It’s safe to say that not everybody can be the next Jimmy Choo or Donatella Versace – and not everybody wants to be. While some fashion careers are more famous than others, thanks in part to their glamorous portrayal in the media, the fashion industry covers a huge range of a jobs. There may even be some roles you haven’t considered before.
It would be impossible to list every job available in the fashion industry, but here are some of the most common career paths.
You could specialise in an area such as childrenswear, footwear, handbags, lingerie, menswear, sportswear or womenswear. You’ll usually start off as a fashion design assistant and progress to fashion designer and design director. You could even start your own fashion line.
You’ll be responsible for choosing and testing fabrics, ensuring the design can be made within budget, overseeing garment construction methods and carrying out the quality control of products to check for faults. You may also make production processes more efficient and/or sustainable.
Often employed by fashion designers, you will create the 2D patterns for their designs. Textile designers are highly technical and possess in-depth knowledge about the production of textiles, including types of fabric and yarns, colour, dyeing, weaving, embroidery and printing methods.
You will work closely with fashion designers to discuss their requirements and create conceptual sketches and illustrations of their products. This could involve using computer-aided design (CAD) software, painting and/or free-hand sketching.
You will work with designers and garment technologists to create pattern templates based on the drawings given to you. Your job will involve using dummies to create and refine patterns, working with machinists to create samples and using computer-aided design (CAD) programs.
You will put together visually appealing outfits (think clothes, accessories and props) that match the artistic vision set out for you, whether it’s for a catwalk show, photo shoot, advertisement, TV show, movie, concert or music video.
Personal stylist/personal shopper
One for a fashionista who wants to advise individuals on their personal style. You could work in a retail setting helping the general public or you could work for the stars, helping celebrities look their best on and off the red carpet.
Combining fashion with business, you’ll be the brains behind which products a retailer sells. You’ll need to anticipate which trends are going to blow up months in advance, while also considering factors such as the brand aesthetic, customer buying habits, quality and budget.
You’ll work closely with buyers to ensure the right amount of stock is sent to the right stores at the right time. You may also be involved in coordinating sales and promotional offers. A head for numbers will help with the essential forecasting and monitoring of sales.
You’ll be guilty of tempting people to walk into stores and part ways with their money – simply by designing store layouts that are as irresistible as possible, from eye-catching window displays to envy-inducing mannequins.
You could work for a newspaper, print magazine or website, writing articles on absolutely anything fashion-related, from live coverage of fashion weeks to a top ten list of Kate Middleton’s biggest fashion moments. You’ll usually start off in an entry-level editorial assistant role.
You’ll spend your time creating look books, magazine spreads, marketing materials, bespoke packaging, websites and social media content. You may also design graphics to feature on clothing or accessories (sometimes called a print designer).
You’ll probably work as a freelancer, meeting designers, coming up with concepts for shoots, setting up equipment and lighting on set, directing models and choosing/editing the best images or videos. Depending on each job, you could find yourself in a studio or on location anywhere in the world.
You can make fashion blogging your job. You’ll cover a lot of areas: writing, photography/filming, website design, modelling/styling, social media, ad sales and public relations. As well as planning and creating your content, you’ll need to find ways to gain followers and make your blog/vlog profitable.
If you have the right look, you could sign on to a modelling agency. There are different types of models, including: fashion (editorial) models, runway models, commercial models (who feature in catalogues, adverts, billboards, websites and social media), fitness models or swimsuit and lingerie models.
Fashion marketing and PR
Your job will be to engage more customers and improve brand awareness, for example by planning marketing campaigns, writing press releases, managing social media accounts and putting on events/shows. You could work for one brand or for an agency that works for multiple clients.
You will identify new trends and predict which trends are going out of fashion. For example, you might investigate what’s hot and what’s not in terms of colours, patterns, silhouettes and fabrics – and then report these findings to retailers to help them move in the right direction.
You’ll responsible for managing a brand’s online sales. Your focus will be on converting visitors to the website to sales and you may oversee the design and development of the website, online marketing, website security, traffic analytics and search engine optimisation (SEO).
One for budding entrepreneurs, you’ll be responsible for all aspects of your shop, from buying (or designing!) your stock, creating a website and social media accounts and deciding on the store layout, to assisting customers, training new staff and handling the admin and finances.
You’ll specialise in either theatre, film or TV and you’ll help to make, find and look after the clothes needed for the production. Day-to-day, you might be sourcing clothes and accessories for different characters, fitting costumes for performers, and cleaning, mending and altering the clothes.
You may take on some of the same practical tasks as a wardrobe assistant (see above), but you will be the one who creates the outfits the audience will see. You’ll need to study the script, sketch costume designs and research styles and fabrics before discussing your ideas and instructing others.
Makeup artist/hair stylist
A perfect outfit isn’t complete without the hair and makeup to match. You’ll be working hard behind the scenes to create a look that matches the vision of the brand – and to ensure that the models look exactly as planned (often at the very last minute).
You’ll oversee a fashion house’s studio, coordinating the pattern cutters, machinists and garment technologists. You will ensure that the work is progressing as planned, the deadlines are met, the budget is stuck to and patterns are made to the right standard.
Every fashion retailer with physical stores needs managers. You may well start off as a sales assistant and work your way up to management. Working on the shop floor, you’ll ensure the store is run successfully – both in terms of excellent customer service and financial performance.
You’ll usually find jobs with retailers, writing all sorts of copy – from product descriptions and blog posts to press releases, promotional emails and social media posts. You’ll be expected to write copy that perfectly captures the image of the brand you’re working for.
Social media assistant
Focusing specifically on social media, your job will be to identify the best platforms to reach your target audience on – from Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat and TikTok – and create the best content to generate a buzz around your brand.
With plenty of fashion parties and events to plan, this role may give you the chance to rub shoulders with fashion’s elite. From finding venues to promoting the events, your job will be to ensure that everybody remembers your brand’s events (for the right reasons).
Pass your fashion knowledge onto the next generation by becoming a design and technology/textiles teacher at a secondary school or further education college – or a lecturer for a fashion department of a university. A lot of teachers and lecturers gain experience in industry before moving into an academic setting.
If you want to find out more about the different roles in the fashion industry, you may find it helpful to read The Fashion Careers Guidebook by Julia Yates. It also includes advice on work experience, CVs, portfolios and look books, interviews and networking.