The fashion industry is always looking for talented professionals. Fashion designers work in wholesale or manufacturing establishments, apparel companies, retailers, theater or dance companies, and design firms. Aside from design, there are numerous careers within the fashion family such as merchandising, styling, and product development. The fashion industry is a fast-paced arena that is constantly changing. As new clothing technology is developed, so will the need to create garments using new fabrics, and designs for stylish, yet affordable clothing.
Below you can learn more about the most popular careers and positions within the field of fashion design.
Fashion Design & Related Roles
Fashion designers are involved from concept to finish in the development and production of clothing lines. While a few designers are able to work their way up in the industry through on the job experience, these days a bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for this position. Designers must have an in-depth knowledge of fashion design concepts, sewing, apparel design and garment construction, and be familiar with the different types of textiles and industry trends. Most designers are specialists. They may specialize in women’s apparel, children’s clothing, or men’s wear.
Assistant designers are precisely that, assistants. They help fashion designers with every aspect of development and production of clothing lines. Typical duties include developing sketches for designers to work from, preparing presentation materials for shows and clothing demos, sourcing fabric, etc. Assistant designers are not required to have a bachelor’s degree, but many do. Assistant designers often work their way up to become designers.
A design director’s main duty is to oversee color, trends, and fabric direction for all product lines. They also manage design teams, supervise the manufacturing process and support marketing endeavors. Job duties include market analysis, trend analysis, predicting future demand, production support and building fabric stories.
As their name suggests, pattern makers create patterns and specifications for how each component of a garment should be manufactured and put together. Today, pattern makers often use computer software, CAD and 3D imaging to create patterns and develop specifications. Pattern making skills can be learned on the job, by earning a specialized degree in fashion design, or through a technical training program.
Many aspiring fashion design students and aspiring designers end up migrating to a career in fashion merchandising. Merchandisers are typically upper-management and high level executives in apparel manufacturing who are responsible for determining which clothing lines, fashion and/or accessories a manufacturer should produce. They plan, research, and determine which fashion trends a company should pursue. A bachelor’s degree in fashion design, fashion merchandising, apparel production, or marketing is typically the minimum educational requirement for this position. Many companies who employ merchandiser prefer to hire candidates with MBAs. Merchandiser can make anywhere from $55,000 to $110,000 a year – or more.
Buyers plan sales, select merchandise to sell, price vendor orders, and monitor inventory. Buyers are experts at budgeting. They’re often given a fixed budget and told to get best return they possibly can. Buyer positions are competitive and typically take years to work into. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, buyers are typically required to complete on-the- job training sponsored by their employer and complete an apprenticeship.
In order to become a buyer, you must first become an assistant buyer. Assistant buyers help fashion buyers select merchandise, write and price orders, interact and negotiate with vendors, and plan and manage a budget. Most assistant buyers have a four year college degree. This position is also highly competitive as it is a stepping stone to becoming a full fledged buyer.
Also known as Divisional Merchandise Managers (DMM), merchandise managers are responsible for supervising merchandise departments and fashion buyers. With a salary ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 a year, this position is one of the highest paid within the fashion industry. To become a merchandise manager, applicants must have a college degree and 5 to 10 years experience as a fashion buyer. Merchandise managers manage vendor relations, develop buying teams, ensure consistent quality, and focus on making sure customers receive the value they expect and are paying for.
Fashion directors are responsible for having an intimate knowledge of various market trends and using this knowledge to develop effective marketing and branding strategies, and navigating market trends. Fashion directors do a fair amount of traveling and are required to attend the industry’s top shows in Paris, London, Milan, and New York. Fashion directors must be able forecast fashion trends, have strong communication skills, and be experts in design and color. They also develop fashion messaging strategies and manage buying teams.
Visual Merchandising Director
Visual merchandising directors work in retail and wholesale sectors of the fashion industry promoting products, services and image. They dress manikins, develop visually appealing fashion displays, and organize special events to promote brand awareness. They also supervise design and concept production, oversee idea presentation, and manage budgets. They must be experts in color and design, have the ability to manage budgets and be highly creative.
Fashion editors oversee the creation, development and presentation of content for fashion related magazines and publications. They’re also responsible for putting together photo shoots, managing teams, staying abreast of industry trends, choosing looks to feature, curating photography and deciding what should be published – and what shouldn’t. They must have exceptional writing skills, be experts in fashion and photography, and have good interpersonal communication skills.