Though you probably want to start your career as a fashion designer as soon as possible, keep in mind that most designers don’t get their first fashion design job right out of high school, or even college. It takes a little time to get situated in the fashion industry, and it might be several years before you get your first fashion design job. There are two things that you’ll probably need to do before landing a good design job: first, get a degree in fashion design, and second, work for a few years as a design assistant.
Getting a Degree
A bachelor’s degree in fashion design is a requirement for most mid-level design jobs. While it might seem tempting to speed up your schooling by getting a 2-year associate’s degree instead of a 4-year bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely limit your career choices by doing so. Plan to get at least a bachelor’s degree, and if you feel like you need a master’s degree to acquire the right skills and get you enough connections, plan on another 2-3 years.
Getting a degree might seem like something to just check off your to-do list, but remember that your degree program can set you up for career success later down the road. Internships you complete as part of your major may lead to job offers, professors may become mentors as you branch out after college, and the skills you learn can set you apart from other job applicants. A bachelor’s degree in fashion design isn’t just a stepping stone to a great design job; it will qualify you for a job and teach you everything you need to know to be a good designer and a good employee.
Working as a Design Assistant
Before you get your first job as a fashion designer, you’ll probably have to work for 2-3 years as a design assistant. This isn’t a bad thing—you’ll still get plenty of exposure to the fashion world, and you can use this time to improve your skills and make connections. You’ll probably be helping with lots of administrative tasks, preparing for fashion shows, merchandising, and, yes, designing. How much of which tasks you’re assigned depends on the company you get your first job with. But wherever you’re working and whatever tasks you’re doing, make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. If your boss needs more helpers at a fashion show, sign up. If you can work a few extra hours each week and assist a designer one-on-one, do it. You’ll gain incredible experience and learn so much from your time as a design assistant if you do more than the bare minimum.
Tips for Becoming a Designer Fast
- Make connections. Remember that everyone you meet in the fashion industry—professors, mentors, bosses, other fashion students, you name it—could help you with your career down the road. Develop friendships wherever you can and go out of your way to connect with higher-ups in the industry; the more exposure you have to fashion professionals, the better you’ll be able to market yourself in the future.
- Get as much experience as possible. While you’re still in school, whether you’re working on your undergraduate or graduate degree, get as many internships as possible. The more hands-on experience you have in fashion, the more valuable you’ll be as a future hire. Not to mention, you’ll develop more connections the more roles and companies you connect with.
- Develop design skills. This might seem obvious, but being a skilled and hard-working employee will get you promoted. If you notice a skill—be it CAD, working with merchandisers, predicting fashion trends, or planning fashion shows—that you need to work on or that would help your company, work hard to develop that skill. That will show your employers that you’re willing to put in the time to improve yourself and it will make you a more valuable employee.