Fashion Designer Career Description


Fashion designers create clothing, accessories, and footwear.

What they do

Fashion designers sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they design.

Fashion designers typically do the following:

  • Study fashion trends and anticipate designs that will appeal to consumers
  • Decide on a theme for a collection
  • Use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create designs
  • Visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabric
  • Select fabrics, embellishments, colors, or a style for each garment or accessory
  • Work with other designers or team members to create prototype designs
  • Present design ideas to creative directors or showcase their ideas in fashion or trade shows
  • Market designs to clothing retailers or to consumers
  • Oversee the final production of their designs

Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative director. Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design; others create designs in all three fashion categories.

For some fashion designers, the first step in creating a new design is researching current fashion and making predictions about future trends, such as by reading reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Other fashion designers create collections using a variety of inspirations, including art media, their surroundings, or cultures they have experienced and places they have visited.

After they have an initial idea, fashion designers try out various fabrics and produce a prototype, often with less expensive material than will be used in the final product. They work with models to see how the design will look and adjust the designs as needed.

Although most designers first sketch their designs by hand, many now also sketch their ideas digitally with computer-aided design (CAD) programs. CAD allows designers to see their work on virtual models. They can try different colors, designs, and shapes while making adjustments more easily than they can when working with real fabric on real people.

Designers produce samples with the actual materials that will be used in manufacturing. Samples that get good responses from fashion editors or trade and fashion shows are then manufactured and sold to consumers.


Work Environment

Many fashion designers work in-house for wholesalers or manufacturers. These wholesalers and manufacturers sell apparel and accessories to retailers or other marketers for distribution to individual stores, catalog companies, or online retailers.

Self-employed fashion designers typically create high-fashion garments and one-of-a-kind (custom) apparel. In some cases, a self-employed fashion designer may have a clothing line that bears his or her name.

Most designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest trends. Designers also sometimes travel to other countries to meet suppliers of materials and manufacturers who make the final products.

Most fashion designers work in New York and California.


How to become a Fashion Designer

Many fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as fashion design or fashion merchandising. Employers usually seek applicants who are creative and who have technical knowledge of the production processes for clothing, accessories, or footwear.

Many fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. In these programs, students learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also work on projects they can add to their portfolio, which showcases their designs.

For many artists, including fashion designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential. Students studying fashion design often have opportunities to develop their portfolios further by entering their designs in student or amateur contests. When making hiring decisions, employers rely on these portfolios to gauge talent and creativity.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and many of them award degrees in fashion design. These schools often require students to have completed basic art and design courses before entering a program. Applicants usually must submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.



The median annual wage for fashion designers was $73,790 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,010.

Job Outlook

Employment of fashion designers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.  Most apparel continues to be produced internationally. As a result, employment of fashion designers in the apparel manufacturing industry is expected to decline over the projections decade.

Similar Job Titles

Apparel Fashion Designer, Clothing Designer, Costume Designer, Dance Costume Designer, Design Director, Designer, Fashion Designer, Historic Clothing and Costume Maker, Latex Fashions Designer, Product Developer, Custom Furri

Related Occupations

Advertising and Promotions Manager, Marketing Manager, Interior Designer, Desktop Publisher, Fabric and Apparel Patternmaker

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • Costume Designers Guild - The Guild represents Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators working in television, motion pictures and commercials. The CDG promotes and protects the economic status of its members while improving working conditions and raising standards for our craft.
  • Fashion Group International - The FGI mission is to be the pre-eminent authority on the business of fashion and design and to help its members become more effective in their careers.
  • The Underfashion Club - The mission of the Underfashion Club is to ensure the future of the intimate apparel business through education and cultivating and retaining talent.
  • Fashion Industry Association - The Fashion Industry Association is an organization devoted to helping fashion industry professionals to network and work together towards success. Our vision is to see independent fashion designers, retailers, manufacturers, models, stylists, photographers, hair and makeup artists, and media building their local markets and creating a culture of cooperative business.
  • Art of Fashion - Art of Fashion champions high-quality Canadian fashion by fostering the careers of talented emerging designers and creating award-winning platforms for exposure.


Magazines and Publications

Video Transcript

Do you love clothes, and sketching outfits from your own imagination? Fashion designers get the chance to make their ideas a reality in this competitive industry. Fashion designers create designs for garments and accessories using pencil and paper or computer-aided design. They start by making a detailed pattern, then cut it into fabric or other materials to construct a sample of their design. These professionals travel to trade shows, manufacturers, and fashion shows to stay on top of changing trends and find new materials. From an initial sketch to the first version of the garment, the designer can expect long hours, hectic deadlines, and clients who are perfectionists. Fashion designers are almost as likely to be self-employed as they are to work for large brands and labels. They often consult with executives and a sales team to choose a theme for their seasonal lineup. The fortunate—and talented—few, ultimately win their own label, catering to individual clients or stores. Most aspiring designers obtain a college or trade school education in fashion design. A portfolio (a collection of designs and completed projects) is required to apply for most positions. Making a name for yourself as a fashion designer is difficult, but the thought of fame waiting at the end of the show, is a great motivator.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online