Careers in fashion: the different job roles
The fashion industry is huge – and fashion design is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 28 jobs to consider if you want a career in fashion.
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 could work for high street stores, independent labels or a design studio – which might be in-house (eg for a retailer) or specialist.
A related degree, HND or foundation degree is typically needed to get started in fashion design. You could study, for instance, fashion business, art and design, graphic design or fashion and fashion design.
- To improve your chances of securing your first role as a fashion designer discover tips from a John Lewis fashion designer.
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.
You’re likely to work for manufacturing and retail employers in the fashion industry as a garment technologist. However, you could also work for companies that produce technical textiles – such as spacesuits or clothes for firefighters.
A related degree (eg in garment technology and production) is the typical route into this job role, although you might be able to gain the required skills and knowledge through another type of qualification – such as an advanced apprenticeship.
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.
Textile designers can be self-employed or work as part of a design team – such as for a clothing brand or retailer.
Related degrees, such as art and design, fashion and textiles, should enable you to enter this industry. You could also take a textiles-specific degree (eg printed textiles) – particularly if you’re certain about the kind of work you want to do. A HND in fashion design and/or textile design is an alternative route.
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.
Many fashion illustrators work on a self-employed basis. You could also work for a design studio or retailer.
Certain degrees, such as graphic design and illustration, can help you to build up your skills and portfolio for this role. However, this is not required: evidence of your aptitude for illustration and creativity (such as through a portfolio) is typically regarded by employers as more important than degrees/degree subject.
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 could work for a clothing brand or manufacturer.
You do not need a specific degree to become a pattern cutter, although a fashion-related qualification could stand you in good stead. You could work your way up – eg from an entry-level pattern cutting assistant role.
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.
You could work for many typed of employers, including image production teams, large retailers, magazines and musicians.
As practical and creative skills are typically viewed as more important than academic qualifications by recruiters in this industry, you do not need a specific qualification. If you’d like to, however, you could gain expertise through a degree such as fashion communication and styling or fashion styling and production.
Personal stylist/personal shopper
One for a fashionista who wants to advise individuals on their personal style. You could work for a retailer, helping the general public, or you could work for the stars, helping celebrities look their best on and off the red carpet.
You won’t typically need a qualification to enter these careers, although there are relevant ones available (eg personal styling diplomas) that could help you to stand out to recruiters. Customer service skills are crucial for personal styling and shopping, so any work experience demonstrating these will be valuable.
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.
Fashion buyers typically work for retailers – such as clothing retailers (both online and high street) and supermarkets.
This is a career open to graduates of all degree disciplines (and potentially other qualifications – such as HNDs – for those with sufficient relevant experience). A degree in retail or business could be a strong starting point, however.
- Find out what a position as a retail buyer (including, but not limited to, fashion retail) entails.
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.
As with fashion buyers, fashion merchandisers are most likely to be employed by retailers.
Although graduates of all degree qualifications (and potentially other qualifications – for those with sufficient relevant experience) could get started in this career, subjects that might give you a head-start include business, marketing and retail management.
- Discover the role of a retail merchandiser.
Working for a retailer, 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.
A degree is not a requirement for this career – you could enter it by starting on the shop floor (eg as a sales assistant). However, creative degrees are likely to be looked upon favourably by some employers.
- Find out more about visual merchandising.
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 role, such as editorial assistant.
Experience and evidence of your work (eg through a portfolio) are more important than specific qualifications for this career. However, gaining a related qualification (eg a diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists or a degree related to fashion) could improve your knowledge and writing skills.
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 could work for agencies specialising in advertising design, magazines, publishers, local government, educational institutions and games companies – to name a few.
While you may be able to start out in this career without a related qualification, career progression will be difficult without formal training. So, gaining a related degree or HND (eg in graphic design, visual art or 3D design) is advisable.
- Find out more about the role of graphic designer.
You’ll probably work as a freelancer (although you could work for a fashion retailer or brand), 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.
A specific qualification is not required to become a fashion photographer/filmmaker, although a degree closely related to photography could help you to gain skills and up-to-date knowledge that will help you to establish your career.
