What Skills Do Fashion Designers Need?

High School student working on color design

When you think of a fashion designer, you might think of a chic black-clad professional who sketches all day. But in reality, a fashion designer’s job is a lot more dynamic than that, and they need a lot more skills than just illustration. If you’re considering becoming a fashion designer, here are some of the skills you should start developing:

  • Drawing: It’s true, initial designs are usually done by hand. You should be able to sketch both the human body and clothing items (or accessories, or shoes, etc.) in a way that will accurately represent the product you’re designing. Often hand-drawn designs take on a stylized aesthetic—the model in a drawing might not be perfectly proportional, for example, and have super long limbs—but a fashion designer should make these stylistic decisions consciously, not because he or she isn’t able to draw the human figure accurately. 
  • Adobe Suite: As is the case with most industries today, the fashion world is going digital. Most fashion design jobs today require that applicants have experience with Adobe Suite. A fashion designer might initially sketch out a design by hand, but any type of technical illustration is generally done in Adobe Illustrator. Being proficient in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign is also a must for fashion designers, since, depending on the size of the company, they may have a hand in photoshoots or layout design in a magazine or ad. 
  • Teamwork: Because you’ll likely be working on a design team with several other designers, you’ll have ample opportunity to interact with other people as a fashion designer. Working on designs together requires patience and flexibility, along with good communication skills and willingness to listen to others’ ideas even when you might not completely agree. 
  • Presenting/Public Speaking: You should be comfortable presenting in front of a group. Fashion designers need to be able to sell their ideas to the rest of the design team, the company’s creative director, the sales team, and other groups in the company in order for their designs to be approved for production.
  • Garment Construction: Though fashion companies generally have an entire team devoted to clothing construction, you should still have a solid grasp on how clothing is created. This will allow you to design clothes reasonable from a construction standpoint, design with the proper fabrics in mind, and create design prototypes.  
  • Understand Trends: Fashion design is more than designing what you think looks good; it’s about designing what the market wants. Understanding fashion trends and being able to forecast future trends will allow you to create designs that customers will buy. 
  • Microsoft Office: Being able to use PowerPoint and Excel is a requirement for most design jobs in the fashion industry. PowerPoint will help you present your designs effectively, and Excel will help you create a tech pack, which is a document designers create to communicate specs and other information to product manufacturers.
  • Knowledge of Color and Print: Selecting on-trend colors and prints for a collection can make or break the success of a fashion designer’s designs. You can forecast what colors will be in-style for a certain product and select coordinating colors for your collection accordingly.

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