Overview

Fashion Designers work on developing new ranges of clothing and accessories to meet the needs of an ever-shifting fashion culture. Such designers may be employed by a specific brand or high street chain and given objectives to work towards, or may be able to develop their own brand. Your direction will depend on your skill set and how good you are at selling yourself.

Employer requirements will depend entirely on the market the designer is aiming for (high street fashion is a lot more accessible and commonplace than haute couture, for example) but will almost certainly include keeping up with emerging trends, having a great working knowledge of social media, and a flair for creating and producing a design using computer aided design (CAD) software.

You may also need to demonstrate excellent negotiation skills, great communication, brief-driven performance and motivational teamwork. Although being able to create amazing designs, patterns and accessories is a key element of the job it is important not to overlook marketing, IT proficiency, and understanding your key demographic (target audience).

Starting salaries in design, until you have built a reputation, are typically lower than average but can increase to higher than average yearly earnings as you become more known for the quality of your work. In terms of entry level qualification, it is not enough to rock up with some outstanding designs – this is a competitive market and a degree in a design and fashion related subject is a must.

Pay

Median pay according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics is around $63,670 per year, which is considerably higher than similar “Art & Design Worker” salaries of $43,000/year and the median for all occupations combined which is just around $36,200 per year. Job aggregator Payscale puts their median salary figure for Fashion Designers right around the $61,300 mark, as well.

The lowest 10% of Fashion Designers made around the national for all occupations at $33,100/year, while the top 10% of Fashion Designers made over $125,000/year. As you can see, there can be quite a large discrepancy in pay depending on a multitude of factors including location of job, experience level, designer reputation, and target market.

The industry in which a Fashion Designer works can also have a large impact on their overall salary. For example, those working within management roles for larger companies and enterprises earn a median salary of over $75,000/year, while those working in apparel manufacturing earn around $66,000/year. Likewise, those working in wholesale bring in around $61,000/year and those working in specialized design services earn just over $54,000/year.

Entry level salaries, especially for larger companies, tend to often be quite low; however, there is usually a lot of room for advancement within the company if an individual is able to pick up more responsibilities and ultimately, manage other people. Working for companies, in turn, makes for a much more stable salary than those who work either freelance or independently; however, some of the highest earning fashion designers are self-employed, so in terms of total earnings potential, this is not a bad avenue, either.

Fashion Designer Salary Statistics

2016 Median Pay$63,670 per year
$30.61 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationBachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation ?None
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 201623,100
Job Outlook, 2014-2024+3%
Employment Change, 2014-2024 +700
Sources: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics & Payscale

Industry Forecast

The industry forecast for all occupations combined for 2014-2024 is a positive growth rate of around +7%. The industry growth forecast specifically for Fashion Designers for the same time frame is +3%. While this is still positive, the Fashion Design industry growth rate is restricted by shrinking domestic manufacturing of apparel in America. With more and more production processes moving overseas, so do many potential design positions within those companies.

If you have experience or can adapt to designing for wholesale apparel companies, on the other hand, designers can be rewarded with a market segment that is forecast to grow at a whopping 17% between 2014 and 2024. Many large retailers are selling fashion-inspired lines (think fast fashion), and thus, the demand for designers to create and update clothing and accessory lines in this segment is booming.

Having a strong educational background, most commonly including an internship with a recognizable brand name, a strong work ethic, and unique style will help equip you for a successful career in fashion design. The ability to remain flexible, accept work in perhaps segments you do not initially find the most exciting to build a reputation may be necessary before achieving independent success.

Types of Fashion Designers

The fashion world is broad and packed full of variety. Often times these professionals group themselves into either Apparel, Shoe, or Accessory designers. Of those three, apparel is the largest and contains sub-segments including Haute Couture (think exuberant and expensive), Pret-a-porter (mass market but still not fast-fashion scale), and Mass Market (this is your H&M, Hollister, Gap).

Within each market segment then there are varying levels of seniority and specified roles designers perform. For example, within Apparel, Shoe and Accessory markets there can be Product Development Managers, Technical Designers, Pattern Makers, Senior Product Managers, Marketing Managers, and Directors. These roles are more specialized and often require skill sets developed over time and are thus not often for entry-level applicants.

