Being a fashion designer seems like one of the most glamorous jobs there is, right? The travel, the fashion shows, the clothes, the fabulous people, etc... But the fashion industry is very competitive. And, landing that first fashion job can be daunting. But don't give up. Here's how to start...
1. Dream big!! Allow your creative juices to take over. Get excited by your own style, the things you like, and your unique perspective. Develop your taste.
2. Do some market research. That's just fancy for..."see what everybody else is doing". Get into the habit of tracking the trends that you see. Read what the fashion insiders are predicting as the "look" on industry websites like WWD.com (Women's Wear Daily...but it has a men's section too) or in the fashion section of your local paper. See if you can find those same looks or details in current fashion magazines, and rip out pictures (also rip out what you find interesting, too). Search contemporary famous people on the Internet (musicians, actors, etc) and download pictures. Also, download from fashion websites like style.com. Go window shopping and take along a camera (in NYC go to Bloomingdales, Macy's, and all along 5th Ave...Saks, Bendels, Bergdorf Goodman, etc). Go to Paris on a fashion trip if you can. Shoot interesting looks on mannequins and fashionable people on the streets (get permission first... from the people, not the mannequins). Gather all these pictures together and separate them according to similarities (all western inspired looks, or all clothing made out of silver metallics, or all balloon-shaped clothing, etc). Name each group. Post them up on a large cork board or foam board in an area where you can see it all the time. Note the current season at the top of your board (I.e. Fall '12 or Spring '13). This will be your mood board. This will inspire you. Re-design 2 or 3 versions of each garment or outfit on your mood board. Can't draw? Look at step 5 below... 3. Pick out dominant color groups you've seen repeated in your research. Visit Pantone.com to see what colors are going to be in fashion. Add color swatches to your mood board (you can get paint chips from your local hardware store). When you are designing your own styles and need to decide on what colors to use, here's a suggestion...Buy a cardboard color wheel at the art supply store. Study the advice on the color wheel about what colors go best together. To keep it simple, the two colors opposite each other on the color wheel, go well together. Also, imagine a triangle over the color wheel. The color at each corner (called tertiary colors) compliment each other, as well. Usually, any three colors right next to each other on the color wheel makes for a nice combination of colors, too
4. Go to fabric stores. Take pictures from your mood board. Try to find the exact or similar fabrics from the clothing in each picture. Ask for a swatch and attach it to the picture. Look at the fabric. Feel it. Ask the sales person the name of the fabric and the content (i.e 100% cotton, 50/50 Silk & Linen blend, etc) to familiarize yourself with different fabrics. Label the fabric for your easy rerefence, so that you too will be able to speak the lanquage of the industry. And, take note which kinds of fabrics the designer used for each design. A design that requires lots of drapey-ness and folds, needs a softer fabric. But, a design with a crisp, clean silhouette probably needs a sturdier fabric that holds its shape.
5. Take an art class. A Fashion Illustration or Fashion Design class would be ideal. You'll learn how to draw the human body. Then how to make it into a fashion croquio (which is just a sketch of an elongated, skinnier, leggier version of a normal human body). Or, you can just use some onion skin tracing paper to trace over some underwear models in magazines or catalogues. Once this original drawing is done, put it under another piece of onion skin paper and re-trace the whole body to the middle thighs. And, re-trace only the upper arms (do not trace lower arms or legs), but this time draw inside the lines, making it all skinnier. Now, slide the original drawing downward before tracing (inside the lines) the lower arms, the rest of the thighs and lower legs (making it longer in these areas). You can stretch the neck as well. ... Or, of course you can just scan the original sketch into your computer and use a program like Photoshop to stretch it. You will use this croquio to draw your clothing on top of. You can reuse it over and over again by sliding it under a piece of tracing paper (onion skin paper) and then drawing the clothing on top. You'll also learn how to draw the actual clothing styles as a fashion sketch (on your fashion model croquio) or as a technical "flat" with all the details drawn in, and how to render the fabrics, too. Fashion training programs are fairly short. They can be 1 to 4 years for a certificate or a degree. In fashion school, you'll learn these and other crucial skills to develop a portfolio of your best designs.
6. Find inspiration anywhere. Designers look to many sources to come up with their ideas. You can too, if you keep your eyes open. Reasearch different ethnic cultures and traditions; different eras (i.e. 1800's, 1920's, '80's etc), social movements (i.e. "the flower power" '60's); music genres and videos; famous people (i.e.Micheal Jackson); art; movies; history; the street. Download pictures, if possible. Pick out the most important details or silhouttes from each of these categories. Start a "style file" to file all this, and any other pictures you find interesting. Categorize them as you like ("shirts", "pants", "sleeves", etc). Next time you need an idea, go to your "style file". And, study up on famous designers of the past (Halston, Christain Dior, Coco Chanel, Lanvin, etc). Know what each designer was known for. And of course, familiarize yourself with important contemporary designers, too (Vera Wang, Gianfrance Ferre, Calvin Klien, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier, etc). Be inspired by them.
6. Find a great sewing class or dressmaking school. Take sewing classes. Learn basic through advanced sewing techniques. Really apply yourself! I've come to realize that if you understand garment construction, and how clothing actually fit on a 3-dimensional body, you will open up your mind to a world of creative possibilites. You'll be amazed at the things that can be done. 7. Research the category of clothing you'd like to design (women's sportswear, men's formal wear, juniors, accessories, etc). Now research the companies you'd like to work for that produce clothing in these categories. Look at the labels inside the clothing you like. Who makes them? Google them. If you are in school, ask your internship department to help you land an internship with your favorite companies. If you're not in school, then call up or email the person that handles the interns for each of your favorite companies. Set an appointment to come in. Bring a portfolio of your best work. And bring your enthusiam too. Companies want people who are excited and eager to learn. Try to keep the internship as long as possible. But know that they are usually unpaid positions. If you are ready for your first paying job, then register with one of the freelance agencies in your town (hopefully one that understands the fashion industry). In NYC contact 24seventalent.com or projectsolvers.com. This is a great way to gain some experience while building your resume. Again, try to keep the assignment going as long as you can. Be helpful and cheerful. Get there early and stay late (within reason). Take your job seriously (even if you are not being paid as much as you'd like). Talk to everybody. Smile at everyone. If you know your assignment is about to end, visit different departments to say "good bye" and leave your business card, letting them know "if they need any help, you are the person to contact". Usually, some under-staffed department will beg HR to keep you on. Even if it's not the department you wanted to be in, stay with the company. You can always "visit" the other department while on your lunch break or before/after work, learning anything you can and building contacts. And, as soon as something opens up...guess who they are going to call, YOU! If they don't keep you, move on. Don't burn any bridges. The fashion industry is quite small. Get another inetrnship or freelance job (the more the merrier). This only helps you gain the needed experience and build your all-important circle of influence. Pretty soon you'll be ready for your first full-time, fully paid position. It may not be the head designer position you dreamt of, but.... watch out fashion world, here you come!
See other articles written on the subject