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How to become a fashion designer

So, you are interested in becoming a fashion designer? Do you want to create beautiful and slick garments or perhaps even start a trend with your designs? Well, becoming a fashion designer means not only designing those epic clothes but also interacting and working alongside a multitude of other professionals in the industry. People like pattern makers, stylists, modelling agencies, photographers, editors, suppliers, merchandisers, and even manufacturers.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, stay tuned as we delve into what you need to do to get into this exciting industry and, not only that but to succeed as well. 

Firstly, we need to answer the question of what exactly a fashion designer does. Becoming a designer is completely an expression of yourself. This means it is considered an art form just like painting, sculpting, cooking, and music. It is about telling your story through the design of anything from eyewear, underwear, casual wear to formal and haute couture.

Now the key for designers is being able to read trends and also, to be brave and put your art out there. The goal is to design items that people will love to wear. This process involves a few aspects such as drawing or sketching the creation, to choosing the material, to creating your first mockup, and then making it better with a few tweaks 

It does indeed sound like there is quite a lot of work that goes into creating something worthwhile and this mean you will need at the very least, certain skills. Having the idea or visualising the garment will only take you so far. Let us have a look at some of these skills you need to be your best designer. 

The first skill that you will need is to be able to sew. Designers who cannot sew are more like artists and not the full deal. You have to be able to sew and not only that, but you also need to understand the entire process of constructing a garment to be successful. Understanding the construction aspect means also understanding how materials are different and how these differences affect your end product. This all goes towards guiding you when selecting your material for the garment and will assist immensely with choosing the correct type. 

You need to be at least halfway good at drawing as you will need to take the image from your head and get it onto paper. You do not have to be an accomplished artist, but I am sure you can understand how not being able to draw what you imagine, will hamper your efforts, quick snap. 

Now, feeding off of the above, you will also need some creative and artistic talent. Your goal is to stand out from the dull and generic, right? Well, having at least some artistic talent is everything in this industry. If you feel you have at least the minimum of natural talent needed, you can and should take some courses to help you take your artistic talent to a higher level. And as always, practice and then practice some more and you will soon get a feel for what to do at which point. 

You might be working in a team in the future, and this means being open to listening to other ideas and working collaboratively with others. You need to be able to accept feedback and action it where appropriate. Other designers have already been where you are, they have more experience, and you would be wise to piggyback off their experience and learn from them. 

You need to be able to differentiate between distinct types of material and fabric. You need to understand how certain fabrics feel and how they react differently when the tension of the stitching is changed or how the garments need to be looked after and washed. How will the garment feel when worn and how the pattern and material choice will look when worn? Without this skill, you will be severely hampered in your efforts to be an epic designer. 

There is a multitude of fashion design courses, both in person as well as online. While many famous designers have no formal training, it would be a massive benefit to you to learn the basics and then practice them instead of trying to find your way. It is a bit like cooking, do the recipe until you can do it from memory and then you explore and tweak and personalise the dish. Only once you have the basics can you do this successfully every time. 

Keep in mind that becoming an accomplished designer takes years to reach and even then, you will still be learning. 

Here are some tips to get you on your way to becoming a top designer.

Get yourself out there.

If you want to learn and aspire to be the best, you need to be around the people where the action is happening. In any type of arty career, you learn best by doing it with your own hands. Being where the action is, exposes you to the actual raw career of fashion design. There are no sugar coatings in a real studio. Being around accomplished designers will definitely allow you to learn skills from experts all day. Now, there are some ways to do this. You can apply for internships or bottom of the ladder job openings. These will get you in the door. You could seek out a mentor to guide you along the way. Never underestimate the power of true mentorship. Why not draw directly from someone else’s experience and knowledge? Besides, having a mentor will also introduce you to some of their connections and, you never know when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will present itself. It is only when you are in it, that you can win it, yeah?

