Career in fashion and clothing

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So you want to work in fashion and clothing?

The fashion and clothing industry offers an exciting range of careers for young people at all levels and employs nearly half a million people. Even though the manufacture of clothes, shoes and textiles increasingly now takes place overseas, the UK still maintains a significant base, provided by numerous small companies often centred in specific geographical areas.

Fashion is not all about being a designer. Only about one-in-ten of the 3,000 fashion graduates each year finds work as designers. Most of these are far more likely to be interpreting trends for a High Street retailer than using their own original creative designs. This booklet aims to give you an idea of some of the other interesting jobs available, as well as case studies of designers in different parts of the industry.

Is a degree in fashion an advantage?

Sometimes, yes – for some careers a degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) may be the only way in. The most common route is to take a foundation course in art and design before starting a design degree. One of the advantages of a degree course is that it often includes a module on business studies. This could be a great help if you go on to set up your own business as a designer or making clothes, or if you decide on a career in buying, merchandising or many of the other jobs available.

However, there are many other routes of entry into the sector – specific technical courses, Apprenticeships and NVQs/SVQs. Courses which focus on the technical aspects of textiles and garment technology, including IT applications, are also invaluable, both for design and other careers.

What else do I need to consider?

It is important to be flexible and to keep your options open. Many companies within the sector offer work experience to young people, and this provides a real insight to the working environment. Whatever career you decide upon, you will need to be prepared to work hard, which can involve putting in very long hours, especially if you are running your own business.

What sort of skills and qualifications are needed?

Practical and creative skills are very important for many of the jobs featured here. If you are still at school, take every opportunity to develop these skills, whether they are in photography, art, craft, design and technology, sewing, fixing and repairs or making things. Experience of using computer-aided design (CAD) programs and other IT applications is also a great help. Literacy and numeracy are important, and for some jobs you will need science qualifications to an advanced level.

Are Apprenticeships available?

Clothing and textile companies are keen to improve the training which is available for young people. A wide range of Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) is now available, including sewing, IT, administration, warehousing and distribution, engineering, and customer services.

What else can give me a head start?

Experience gained as a sales assistant in clothing or footwear retailing will give you an insight into the industry and customer knowledge. Prepare a portfolio of art and design or other practical work that you can take to a job interview and lso use for college or university applications.

Part-time courses, at a local college or adult education institute, can also provide you with valuable skills and will show an employer that you are willing to undertake further study. Make sure you are well informed about the area you are applying for and read relevant magazines, books and websites.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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