Job descriptions and industry overviews

Fashion designer: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Fashion designers create the concepts for and design original clothing, accessories and footwear.

sketching to represent fashion design

What does a fashion designer do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Fashion designers are creative professionals who use their technical and artistic skills to produce designs. Their keen eye for fashion trends and understanding of textiles, fabrics and styles brings their creations to life. Some designers specialise in a particular area – such as womenswear, menswear, sportswear, shoes or accessories. Typically, their day-to-day responsibilities can include:

  • creating mood boards for design ideas
  • producing designs by hand or by using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • keeping on top of fashion trends
  • planning and developing fashion ranges
  • working with others in the design team to meet briefs (for a buyer , for example)
  • sourcing, selecting and buying fabrics and materials
  • creating or supervising the creation of sample items
  • presenting designs to clients, retailers or senior designers (and showcasing them at events).

Those starting out typically work as fashion design assistants. With experience, you can progress to junior designer, fashion designer and senior fashion designer. In time, you could become the head of the design department (sometimes called a fashion manager/director) and even the creative director of a fashion house.

Alternatively, some fashion designers work freelance or start their own fashion line. In this case, they would have to manage their own sales and finances.

Fashion designers are typically based in a purpose-built office, workshop or design studio. A freelance designer or someone starting their own line may work from home or in a rented studio.

A typical working pattern is a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday. However, it is common to work additional hours and potentially at weekends when working towards a deadline or putting the finishing touches to a line, for example. In addition to this, it is common to attend industry events such as exhibitions, fashion shows (such as Paris Fashion Week) and meetings with clients and suppliers, both in the UK and overseas.

How much money does a fashion designer make?

Based on individual job listings we’ve looked at, a fashion design assistant typically earns between £16,000 and £20,000 per year, depending on location and the type of employer – although most entry-level fashion jobs are London based. As they progress, yearly income can increase to around £25,000-£30,000. More experienced designers, such as senior designers, head of fashion departments or design directors, typically earn between £40,000 and £70,000. Those working for the top fashion employers will likely make more than this.

Typical employers of fashion designers

  • High-street stores.
  • Designer fashion labels.
  • Small, independent fashion labels.
  • Online-only retailers.
  • Supermarkets with their own fashion lines.
  • Sportswear brands.

How to become a fashion designer: qualifications and experience needed

Fashion design is a highly competitive area of work and employers will look for someone who has the necessary design skills and technical skills (pattern cutting, for example) to succeed in the role. Studying for a relevant qualification is the most common way to develop your fashion design skills and build a portfolio of work. This could be an undergraduate degree, postgraduate degree, higher national diploma (HND) or foundation degree in a relevant subject, such as:

  • fashion and fashion design
  • fashion business
  • art and design
  • graphic design
  • textiles
  • garment technology.

Alongside studying for a qualification, you could apply for internships to gain skills and first-hand experience in the industry (either in the UK or overseas) which can help you to secure your first permanent job. These experiences also allow you to network with people who could potentially help you find work later on.

Read our article on fashion internships and other ways to gain experience in the industry to find out more.

If you are a school leaver, you could complete a college course in fashion design, such as an extended diploma in fashion design. This can teach you the necessary skills and knowledge of fashion and can help you build a portfolio. You could also complete an apprenticeship with a fashion employer – the fashion and textiles apprenticeship is just one example of this.

It’s not impossible to kick-start a career in fashion design without a degree (if you have gained knowledge and experience in the industry in other ways) but, as it is a highly competitive industry, having the relevant skills, experience and a portfolio is virtually essential.

See our tips from a John Lewis fashion designer for advice on securing a job in a fashion.

Most fashion employers advertise job vacancies on their websites as and when they become available, so you should keep an eye on the careers pages of brands that interest you and set up job alerts if the option is given to you. You can also search specialist fashion job sites for positions and find programmes and initiatives with the British Fashion Council. Bear in mind that ‘graduate’ is often not included in job titles so you’ll need to find suitable roles by looking at what experience/qualifications they require.

Key skills for fashion designers

Besides the necessary technical skills that are specific to fashion design (such as sketching, sewing, pattern cutting and making alterations) some of the other skills you’ll need are:

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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