The nice thing about working in fashion design is that many of the skills required for any one of the three major segments can often be transitioned into others. For example, a professional with experience in Accessory design can easily transition into Apparel by leveraging their skills as a Product Development Manager or Technical Designer, for example, as many of the core professional principles remain the same, only the medium changes.

Sample Resume Download

Below is an example of a professionally written Fashion Designer resume you can download, save, and print out for reference when you sit down to “hand craft” your own designer resume. As with fashion, you need to be unique to stand out from the crowd, so we do not recommend you copy this sample verbatim but instead use it more for “inspiration”.

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How To Write Your Own

Writing your own Fashion Designer resume is not that daunting. The document itself is quite boring, with standardized margins and boring font selection. Unlike fashion, the goal with the resume is NOT to try to stand out by appearance but instead to stand out with substance. Think more the quality of the fabric here and less the actual pattern.

Put Your Skills Front and Center

While spotting trends and having an eye for potentially profitable looks are essential in finding a job as a professional designer, these things must be backed up by multiple subsets of skills to convince hiring managers you do not just talk the talk but can also walk the walk.

This means clearly stating on your resume how you have used CAD to design and see new accessories from “concept” all the way through production. Additionally, you could mention your extensive Sketch and Illustrator software suite knowledge and how this has allowed you to assist in not only garment development but complete label branding development, as well.

The interviewers will get a better sense of your personal style after they Google your name or meet you face to face in an interview, but to get there you first have to convince them you have the fundamental skills required to perform the tasks they will be asking of you. If designing, that means displaying your design skills prominently on your resume. If you are applying for a job leading a team, HR’s will be looking for team-building and management experience on  your resume.

Ultimately, while your resume is a professional autobiography of your own working and educational experiences, you want to try to write it through the eyes of a potential hiring manager. Ask questions you would ask if hiring someone for your own company. Only through looking at your resume through the objective lens of someone else will you better understand where you need to underscore experiences with hard skills.

Quantify Numerically

Just because you are working in the arts does not mean you do not have to worry about math. State budgets you managed or team sizes in numerical terms whenever possible as this is standard practice in the resume writing industry. For example, you can specify the number of garments you have helped design for a new product line, the size of a team you managed, or the product development budget you managed in dollar terms, and by how much you stayed within it in percentage terms.

If you can gather sales figures, these are probably the juiciest of numerically quantified nuggets you can slip in your resume as they are telling the reader point blank: “this much money was made before and this much can be made again for you”.

Name Drop

In fashion, reputation is everything, and to get a job at a leading firm you almost always need a solid apprenticeship or internship while transitioning from university into the full-time work force. Make sure to feature apprenticeships and internships front and center for more entry-level resumes, while mentioning them more briefly for mid level applications.

Mention the name of your mentor, because if applying to work in the same market segment this person will probably also serve as your go- to-reference. Also, mention brand names, campaigns or events by name that you participated in as while people may not have heard of your individual contribution to said event, they will definitely know the headlines and thus associate you with a successful production or two.

Sample Bullet Points

Below are a collection of experience related bullet points that are highly prized within the design industry.  Customizing your own bullet points to reflect some of the below qualities will only serve to reinforce your qualifications for the position you are applying for.

Sample Fashion Designer Bullet Points

Task
Direct and coordinate workers involved in drawing and cutting patterns and constructing samples or finished garments.
Examine sample garments on and off models, modifying designs to achieve desired effects.
Sketch rough and detailed drawings of apparel or accessories, and write specifications such as color schemes, construction, material types, and accessory requirements.
Confer with sales and management executives or with clients to discuss design ideas.
Identify target markets for designs, looking at factors such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Attend fashion shows and review garment magazines and manuals to gather information about fashion trends and consumer preferences.
Select materials and production techniques to be used for products.
Provide sample garments to agents and sales representatives, and arrange for showings of sample garments at sales meetings or fashion shows.
Adapt other designers' ideas for the mass market.
Purchase new or used clothing and accessory items as needed to complete designs.
Visit textile showrooms to keep up-to-date on the latest fabrics.
Collaborate with other designers to coordinate special products and designs.
Design custom clothing and accessories for individuals, retailers, or theatrical, television, or film productions.
Determine prices for styles.
Draw patterns for articles designed, cut patterns, and cut material according to patterns, using measuring instruments and scissors.
Develop a group of products or accessories, and market them through venues such as boutiques or mail-order catalogs.
Read scripts and consult directors and other production staff to develop design concepts and plan productions.
Test fabrics or oversee testing so that garment care labels can be created.
Sew together sections of material to form mockups or samples of garments or articles, using sewing equipment.
Research the styles and periods of clothing needed for film or theatrical productions.

