Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.
- Study fashion trends and anticipate designs that will appeal to consumers
- Decide on a theme for a collection
- Sketch designs of clothing, footwear, and accessories
- Use computer-aided design programs (CAD) to create designs
- Visit manufacturers or trade shows to get fabric samples
- Select fabrics, embellishments, colors, or style for each garment or accessory
- Work with other designers or team members to create a prototype design
- Present design ideas to the creative director or showcase them in fashion or trade shows
- Market designs to clothing retailers or directly to consumers
- Oversee the final production of their designs
Types of Fashion Designers
Clothing designers create and help produce men's, women's, and children's apparel, including casual wear, suits, sportswear, evening wear, outerwear, maternity, and intimate apparel.
Footwear designers create and help produce different styles of shoes and boots. As new materials become available, such as lightweight synthetic materials used in shoe soles, footwear designers produce new designs that combine comfort, form, and function.
Accessory designers design and produce items such as handbags, suitcases, belts, scarves, hats, hosiery, and eyewear.
Costume designers are responsible for designing costumes for the performing arts and for motion picture and television productions.
Career Path Examples
- Assistant Colorist: An assist colorist helps with selection of colors that will be used in designs. They help choose color combinations that consumers (manufacturers, retail buyers) are likely to purchase. Entry-level assistant colorists are usually recent graduates or have less than three years experience.
- Assistant Designer/Assistant Textile Designer: An assistant designer helps in the development and production of new apparel designs for manufacturers, specialty & retail stores. Must keep up with fashion trends through industry publications, fashion shows & networking. Entry-level assistant designers are usually recent graduates or have less than three years experience.
- CAD Designer/CAD Illustrator: Create & execute all print and pattern work for development using CAD software. Entry-level CAD designers are usually recent graduates or have less than three years experience.
- Product Development Assistant: Assists in the conceptualization, design, manufacturing and distribution of apparel garments. This position requires the combination of business, technical and creative skills. Entry-level production development assistants are usually recent graduates or have less than three years experience.
- Wardrobe/Costume Assistant: Assists in helping the production’s (stage plays, musicals, ballets, television programs, motion pictures, etc.) characters come to life in the minds of the audience. Involves collaborating with directors, producers, set designers, costume designers, etc. to ensure characters are portrayed in the right context. Entry-level wordrobe/costume assistants are usually recent graduates or have less than three years experience.
- Colorist: A colorist is verifies that fabric from textile mills and factories are produced to meet specific color standards. Experience with visual and instrumental color evaluation procedures, use of a spectrophotometer, light boxes and other color tools is required. The colorist will choose and order color chips for the designs in a store as well. Mid-career colorists usually have at least three to five years experience.
- Associate Designer
- Technical Designer
- Product Development Associate
- Assistant Stylist
- Fashion Designer
- Senior Textile Designer
- Product Development Manager
- Fashion Stylist
Fashion designers work in wholesale or manufacturing establishments, apparel companies, retailers, theater or dance companies, and design firms.
About 30 percent of fashion designers were self-employed in 2010. Some fashion designers own companies that bear their names. They typically design high-fashion garments and one-of-a-kind apparel on an individualized or custom basis.
Most fashion designers work full time. Occasionally, fashion designers work long hours to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows. Designers who freelance generally work under a contract and tend to work longer hours and adjust their workday to their clients’ schedules and deadlines.