1. Be creative and have skills.
Figure 1.2 The designer of this dress had to have been a man.
Before anything else, you should have some talent in fashion. You can learn all you need to know in school, but natural creativity is hugely important. Your goal is an aesthetically pleasing creation; you’re an artist. Except you work with people instead of canvas or clay. So art should come fairly easy for you. Actually, it’s kind of a prerequisite for many art programs. Before actually entering a design program, you will have to prove your artistic worth by showing off your best stuff and also completing courses in design and art. But this should be the easy part, because why else would you want to become a designer, if you weren’t good at it?
2. Get into and complete a fashion design program.
You’ve already got the talent, now learn how to really work it. Both associate and bachelor’s degrees will get you ready for the biz, and you’ve got around 300 U.S. schools to choose from. Well, 300 schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, anyway. A bachelor’s will qualify you for more positions, and if you want to be an independent designer, consider business courses, too. In school, you’ll cover everything from textiles, to computer-aided design (CAD), to tailoring, to fashion trends in history. Some students even learn anatomy to better understand the body. While in school, try to get as much practical experience as possible, even if it’s just working at your favorite clothing store.
3. The tricky part: finding a job.
You’ve got the skills, knowledge and hopefully the experience; now get employed. A good portion of designers work for themselves, but it’ll probably be easier to work for another firm initially. Work up a name for yourself and then become the next international fashion sensation. It’s pretty common for designers to start out as “technical designers,” not necessarily designing items, but helping them come to life by dealing with manufacturers or getting patterns ready. You can work in small, independent design firms, possibly creating one-of-a-kind pieces for those who can afford it. Or there are the large companies that manufacture clothes, shoes, hats, and what-have-you for the rest of us poor slobs.
4. Become rich and famous, maybe.
Figure 1.3 I don’t think you understand the important thing here! This skirt was designed by [insert up-and-coming designer name]!
The best of the best become the fashion elite. If you’re über talented and work your ass off, you might be designing the next royal wedding dress. Who knows! The first thing you’ll want to to do is relocate to California or New York, if the U.S. is your desired locale and you aren’t there already. You’ll find the majority of designers working from one of these two areas, and therefore job options will be more abundant. If/when you hit it big, you can buy yourself a country home wherever you want. Just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day: be patient, pay your dues, and work, work, work. Maybe it’ll pay off.
Fame and Options in the Fashion Industry
Of all the designers out there, a very small portion of them are household names. According to The Princeton Review, only one of every 160,000 rise to super-star designer status. Your odds aren’t great, but hopefully you’ll love your job enough to be content contributing your skills to fashion, even if the world doesn’t know your name. Fashion is a huge industry in our world; looking good is a high priority for lots of people. You could end up designing socks for WalMart, a special-order dress that will sell for thousands, or never rising above the level of assistant to another designer. Clothing production requires tons of different people working in different capacities, so it’s not like you’d have to stick to designing. It’s a fairly uncertain field, and some get fed up with it all and change professions. There are other options, like becoming a stylist or the buying or manufacturing end of things. Others choose advertising or utilize their art skills in other fields of design. Even if you never become a wildly popular fashion designer, you can still make a successful career in fashion for yourself, one way or another.