Career Objective

Most fashion and design related resumes will start out with a simple career objective where you state your background and the position you are seeking in just a couple of sentences. Really, you should be limiting this to just 1-2 sentences as it is merely an introduction to entice the reader to continue on down through the body of your resume.

Most professionals start out by saying something along the lines of their specific market background and years of experience such as:

Women’s lingerie designer with 6+ years of experience..

The point here is to indicate to the reader right off the bat this person is worth spending just a few seconds on because you have clearly communicated your have a background they are seeking.

Next applicants should specify what they want to do for the company they are applying to. To build off the above, a design applicant might continue:

Women’s lingerie designer with 6+ years of experience working in fast fashion seeking challenging opportunity to develop the Summer Line at Victorias Secret U.K.

Note what the above objective states. After showing the applicant’s qualified background they clearly communicate how they intend to help the exact company they are applying to. Here, we should drive home the point that every career objective should be customized for each position you are applying to. Using the same generic career objective for all of your applications is lazy and not as effective.

Additional Skills & Certifications

In terms of certifications, if you did not attend a 4 year program at an accredited institution, you can go out and get an associates degree from a fashion design program in 2 years or under. Here, you will be certified in the skills you will need daily to work in fashion design like drawing, 3D design, color theory, CAD, and more.

The more software skills you can list, the better, as in an ever increasingly digital world the ability to design and produce online, with the latest versions of software suites, will be highly valued amongst companies that are looking to hire someone who can hit the ground running and will not require months of training and software learning.

Do not forget to include more universally applicable skills like teamwork, critical thinking, organization, and problem solving skills. No company wants to hire a designer they have to micro manager all the time, so communicating that you are ambitious and adaptive in your additional skills section is a great way to finish off a great resume.

Useful Skills to Include

Below are a selection of some of the above mentioned universally applicable skills that most employers are looking to find within the candidates they shortlist for interviews. Use these for inspiration to polish off a well rounded additional skills section yourself.

Useful Fashion Designer Skills

SkillSkill Description
Active ListeningGiving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical ThinkingUsing logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
SpeakingTalking to others to convey information effectively.
Active LearningUnderstanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Social PerceptivenessBeing aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
CoordinationAdjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Judgment and Decision MakingConsidering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Reading ComprehensionUnderstanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Complex Problem SolvingIdentifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Time ManagementManaging one's own time and the time of others.
Management of Personnel ResourcesMotivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
MonitoringMonitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
PersuasionPersuading others to change their minds or behavior.
NegotiationBringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
Service OrientationActively looking for ways to help people.
WritingCommunicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
InstructingTeaching others how to do something.
Operations AnalysisAnalyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
Systems AnalysisDetermining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
Learning StrategiesSelecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
Systems EvaluationIdentifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
Management of Financial ResourcesDetermining how money will be spent to get the work done, and accounting for these expenditures.
Management of Material ResourcesObtaining and seeing to the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials needed to do certain work.
Quality Control AnalysisConducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
MathematicsUsing mathematics to solve problems.
Operation MonitoringWatching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Technology DesignGenerating or adapting equipment and technology to serve user needs.
Equipment SelectionDetermining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.
TroubleshootingDetermining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
ProgrammingWriting computer programs for various purposes.
ScienceUsing scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
InstallationInstalling equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.
Operation and ControlControlling operations of equipment or systems.
Equipment MaintenancePerforming routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
RepairingRepairing machines or systems using the needed tools.

Additional Resources

Day in the life: From Project Runway to owning her own clothing line, Melissa Fleis