Fashion Design Schools

Many creative, exciting career paths

Fashion is an art applied exclusively to clothing and accessories. Aspiring designers know that there is no end to the need for new fashion designs or for creative fashion designers. This is an industry centered on a select few designers, however, so you're going to have to fight to get your break.

Fashion designers may begin by sketching their ideas on paper. They may also drape fabrics on dress stands and fold, pin and tuck until a design appears. Some use computers in the design process.

There are several steps and people involved in bringing a design to life. Once complete it will either go directly to a customer, to a fashion boutique or shop, or to a manufacturing facility for mass production.

How long will it take?

First things first - getting accepted into a fashion design school can take more than just good grades. Many of these programs want students who've already completed basic art and design courses, or require samples of a student's sketches to determine their ability.

If you know you've got everything you need to apply, you'll have to choose a school that fits your needs. Many schools have programs lasting two to four years that will earn the graduate a certificate or degree. The main difference is that degree programs include a liberal arts education as well as a fashion-focused technical education.

If your goal isn't to become a designer, you might want to focus on a specialty, by taking pattern making, sewing or other courses. The courses last less than a year and can often be completed online. If you choose the right course you'll be able to transfer the credits you earn towards a degree later on.

Skills and requirements

A fashion designer must have well-rounded skills in all areas of the business. They require the artistic ability to come up with marketable clothing concepts and sketch designs accurately, as well as possessing garment assembly skills such as pattern making and sewing. Today many must also be able to work with CAD (computer aided design) software.

Designers must be educated in the fundamentals of balance and proportion and possess an eye for color and detail. They should know their materials well and their potential customers even better. The best designers don't just anticipate trends but they invent them.

No matter what education you've received, getting one of the lucrative fashion design jobs may all come down to the strength of your portfolio. The more ability you can demonstrate through your work, the better your chances.

Typical fashion design industries

Fashion designers who work "in-house" at a fashion company hand over ownership of their designs to the company. Freelances work on their own to create designs and sell them to fashion houses or clothing manufacturers. They may also sell one-of-a-kind finished garments directly to clothing shops. Other designers go into business for themselves and start a company that sells fashions under their name.

  • Haute couture - Few fashion design companies can truthfully use the term haute couture to describe their collections. It refers to certain garments that are measured and made to fit one customer. The fabric is high quality and the stitching is done painstakingly by experienced professionals. The materials, artistic designs, attention to detail and price of haute couture clothing sets them apart from everything else.
  • Ready-to-wear - These garments blur the lines between high-end haute couture and accessible mass-market clothing. They are not one-of-a-kind pieces but still retain some luxury, such as expensive materials, stylish cut and limited production. These fashion collections are seen on runway models each season during what's known as Fashion Week.
  • Mass market - Large quantities, a wide range of sizes and affordable or even bargain prices are the aspects that define mass market fashion. These clothing lines are sometimes knock-offs or variations of popular ready-to-wear pieces and may be produced up to several seasons after a high fashion design has come and gone. Fabrics are cheaper and production is often done by machine so mass quantities can be produced in a short amount of time. Increasingly, high fashion designers are creating mass market lines to cater to a wider variety of people.