How to break into fashion as a clothing designer

Working in fashion is a dream for many people — some have a creative flair when it comes to clothing and others aspire to learn the workings behind creating a garment. But how do you land a job in this field? Is there any preparation you can do to better your chances of landing this sort of role?

Retailers of men’s blazers and other menswear essentials, QUIZMAN and retailers of maxi dresses Quiz Clothing give us their top tips for breaking into the industry:

The UK fashion industry

Globally, the fashion industry is worth 2% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and between 2006 and 2016, it grew steadily at 5.5% annually, despite economic turmoil. With this growth, comes a range of employment opportunities. In the UK, around 555,000 people are employed in fashion, textiles and fashion retail. And, with the growth of online usage by consumers, more opportunities have become available for people to get involved in the industry remotely.

One key role in the industry is a clothing designer.

What does a clothing designer do?

As the title suggests, the main role of a clothing designer is to create designs for garments before they go to production. There are a range of industries that you could work in; high fashion, designer ready-to-wear fashion, high-street fashion, children’s wear or costume designer. The role of a costume designer is different as it’s the creation of looks for TV, film and theatre. This might involve designing pieces from scratch or pulling together outfits from a costume wardrobe. You may find a niche that you focus on too such as menswear, hats or accessories.

Being a fashion designer is a fast-paced and demanding role. Many designers work against a set of design instructions called a brief — this might have been set by the creative director or the party that is going to sell the garments and it’s their requirements for the design.

Naturally, you need to be able to create fashion sketches and technical drawings. This could be by hand or through computer aided design. Not only is this useful for those who might be buying your goods, but it’s essential for the manufacturers who must have accurate measurements to work against.

A creative eye will help you produce concept and mood boards. These are arrangements of images, materials, patterns and pieces of text that create a collage that can be presented to others. Mood boards can represent the theme of a design collection or one garment and it represents your inspiration behind the piece. If you are pitching a collection to a potential seller, this will help them get an idea of the type of clothing that you produce and see if it’s in line with their own brand.

You’ll also be required to do some budgeting. This is to estimate costs for materials and manufacturers and you may have to negotiate with suppliers to try and gain a better price. Many fashion designers have budgets to work against and this can also be a constraint to their creativity.

A big part of a fashion designers’ role is to spot and forecast trends. This might be trends in styles, colours and prints. Designers then need to be able to replicate these popular styles in their own work.

Although it can be a stressful role, it can also be highly rewarding to see your designs come to life. Think you’re up to the challenge? What grades and experience do you need to succeed?

Relevant subjects to study and work experience

There are some things that you can do to further your chances of becoming a fashion designer.

Studying Design, Textiles and Fashion related subjects are all good ways of building up your knowledge in the field. These subjects will also build your experience of technical drawings and fashion sketches, whilst developing your understanding of style and design.

Higher education qualifications such as an undergraduate degree will be helpful too. Courses at different universities vary but you will find degrees related to fashion design at many universities. Related topics such as fashion marketing, buying, graphic design and textiles would be useful too.

There are apprenticeships available in fashion too. You may start out as a design assistant and learn the workings of the trade before progressing yourself. This is a great way to gain hands on experience without full-time education.

Build up a portfolio of your work. This could be mood boards that you’ve made, technical drawings, or photographs of pieces that you’ve created. Many colleges, universities and employees will ask for these as you go through your career so it’s a good idea to start creating one as soon as possible.

The sector is very competitive when it comes to jobs so make sure that you’re networking when you can and meeting people in the industry. Try and get work experience in studios or workshop where you can so that you can understand what goes on in these spaces and talk confidently about it to future employees.