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.
You’ll probably work as a freelancer and won’t need a specific qualification for this role, although any course/qualification that provides you with knowledge of the fashion industry, the opportunity to hone your writing skills or blogging advice might be useful.
If you have the right look, you could make a career out of it. 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.
You could work for an agency or on a freelance basis.
A specific qualification is not required to begin your career in modelling. Strong portfolios of photographs/videos and networks of contacts are more important.
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 won’t need a specific qualification to be in with a chance of gaining a role in fashion marketing and PR, although this could help to set you apart from the competition. It’s likely that degrees or qualifications related to marketing, communication or fashion will be regarded highly.
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 could work for a trend forecasting agency, or another company specialising in gaining and providing other companies with data and information.
You don’t need a specific qualification to become a trend forecaster, but one that builds up skills in data analysis and research could improve your appeal to recruiters.
- Our article on the trends in the fashion industry is a great place to begin your research towards a position as a trend forecaster.
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).
It’s likely that you’ll work for a retailer, either one that trades online and in store or an online-only company.
You won’t need a degree to get started in ecommerce (eg as an ecommerce assistant), allowing you to progress to the position of ecommerce manager. However, some employers would prefer candidates with a degree, and subjects related to IT, business or retail could be particularly relevant.
- Discover more about working in retail ecommerce, including the difference between specialising in this and technology, by reading this article.
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 be self-employed and won’t need any specific qualifications, although any related to business or fashion could improve your understanding – making it more likely that you create a successful business.
- If this is the career for you, discover how to be an entrepreneur when you graduate.
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 could work for a variety of employers, such as entertainment companies, theatres and production companies. You could also work on a freelance basis.
Although you don’t need any particular qualifications to be eligible for this position, a degree such as fashion, textiles and costume design could help you demonstrate your talent and enthusiasm.
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.
Just like wardrobe assistants, you might be employed by an entertainment or production company, or a theatre.
A degree in costume design or a related subject may be preferred or required by employers, but this isn’t the case across the board. You can enter this career without specific qualifications.
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 could work for many different employers, and your choice could be guided by the kind of makeup you specialise in. For instance, you might work for production companies, theatres or TV channels.
While qualifications haven’t traditionally been as important in this industry as evidence of practical skills, more makeup artists and hairstylists are studying for qualifications such as degrees or HNDs in – as one example – media and theatrical makeup.
You’ll work for a fashion house and oversee its 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.
You could start out in a position such as studio assistant and work your way up. Any qualification related to fashion is likely to stand you in good stead for this career, too.
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 could work your way up to this role, or join a graduate scheme with any degree background. Degrees in subjects such as retail marketing and business retail management could put you at an advantage, but work experience in the retail industry is more important.
- To find out more about this job role, take a look at our retail manager job description.
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.
There aren’t any qualifications required to be a copywriter, but any that demonstrate your writing ability and/or interest in fashion could give you an advantage.
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.
You could work for fashion retailers or brands.
You won’t need any particular degree or other qualification to become a social media assistant. Evidenced aptitude for producing popular content for social media channels and a flare for writing are both more likely to be required.
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 promotion, your job will be to ensure that everybody remembers your brand’s events (for the right reasons).
You could work for a fashion brand, or potentially a large and popular store (eg a flagship store).
Although work experience is typically more useful than qualifications in this line of work (particularly once you have been in the career for some time), related degrees can be useful.
- For more information about this role and what you’ll need to be an event manager in any sector, take a look at this job description.
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.
You’ll need to follow the qualification process to become a teacher or lecturer for this role. For secondary school teaching, for example, you’ll need a degree that combines fashion/textiles with teaching or a fashion/textiles-related undergraduate degree with a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education).
- Get an insight into the role of lecturer for higher education, further education and adult education.
- Discover the role of a secondary school teacher, including how to qualify.
All of the above roles would, of course, benefit from an up-to-date understanding of the fashion industry. 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.
One of the best ways to gain knowledge about the industry is to gain work experience. Find out more about the kinds of experience you could gain, how to go about applying and how it could benefit you by reading our article on fashion internships and other work experience.