Job as a fashion designer
Sharon White works as a senior designer of women's fashion clothes at the London head office of High Street fashion retailer. Her team produces two collections of new clothes each year.
What is your role?
I am responsible for three different departments within smart ladieswear, which include blouses and dresses, tailored clothing, coats and leather garments. These product areas have their own designer who I supervise, alongside two departmental assistant designers and a design assistant. Together, we produce two main collections each year, divided into spring/summer and autumn/winter.
What does your job as a fashion designer involve?
At any given time I am working on design collections, both for the following season and for next year's season. I have a number of themes, such as cowgirl or American-influenced, around which I develop a series of different garments for each season.
I develop the garments from the initial sketches right through to the manufactured products, working closely with other teams including our buyers. To help me with design ideas, I visit other High Street retailers and markets in London and overseas. I also attend fashion fairs in Paris, Florence and New York.
What happens after the initial sketches of a new design?
The next step is to prepare a detailed specification, which includes the choice of fabric, buttons, trims, thread, stitch size and pockets. I then liaise with our sample room manager, before a sample garment is made up.
If we are happy with the garment we proceed to a series of 'fit meetings', which might involve making small changes, before our manufacturers make a further sample. Once accepted, the garment moves into full-scale production.
What else do you do?
Attending meetings with our buyers and sales managers, to review sales and develop our ranges, is a big part of my working week. These meetings enable us to respond to changes in fashion trends quickly, and ensure we bring the latest and most popular fashions into our stores.
What are your working hours?
I usually work from 9.30am until 6.00pm, although I sometimes need to work later in the evening if we are busy. What is your working environment like? I work in a large open plan environment with all the designers and the sample room team. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, with a great creative buzz.
What skills do you need for a job as a fashion designer?
Creativity and strong communication skills are essential, combined with an assertive and confident approach to present your ideas effectively. The ability to work in a team is important in such a competitive, fast-moving environment. Good drawing skills are also important, although computer drawing packages are available to help in this area.
What do you like about your job as a fashion designer?
I love the fast-changing and exciting environment. I find the busy atmosphere stimulating. Fashion has always been my hobby and I really enjoy following the trends and developing new looks.
Is there anything you dislike about your job as a fashion designer?
Balancing several different demands can be challenging at times.
How do you see your future?
I would like to continue within the company and progress to a more senior role in management.
Sharon's route to her job as a fashion designer
- BTEC National Diploma in General Art and Design.
- BA (Hons) Fashion Design.
- Designer/Creative pattern cutter.
- Design room manager.
- Design manager – evening wear.
- River Island designer, and then senior designer.
Sharon's fashion designer tips
- Confidence and self-belief are essential.
- Try to find work experience with a company you would eventually like to join.
- Make sure you have a strong portfolio.
Fashion designer related jobs
- Clothing pattern cutter/grader
- Costume designer
- Footwear designer
- Retail buyer
- Textile designer
Salary of a fashion designer
- Starting salaries for junior designers can be between £12,000 and £17,000.
- With experience, this may rise to around £24,000.
- Senior designers can command salaries of over £50,000.
Job as a fashion designer
- Most designers have degree or HND qualifications. Many courses are available, and those which include business studies and clothing technology can be advantageous. In England and Wales, many students complete a foundation course in art and design before their degree.
- BTEC national diploma courses in fashion and clothing are also available, which can lead to degree or HND options.
- A portfolio of art and fashion design work is normally essential for entry to courses.
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