Job description of a fashion designer

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Rodney Smith specialises in designing urban chic clothing. He started off making his own clothes, and now has a factory and a team of fashion consultants.

Where do you get your ideas for new designs?

On the street. I am always looking at what people are wearing. I might spot a style or a colour and it'll give me the inspiration to try something new. I have to stop as soon as I can and make a quick, rough sketch so that I do not lose the idea.

What happens after you have made your first sketch?

I go looking for the fabric. We start off by making a sample, so I usually buy the material retail. If we decide to produce en masse, I'll then hunt down the fabric in wholesalers or on the internet and get a cheaper price.

I work on the sketch and detail things like how long a ribbon should be or the type of zip, and then give this sketch to the factory.

What sort of clothes are you making now?

We really specialise in spectacular tracksuits for the urban market – men and women. The suits might be velour with satin or ribbons, suede or leather.We go for quality and a look that is very different. We are also moving into other material such as denim, camouflage and linen.

Where do you work and working conditions of a clothes designer

Some of the design will be done in the office, but a lot of my time is spent at the factory ensuring that the collection is done properly and that the best material has been used.

Do you have a daily routine?

I do not work a conventional 9 to 5 day, although employed designers working in a design house may do. Some days I can be at the factory all day and night, working on a new supply. Then I may be going around to the stores we stock making deliveries, or scouting for new stores, having meetings or interviews. If we are planning a fashion show, there is a lot of preparation in getting the clothes and models ready.

Why did you choose fashion design?

It is forever changing and interesting and the work brings out the creative side in me. And it is not just designing the clothes but the whole package – I also style the models, design flyers for our events and create the website.

What do you enjoy and least like about the job?

It is great when you have designed a new collection and you finally see it on the streets or in a magazine. Also, when people come up and tell you they love wearing your clothes. However, it is hard work and the hours can be quite unsociable at times.

What skills do you need?

As well as an eye for style, you need some knowledge of the basic techniques of sewing and how clothes are put together.

Rodney's route

  • Started customising his own clothes and found there was a market for them.
  • Designed clothes for friends and gradually built up a business.
  • Learnt craft skills and business methods.

Rodney's tip

  • Believe in what you are doing, even when you come up against obstacles.

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What is the salary range of a fashion designer?

  • Starting salaries vary between £12,000 and £15,000, rising to £22,000 upward with experience.
  • As a freelance or selfemployed designer, your income will depend on how much demand there is for your designs.
  • Agents take a commission.
  • If you are making as well as designing clothes, you have to take the cost of fabrics and marketing into account.

Education & training to be a fashion designer

  • Many fashion designers start on a Foundation course and then take an HND or degree. Some students who have done a BTEC National Diploma in Fashion and Textiles may be able to go straight on to a degree or HND without having to study a Foundation course, although they may still need a Foundation course in order to gain a place on the most popular courses.
  • Entry is usually based on a portfolio of work.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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