Get creative

Creativity is all about inspiration. Using everyday things that inspire you to be creative will give you that extra boost. Once your ideas start gushing from your mind, you need some way of organising them and tweaking them. Suggestions for this can include vision boards, mood boards, and the work in progress section. Once you have your ideas somewhere, you can add to them or alter them. This is where being a little arty and creative will help immensely. Include what you have, what you need, and where you want to go in the end with a particular idea. You can now focus on your creation and draw from all the things that truly inspire you. Add fabric swatches and accessories to the board. Let it be the foundation of the entire process. When you are inspired, your work will show this.

Draw and sketch your creations

This is a little more involved, but it will assist in getting the idea down onto paper. Obviously, your first step is to get the image from your brain onto the paper. Easier said than done for some people. Just remember to practice will assist you greatly with your drawings. Once you have the idea on paper you can then continue with designing it and refining your creation. The next step is to create a guide for the pattern maker to design the pattern for your creation. 

The drawings should include all the extra information that the pattern maker will need to know. These are things like sleeves, seams, fit, length, and any extra pieces that go into the creation. Include samples of material with your drawings and indicate visuals such as colour and weight of the fabric. All of these pieces fit together and allow the pattern maker to create a pattern for the garment that you initially visualised.

Study trends and take classes. 

Knowing all you can about the industry and the trends is vital information and will assist you greatly. Fashion trends change often and keeping up with them means that you have a bigger pool of ideas from which to draw inspiration. Watch fashion shows, try to get involved in the shows in some way, you will learn a lot no matter how you are involved. Watch tv shows about fashion and design. 

Take some online classes to refine your drawing skills and to keep up to date with all you will need for the industry. As mentioned, many aspects comprise fashion design, and, likely, you are not at an advanced level in all of them. If you struggle to draw, take some art classes or drawing tutorials. These could be online or face to face. Take sewing classes if your sewing needs some work. Learn some fashion history, interesting facts and read fashion magazines. Live the fashion. Your goal is to know as much about the industry as you possibly can. This will give you a huge pool to pull some inspiration from.

Start making something

The best place to start is to actually start. Remember, we learn by doing. We also learn from mistakes. Creating your clothing line or fashion line is not a straight cut and paste type of thing. It is your idea, your concept, and your creation. It needs to show you and tell your story. The possibilities are endless. Use colour, shape and feel to hold your collection together but also keep in mind that it is your collection so it can be whatever you want it to be. It is your art, yeah? While most of the time the designs and creations will have some common thread (I could not resist that one) they really do not have to. It is all about displaying your talent, ideas, and artistic ability. You need to be brave to put yourself out there. You also need to understand that your first few items are likely not going to be your best work. Do you know what? Who cares? The important thing is you tried, and you actually followed the process until the end. You would have learned a lot just from completing the process and you will know what works and what does not work the next time you try. But please, just try.

Ask mentors and co-workers for their feedback and be prepared to listen to it genuinely. If people respect you, they will be honest with you. The thing is though, people do not always give negative criticism in a way that you might want it. You have to be prepared to listen and then decide what to do with the information you just received. Do not take it personally, if you do it will start to pour icy water on that inspiration fire you have been stoking up until now.

Refine your style

It is likely that when you begin creating a fashion line, you will find some common themes tying all the items together. This could be anything from the fabric to the colour to the shape. This is your signature, and it is more important than a lot of other things. Your signature is what tells people the item has been designed by you. It should scream, you. Now the style can change and that is great but, the signature is a link to your brand. It is something unique to you and your brand. The signature shows everyone what you have created and how you were inspired. The entire process from imagining to sketching to creating a pattern to making the garment is a showcase of you, your process, inspiration, and brand. 

Hopefully the above has given you an idea of what it takes to be a designer and how to go about getting there. The most important ingredient in becoming an accomplished and successful fashion designer is to have passion. Without passion becoming a fashion designer will just be a job. An unfulfilling and unpleasant part of your life. Rather do something else that you do have passion for. When it comes to any of the arty careers like fashion design, cooking, baking, or even interior design, passion is essential if you want to be successful. 

So, go forth and be all the designer you can. 

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