So you’ve decided that you want a career in fashion, and maybe you’re even about to enter the real world with your portfolio full of stunning fashion illustrations and a head full of hopes. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that glamorous perception of the design industry is a myth, and that vision of yourself as a famous fashion designer with your own clothing line is almost close to impossible to reach. The actual chances of that are probably the same as becoming a movie star. It doesn’t mean that you won’t become a successful fashion designer working for a company- it means that your chances of becoming the type of designer you envision yourself as are quite slim. Not only do you have to compete with the already established professional fashion designers, but nowadays throw pop singers, celebrities, and TV stars into the mix. There is a better chance that you’ll end up working for an established designer collection or as a designer for the next big celebrity’s clothing line.
If this sounds like old news to you, then congratulations – you’re a step ahead of the game because you already know what you’re getting into. If what I just said comes as a total surprise, take a moment to let reality sink in – and then keep reading. In either case, we want to give you the info you need to know to prepare yourself for some of the challenges that lie ahead…
In school most of your time was spent learning fashion illustration, draping, sewing, and patternmaking. While these are certainly good skills to have, they aren’t very practical when you’re trying to land your first job in the fashion industry. In the real world you’ll be expected to know how to sketch flats, create garment specs, CADs, and presentation boards.
Knowing popular computer applications for creating flats and CADs is extremely important. Most companies expect proficiency in Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Excel. Many companies also request knowledge of WebPDM. Many fashion school grads believe they know these programs well. But schools don’t teach computerized flats or the software used to create them well enough for entry-level designers to be competent within the industry.
Whether you’re applying to different fashion schools, already in school, about to graduate, or already have your first job in the industry, it’s important to have an idea of where you ultimately want to end up. You might think that as a fashion designer; you’ll have the opportunity to work with all types of clothing, but you should be aware that there are different categories and specializations within the fashion industry. Have you thought about which fashion market you want to end up in? What specialization? Developing a plan of action will increase your chances of reaching your goals.
When creating their first fashion portfolios, many design students and entry-level fashion designers make the mistake of filling them with all of their favorite fashion illustrations. But companies don’t need to see tons of imaginative avant-garde sketches – they just don’t sell! Following an organized portfolio format is a better approach to get your ideas across and show off all of your talents and skills, while demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of what companies expect from you.
You’ll also need to create a well organized, intelligent resume to get yourself through the door. If you don’t look good on paper, recruiters won’t give you a second glance. Not only do your skills and qualifications have to impress, but you need to make sure they stand out amongst the hundreds, or thousands of other applicants for the same position.
Employers know that entry-level candidates will require a lot of training to fill in those education gaps. However, they do look for a candidate that won’t be difficult to train, or take up too much training time. Someone who learns quickly and is willing to go the extra mile is a worthwhile candidate for the employer to hire. Express your interest in the company, and your flexibility and eagerness to learn and develop within the field. To really impress, make sure your have researched the market and are familiar with common industry terms so you won’t get caught off guard when they are mentioned in the interview.
Despite what I said earlier, I’m sure there are still some of you who are determined to become your own designer; create your own label, design your own fashion line, runway show and all. We commend your ambitiousness and of course, we are here to help! With our advice and observations, we want to provide you with our suggested approach to make it happen. Educating yourself, knowing the business, designing for a cause you love, and promoting yourself through new avenues are all steps towards becoming the designer you’ve always envisioned!
Keep in mind that the above issues are topics that deserve serious individual attention. In our upcoming articles, we’ll discuss each topic further, giving you insider tips and insight so you can sidestep the pitfalls of the industry, giving you that much-needed competitive edge and increasing your chances of getting where you want to go within the industry. Basically, we want to prepare you as much as possible, so take it from designers who have been in your shoes, and soak it up!