Fashion Designers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In high school, take courses that prepare you for more specialized training after graduation. These include art, family and consumer science, mathematics, and computer-aided design.

Postsecondary Training

An aspiring designer with a fashion background that includes marketing and other business skills will be favored by employers over a talented person with no knowledge of business practices. A college degree is recommended, although not required. Graduation from a fashion design school such as the Fashion Institute of Technology is highly desirable. Employers seek designers who have taken courses in mathematics, business, color theory, design, sketching, art history, fashion history, human anatomy, literature, pattern making, sewing and tailoring, clothing construction, and textiles.

Some colleges offer a four-year degree in fine arts with a major in fashion design. Other designers pursue a double major in fashion design and business, marketing, or fashion merchandising. Many reputable schools of fashion design offer a two- or three-year program that offers a diploma or certificate. As part of their training, many fashion design students participate in internships. The American Apparel & Footwear Association endorses apparel-related programs. Visit its Web site, https://www.aafaglobal.org/AAFA/Solutions_Pages/Endorsed_Schools_and_Universities.aspx, for a list of programs.

Students interested in fashion should take computer-aided design courses. Computers are increasingly being used by designers to create designs, better visualize a final product, create prototypes, and reduce design production time and cost. Companies are looking for designers with more than design skills; many require extensive knowledge and experience with software programs used to produce technical drawings.

Other Education or Training

Fashion Group International, Inc. offers a Beauty and Retail Symposium Series that “features influential business leaders in a panel format who address global issues and the changing dynamics of today's marketplace.” The Custom Tailors and Designers Association and the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Custom Tailors and Designers Association offers certification to designers who have at least four years' experience in the custom clothing industry and who complete the following classes: Blue Pencil; Business; Custom Shirts; Fabric Knowledge; Fitting & Alterations; Measuring; and Style. The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals also provides certification. Contact these organizations for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To improve your chances of breaking into the fashion design industry, you should obtain several years of experience as an intern, assistant, or trainee at a fashion design firm.

Prospective fashion designers must be artistic and imaginative with a flair for color and clothing coordination. They need a working knowledge of clothing construction and an eye for trends. They must possess technical aptitudes, problem-solving skills, and the ability to conceptualize in two and three dimensions. Personal qualifications include self-motivation, team spirit, and the ability to handle pressure, deadlines, and long hours. This career also demands energy and a good head for business.