You Better WORK: The Grueling Glamour of Fashion Design
Are you ready for a life of glamour, beauty, and lots of hard work? Become a fashion designer.
Do you spend every Wednesday night glued to the TV in anticipation of the next Project Runway episode, enamored by the unique designs and confident that you could produce garments of equal quality? Do you believe that clothes are not merely functional, but should also serve as beautiful means of self-expression? Do you long for the fast-paced glitz of cities like New York and Los Angeles? If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to consider a career in fashion design.
Keep in mind, though, that this profession is not all bright lights and glitter. Beyond the glamour lies an intensely competitive work environment that demands not only great creativity, but also knowledge of current trends, proficiency in sewing and patternmaking, and a flair for self-promotion. Ready to climb the rhinestone ladder?
Fashion Design Job Overview
Every year, fashion designers create billions of clothes, shoes, and accessories for a discerning and fickle body of consumers. They stay up-to-date with fashion trends by conducting research and attending trade and fashion shows. Over a period of 18-24 months--the standard block of time between a design's conceptual stages and its completion; not quite the mad dash depicted on Project Runway--a designer incorporates his/her findings into hand sketches, sometimes translated into computer-aided design (CAD), and then begins the process of either delegating technical tasks, such as sewing, to others (typical of large design firms) or completing this work themselves (more common in small firms or with those just starting out).
While the public image places fashion designers in some posh Manhattan penthouse, following their own aesthetic whims in order to please the very rich and socially elite, only a few of the most successful designers score haute couture gigs. Many others create mass market deigns, open their own stores, or sell their designs to other retailers. Some even work for the entertainment industry, researching period pieces and creating costumes for films and television shows. Whether self-employed or part of a large design team, all fashion designers must be prepared for frequent travel and the occasional all-nighter.
Fashion Design Education and Other Qualifications
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most employers seek designers with 2- or 4-year degrees. Basic coursework for a bachelor's degree typically includes textiles, sewing, CAD training, and fashion history. Fashion design students may also want to supplement their core curriculum with classes in business, human anatomy, and psychology. Aspiring designers can also gain valuable experience from internships or retail jobs, and should always maintain an impressive portfolio.
Job Outlook & Salary Information
Predictably, many are attracted to the glamour and artiness of fashion design, and this makes for a competitive job market. The BLS notes that the best job prospects will be found in firms that create mass-market designs. Advancement is possible for those who are talented, tenacious, and willing to start from the very bottom. The average annual salary for fashion designers hovered around $62,810 in 2007.