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Competition for design jobs is intense throughout the industry, for every 15 buying job there is only 1 design position! You may need to seek opportunities to work your way up from roles such as design room assistant or even pattern cutter

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Working in the fashion design industry

Finding a job is a job in itself

Competition for design jobs is intense throughout the industry, for every 15 buying job there is

only 1 design position! You may need to seek opportunities to work your way up from roles such

as design room assistant or even pattern cutter.

Top design houses rarely advertise their vacancies, employment opportunities are frequently

secured via speculative applications and effective networking. It is, therefore, important to try to

build relationships with more established designers and companies by taking a proactive

approach, visiting trade shows and making contacts through work placement opportunities.

Crucial to your success in finding a job will be the strength of your portfolio, don’t let this stagnate

after graduation, continually update and review your work.

Portfolio tip: when approaching a company always try to include a brief or some sketches

that relate directly to the companies current collection. They will be impressed!

You’ll need to show great awareness of current and future trends and to able to demonstrate that

you are up-to –date with technological advances. Please don’t forget the non-design skills you

have developed on your course. Recent surveys have show that fashion and textile employers

also look for a willingness to work, strong communication skills, good timekeeping, adaptability

and a flexible attitude.

This handout will help you to focus on role of the fashion designer, what you need to do to land

your first job and provide some advice to those looking to operate as freelance designers.

Good luck!


The jobs

Job title: designer

Fashion designers work on the design of a clothing range. Some may focus completely on a

specialist area, such as sportswear, childrenswear or accessories. The main markets they design

for are haute couture, designer ready-to-wear and high street fashion.

The work: tasks depend on the market the designer is producing for, but core responsibilities


?? creating/visualising an idea and making a sketch by hand or using computer aided design

?? analysing trends in fabrics, colours and shapes

?? keeping up to date with emerging fashion trends

?? planning and developing ranges


?? working with others in the design team, such as buyers and forecasters, to develop a

product to meet the brief

?? liasing closely with sales, buying and production teams to ensure the item complements

other products

?? developing a pattern that is then cut and sewn into sample garments

?? sourcing, selecting and buying fabrics

?? adapting existing designs for mass production

?? supervising the making up of sample garments

?? overseeing production

?? negotiating with customers and suppliers

?? managing marketing, finances and other business activities if working on a self-employe


?? There is scope for travel abroad, for example to attend trade shows or to meet suppliers

Experienced designers with larger companies may focus more on the design aspect, with patter

cutters and machinists preparing sample garments. In smaller companies these, and other task

may be part of the designer's role.

The working environment: varies between companies and can range from a Victorian-style

factory, to a modern purpose-built office or a small, smart design studio. Freelance designers

may work from home or in rented studio areas.

Skills and knowledge: employers usually expect to see a portfolio that clearly demonstrates the

ability to design. Potential candidates will also need to show evidence of the following:


?? creative flair, including an eye for colour and a feel for fabrics

?? design and visualising skills, either by hand or through computer aided design

?? experience of computer aided design packages such as Illustrator and Photoshop

?? practical skills, including pattern cutting and sewing

?? a proactive approach

?? commercial awareness and business orientation

?? self-promotion and confidence

?? interpersonal, communication and networking skills

?? negotiation and influencing skills

?? team working skills

?? organisational and time management skills

Training: during a designer's career, training opportunities are frequently limited in scope as

career development may result in only subtle changes in work. However, larger firms may

provide business and computer training, which could include computer aided design or other

specialist software, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, to help design patterns.

Pay and conditions: typical starting salaries range from £14,000 - £18,000, or £16,000 - £20,000

for London-based roles. A good junior designer can expect to earn £30,000 - £35,000 within

three to four years.

Prospects/promotion: progression can be slow, particularly at the start of your career. Being

proactive and making contacts in the industry is essential in a sector where people frequently

move jobs in order to progress their career and there is a lot of pressure to produce new ideas