Careers in the competitive world of fashion often attract artists and designers with a love of clothing, textiles and accessories. "Fashion design merges sketching and general visual skills with the power of the imagination," according to a top New York fashion design school.
If you have an artistic eye for details and subtleties coupled with a vision for fashion style and function, you may be thinking about attending fashion design school. Students typically learn how to design clothing, shoes and accessories and may also concentrate their studies to include areas of specialization such as accessories, textiles, fabric patterns and knitwear. Some graduates have gone on to become clothing designers with their own clothing and accessory lines. Others become costume designers for theater and movie productions. Some have found careers as fashion illustrators, merchandisers or buyers. A talented and ambitious graduate could progress from assistant designer to chief designer, design department head, creative director, or a position supervising a fashion line or brand.
Specializations for students who attend fashion design school
When you think "fashion design," you may picture a women's clothing designer sketching a fabulous confection of fabric, or you may envision a model stepping out onto the runway in an outfit that's more fantasy than function. Fashion design is all of that and more. Designing a garment or a line of clothing and accessories involves many steps. You must learn to work as part of a team, the members of which must be highly knowledgeable and skilled at what they do. Each must be able to communicate clearly with another to produce exceptional results on schedule. In addition to learning these skills, you may choose to focus on an area of design specialization, which could include one of the following:
- Fabric/textile design. Fabric or textile designers create new fabrics or modify existing ones. Part artist and part technician, they specialize in appearance such as color and pattern, and functionality such as warmth or ease of care.
- Footwear design. Footwear design students learn how the human foot moves. Graduates may create original designs for famous labels or design their own line of footwear -- everything from high-end fashion to athletic shoes.
- Costume design. Film, TV and theater costume designers must know how to research and analyze their designs in the context of culture and history. Their designs communicate complex concepts and project character traits.
Fashion design school certifications and degrees
As a prospective student of fashion design, you not only have a choice of many concentrations, you also have more than 300 accredited schools available that offer various degrees and certificates to further your career ambitions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), most fashion designers have at least a bachelor's degree in fashion design or merchandising with a concentration in the area they wish to focus. Shorter certificate programs are also available, aimed primarily at students with artistic, design or merchandising experience. Minimum prerequisites for most certificate and degree programs are basic art and design courses and illustration skills. Acceptance into a program may require submission of sketches as proof of artistic ability. All programs should have as the student's final goal the creation of a portfolio to showcase their work. Most programs also have students conceptualize and create designs for the runaway.
Examples of available programs in fashion design, along with sample curricula include the following:
Fashion Design Certificate: Courses include fashion history, design and flat sketching, garment construction techniques, pattern making, color theory, CAD.
Associate in Applied Science in Fashion Design: Students are taught basic drawing, draping, pattern making; sewing and tailoring; haute couture; knitwear; shoe design; and marketing.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design: The bachelor's degree student studies design fundamentals, 2D and 3D processes, garment construction techniques and marketing. Students may choose an area of concentration. Some programs require a final thesis.
Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design: At this level coursework emphasizes the business of fashion design -- analyzing trends and markets, product development and line plan production.
Students at the bachelor's and master's level typically benefit from internships as assistant designers.
Salary and career outlook for careers in fashion design
According to the BLS, as of May 2013, the national median salary for fashion designers was $63,760, with the top 10 percent making at least $127,190 and the bottom 10 percent earning up to $33,580. Projections for job growth in this occupation expect a 3 percent decline between 2012 and 2022 due to the off-shoring of US apparel manufacturing, the source for a majority of fashion design jobs. Employment opportunities, however, continue to be most abundant in New York and California; however, in addition to both coasts, some of the highest paid designers also work in Illinois where their national average wage was $93,850 as of May 2013.
Despite lackluster job growth expectations in apparel manufacturing, talented fashion designers may find work in design houses, clothing retailers and movie and TV production companies. Ever-evolving fashion trends continue to require good designers to feed consumer appetites. If fashion is your passion, design school can nurture your ambition.
Adult Programs Fashion Certificate, School of the Arts of Chicago, http://www.saic.edu/cs/ace/certificateprograms/fashioncertificate/
Careers in the Arts, Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development, http://www.mica.edu/Documents/Career%20Services/Careers%20for%20Visual%20Artists11.pdf
Costume Design, BFA in Fashion Marketing and Design, American Intercontinental University, http://www.aiuniv.edu/degrees/bachelors/fashion-design/costume
Fashion, Academy of Art University, http://online.academyart.edu/schools/fashion
Fashion Design (BFA), Parsons, http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/bfa-fashion-design/
Fashion Design Certificate Programs, Parsons, http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/fashion-design-certificate-programs/
Fashion Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271022.htm
Fashion Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm
Footwear Design, Career Opportunities after FIDM, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, http://fidm.edu/en/Majors/Footwear+Design/Careers
Textile Design, College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, Philadelphia University, http://www.philau.edu/careerservices/documents/MAJORSworksheet_TextileDesign.pdf