Chanel, Versace, Armani, and Oscar de la Renta-the names bring images of glamorous gowns, daring designs, and red carpet galas that mesmerize many. If you dream of creating your own fashions, then a career in fashion design may suit your desires.

Fashion designers create both clothing and accessories, such as belts, jewelry, and scarves. Then, they bring their drawings to life. Fashion designers must be creative and determined individuals. There are many aspiring fashion designers out there, but only a few ever reach success. In fact, some people that earn a bachelor’s degree in fashion design ultimately settle for jobs with other companies because they claim the fashion design industry is the hardest business to break into.

In California, fashion designers who have been in the business for a couple of years average a yearly salary of $60,000. If the fashion designer works for a prominent design firm, the salary is sure to be even higher. In fact, top designers can earn millions of dollars per year. If you ever manage to win an Academy Award for costume design, your career is golden. You will be able to charge whatever you want and people will happily pay for your one of a kind designs. Not everyone reaches this level, however, but even $60,000 a year is not bad!

When starting out, any aspiring fashion designer will find him or herself doing the grunt work for his or her bosses. Fetching coffee, finding “the” perfect button, creating patterns from sketches, or handling telephone calls are among the most common duties. If an aspiring fashion designer has solid training and some work experience, he or she may find him or herself starting out as a design room assistant. To get a job higher up on the totem pole, one must be able to prove he or she has a strong fashion sense, excellent color palette, and a vision that matches what the company needs.

As stated before, a career in fashion design requires a degree. You can expect to successfully complete courses in the following areas in order to earn your degree:

  • Brand Identity
  • Chairing Styles
  • Clothing Collections
  • Color and Design Theory
  • Computer Pattern Drafting
  • Computerized Fashion Design
  • Computerized Grading, Marking, and Cutting
  • Creative Design
  • Creative Design Analysis
  • Creative Draping
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Economics
  • English Composition
  • Fashion Sketching
  • History of Fashion
  • Industry Sewing
  • Introduction to Fabric Draping
  • Pattern Drafting
  • Portfolio Preparation
  • Professional Fashion Design Practices
  • Public Speaking
  • Textiles
  • Western Art

In all, it takes almost 100 credits to gain an associate’s degree in fashion. If you plan to go into costume design or some other area of specialty, you will need to add classes to your curriculum.

Once you have your degree, you will need to start searching for a job. The best way to start is to establish yourself in a major city. New York City and Los Angeles are two of the best areas for fashion designers to live. Rodeo Drive is the place to find work starting out. Work in a clothing boutique while creating a portfolio. If you can afford it, start designing and creating your own clothing. Wear it around town. When people ask where you bought that piece, hand them a business card. Designing clothes for others can help build word of mouth publicity.

Typically, the job duties of a fashion designer include:

  • Reading magazines to keep up with the latest fashions
  • Attending fashion shows
  • Visiting fabric mills to learn about the trendy fabrics
  • Sketching fashion ideas
  • Selecting fabrics and any special additions that need to be used with the piece, such as beading and lace
  • Drawing patterns to create garments
  • Cutting out and sewing the clothing item
  • Using tailoring skills to perfect the fit
  • Arranging design shows or arranging to have the press view your new creation
  • Keeping up with what the competition is designing
  • Creating suitable accessories to go with outfits
  • Keeping up with trends on what purchasers want from the clothing they wear

Fashion design is a competitive market with lots of people struggling to scratch their way to the surface. Expect to put in long hours at all stages of your career. In fact, if you think about the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” you have a pretty good image of what fashion design entails.

View a list of schools in California offering fashion design programs >>