend-setting clothing designs. The truth is, fashion design requires many tactical skills best learned at fashion school.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2004 that the entire fashion design process takes between 18 and 24 months. From before the first garment is cut to after it's shipped, important market research is done to answer essential questions like:

  • What fashion trend is this clothing design making or breaking?
  • How will this clothing design be sourced?
  • Where will this clothing design be produced?
  • Where will it be sold?
  • How will it be marketed?

A fashion designer may enjoy the creative side of clothing designs, but these more practical concerns are important. Learning how to research markets, garments, and designs is an essential skill learned at fashion school.

Sketching is a fashion designer's first step. Design begins with an idea to be expressed and developed. The first step in expressing a design is to sketch it. For those of us who aren't Van Gogh, sketching is an important fashion design skill that you learn in fashion school.

CAD Software
Already a staple of other design fields like interior design and graphic design, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software is being used increasingly in fashion design. In CAD, designers can store their sketch, and edit its colors, styles, garments, and cuts without losing the original design. At fashion school, you will see CAD in the curriculum.

It's true that you need creativity to be a designer, but innovation isn't a guaranteed ticket to success. You need these practical skills, and you can find them at fashion school.


About the Author
Joe Cooper is a freelance education and technology writer and edits medical literature. He holds a bachelor's in American Literature from UCLA.

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