Exploring this Job
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for a career in fabric design. Take art, drawing, sketching, family and consumer science (especially sewing), and computer-aided design classes in school. You might also want to take courses or workshops in fashion design.
Training in weaving, felting, batik, and fabric painting might also be useful. These can often be found through art or craft guilds.
Internships are very helpful in laying the groundwork for long-term career success. Part-time or summer jobs working in fabric stores, in store merchandising, or in clothing design will provide good experience.
Fabric designers create the different structures and looks of various textiles and fabrics. In order to create designs, they manipulate fabrics and other materials, as well as colors and textures.
Properties of fabrics can be very different. Some are soft and supple. Others are more firmly constructed. Some are washable. Others may not be. Fabric designers need to consider how the fabric will ultimately be used and the type of properties it needs. They often research the properties of various fabrics to assure that the particular fibers being used will work effectively.
With that knowledge, fabric designers select the types of fibers that will be used for each project and determine if textiles will be made with a single type of fiber or a blend of different fibers. Then they determine if fibers will be bonded, fused, knitted, or woven together.
Designers determine the design of each fabric as well as how that design will ultimately be achieved. They must decide, for example, what colors to use; if the fabric will be dyed or screen printed; or if various colors will be woven together. These decisions determine the pattern and structure of the fabric design. Fabric designers experiment with the development process to ensure that the colors, textures, and patterns work together. They create different designs, sketches, and samples to present to the design team before settling on a final pattern. Once a design is selected, the fabric designer must stay abreast of the entire design process by constantly checking and approving samples of the completed fibers and fabrics.
Designers may design fabric for a variety of uses including clothing, accessories, furniture, rugs, bed linens, towels, and other products. They develop ideas based on current trends, referencing materials and instructions from clients or supervisors. Some designs may be hand sketched, but a great deal of a designer's time is spent on the computer. Fabric designers use a variety of software, including computer-aided design (CAD) programs, to do their work. Once designs are completed, the fabric designer transfers the design to the actual fabric chosen.
Fabric designers typically work as part of a design team. Depending on the specific situations, this might include technical designers, pattern designers, fashion designers, and/or interior designers. They also interact with vendors and merchants. Designers may work on tight deadlines. Many designers visit trade shows to keep up with the latest trends in fabric, fibers, fashions, and designs.
Fabric designers generally specialize in designing certain types of fabrics. They may design fabrics, for example, for women’s clothing or other parts of the fashion industry or they might design fabrics for home décor or furniture upholstery. It all depends on their interests and career aspirations.