A career in fashion design is perfect for a truly artistic individual, but it does require determination. The odds of turning into the new Vera Wang are slim, but it is doable. Remember that the fashion industry is cutthroat. More than 25% of all design school graduates end up taking a self-employed route in order to earn higher than the national average annual income of $67,000.
If you are dedicated to becoming a fashion designer, you need to start by moving to either California or New York. More than 75% of all fashion design firms are located in these states. In fact, California alone has more than 7,800 clothing or textile manufacturers. Let me remind you, rent in both New York City and in most of California can be horribly expensive if you want to live in safer areas. You will need a salary that can meet the steep price of rent or homeownership. For this reason, you may well be working two jobs.
Within the Los Angeles area, there are a number of job opportunities. Nevertheless, the requirements to land these jobs are rather strict.
- Fourth Floor needs pattern makers. To land this job, you must prove you have three to five years of work experience. You must also be able to work with both computerized pattern systems and manual patterns. While Fourth Floor does not list a starting salary, a similar ad lists the starting salary as $11.50 per hour.
- If you have experience working with denim, you can land a job as a pattern maker in Torrance for $62,000 per year. Extensive skill with fashion design software is mandatory.
- Famous Sunwear needs an administrative assistant who can type at least thirty words per minute. You will be working for a number of fashion designers. Starting wages for this job are $18 an hour. It is an excellent way to start with the company and then prove yourself over time.
One of the best ways to start out is by participating in the Los Angeles Internship Program. The program is managed by UCLA and requires you to be working on your bachelor’s degree in arts. Your room and board are covered, but this program does not accept everyone. Competition to gain a place in this program can be fierce. It does allow you to land an excellent job by the end of the program, however.
Look at a few current rental listings in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas:
- A one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Hollywood costs $1,100 per month. This apartment requires a full-year commitment and no more than two people can reside in the apartment at any time.
- An apartment on Hayworth Avenue, slightly more upscale than the previous listing, runs $2,100 per month. This apartment has one bedroom, one bath, and comes with a more flexible lease.
- A one bedroom, one bathroom condominium in San Francisco costs $3,000 per month. A one-year lease is required.
- For a more affordable $700 per month, you can rent a studio near Burbank. Here there is no bedroom, your living area transforms into your bedroom. This puts you in the Los Angeles area and requires a commitment to a six-month lease.
- An apartment in Beverly Hills costs $1,900. This lands you an older two bedroom, one bathroom apartment that offers 900 square feet of living space.
Even with the least expensive apartment, you will need an income that can cover $12,000 per year in rent. If you plan to design from home, you may need to forgo the smaller studio apartments and invest in a larger two-bedroom unit to allow enough room for your sewing machine and various design tools, as well as your workspace.
Once you have your housing and your job lined up, you will need to look into transportation. In Los Angeles, it is probably pointless to own a car. With taxis, buses, and subway close by, you can save money and use the public transportation when starting out.
For most apartments, utilities are included, so you will not have those expenses. You cell phone, home phone, food budget, entertainment, security deposit (usually two month’s rent paid in advance) and rental insurance are your responsibility. Rental insurance covers the loss of personal items due to fire or theft. Average rates for basic insurance coverage of a one-bedroom property in Los Angeles are $225 per month.
These are the expenses you should expect when starting a career in fashion design. This is why many opt to work in a related career while supplementing their income by creating one-of-a-kind designs for others. If you can get your fashions out into the public, you will find your career taking off!
Find a fashion design school in California by browsing our list of schools.