A Career in Fashion Design Begins with the Right Education
Runway models

Attend a Fashion Institute

If you enjoy designing your own clothes and are considering a fashion design career, attending a fashion design school is a smart step toward turning your dream into reality.

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Fashion Is Just the Beginning

While starting out with a passion for clothes and having a creative eye for design and style are the building blocks for becoming a fashion designer, they are really just the tip of the iceberg. Enrolling in a fashion design college allows you to expand your knowledge, wrap your head around the business side of the industry and prepare for entering the workforce or starting your own company.

The fashion industry is increasingly corporate driven, so it's important to have a firm grasp of the environment and mechanics behind the industry in order to meet with success. Students are taught to keep on top of the trends by reading trade papers and are educated on the basics of economics and organization—must-haves for those who aspire to run their own businesses. Business education is on the rise in most fashion programs since it is understood that students need to be business savvy in order to wisely negotiate contracts, choose a business partner and sell their products successfully.

The backgrounds of famous designers are also studied. Students learn how designers got their starts and what helped them to become the household names they are today.

Most fashion programs run from 3 to 4 years and include courses on textiles, color, composition and form, along with fine arts and drawing classes. Attending a fashion institute often puts students in contact with representatives from the fashion industry. Many programs feature critique projects where successful designers in the field give feedback to the students on their work. Opportunities to win awards and grants by entering competitions are also available.

At the end of the final semester, a fashion show is held in which students get to display their collections for all to see. This event can be a prime opportunity for the soon-to-be-graduate to showcase their creative talents for fashion industry scouts and the media alike.

Fashion Designer Strategies

There are many different routes to becoming an accomplished fashion designer. Many famous designers started out as interns at other companies and worked their way up; others learned from hands-on experience and had absolutely zero fashion education.

For the most part, however, going out into this competitive industry armed with only passion is not enough—you have to quickly establish a name for yourself. Most budding designers tend to focus on a particular fashion product or niche to establish their name—it's much easier to create an identity when you are known for one particular style or product rather than several. If or when this initial offering is successful, it's possible (and often easier) to expand into new areas.

As with those graduating from graphic design school, fashion designers can expect some lean years at the start of their careers until they are established. However, there can be a large payoff for those willing to stick it out. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2005 reported that fashion designers on the lower end of the earnings scale hover around $25,000 per year, while the earnings for those at the top end of the spectrum were well over $100,000 annually.

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