What Skills & Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Fashion Designer?

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If you wish to pursue a career as a fashion designer, you must possess a true passion for fashion. To become successful, you need to be creative, have style and have knowledge of fashion history and current trends. You will perform various tasks, including sketching designs, cutting and sewing fabrics into clothing and presenting your portfolio to clients or other design firms.

Basic Design Skills

Acquire basic sewing and sketching skills from schooling, experience or both. Sketching is not the most important skill a fashion designer must acquire, but it is a great tool you can use to communicate different design ideas quickly or brainstorm new designs. A few classes in drawing, especially those relating to fashion, are a good idea for beginning designers. Investing in a sewing machine, as well as enrolling in a sewing class, will further refine this skill. It is also crucial to know how to stitch by hand.

Schooling and Experience

You can become a fashion designer in many different ways. However, having a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree or an Associate in Arts degree can help your chances for success. According to Fashion Net, the top schools for fashion design in the United States are the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Parsons School of Design in New York. You typically need a well-prepared sample of your most creative work to date or a portfolio of your work. This may be presented in a series of sketches, photos or actual pieces. Some coursework may include hands-on classes relating to sewing, sketching, pattern-making, color form and composition, as well as cutting and draping techniques.

Internship experience is also highly recommended. Internships to consider include fashion house positions, designer’s assistant, managing a sample room or a position in a manufacturing or a design firm.


Your portfolio illustrates your creative and unique design visions. You will need to showcase this vital tool to obtain potential internship opportunities, as well as to find work. Ask teachers for guidance in selecting the best work to showcase. A well-rounded portfolio will show off a variety of techniques and silhouettes, display illustrations and technical drawings, and highlight personal vision and style. It should also reflect your competence to complete a collection and be easily customized to fit a specific client, employer, assignment or school. Be sure the paper and portfolio is of good quality. Sketches should be descriptive and include a title, fabric used and texture information. You can also create an online portfolio that you can email or print for quick access.

Staying Ahead

To stay ahead of the game, acquire advanced technical skills and basic business skills. A designer’s success does not come from their artistic vision alone. It also comes from knowing the ins and outs of the business. It is important to keep up with the latest technological tools used in the fashion industry, including design software and devices used to sketch or create pieces of clothing. Experience is the best way to learn the ropes of the fashion world. Ask mentors and trusted peers for advice, and never be opposed to learning a new design skill, technique or computer program.