People who love style and art often want to be fashion designers. Many fashion designers get their start by getting a degree from a design school. However, you can have a successful career as a fashion designer even if you don’t have a degree. Independent fashion design takes work and dedication, but it can be a rewarding path for people who are passionate and self-motivated.
In this article, we look at the most important steps you should take to get into the fashion design field without having to spend more time in school.
Can you be a fashion designer even if you don’t have a degree?
Without a college degree, you can get a job as a fashion designer if you have the skills and talent. If you want to be a fashion designer but don’t have a degree, you need to teach yourself all the skills you would normally learn in a classroom. Like many other creative jobs, your portfolio, the quality of your work, and the connections you make are often more important than your education.
How to start designing clothes without a degree
Follow these steps to get the attention of employers and get started as a fashion designer without a degree:
1. Learn how to use the design software.
Computer-aided design (CAD) software is used by modern fashion designers to record their ideas. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are two industry-standard design programmes that you should be able to use. You’ll use design software to make your own patterns for fabrics, imagine what a garment would look like on a model, and make marketing materials to share your design. You can learn the basics of how to make fashion drawings, export finished pieces, and use different digital effects by watching video tutorials or playing around with different design programmes.
2. Find out about other designers.
Spend some time learning about other fashion designers and looking at their sketches to get an idea of what kinds of designs do well in the industry. Learning from other designers is a great way to find your own style and learn industry standards for how to make sketches for your fashion collections that are interesting and draw people in. There are many different kinds of fashion designers, from commercial to avant-garde. To learn more about the industry, try looking at a wide range of designers.
3. Draw something new every day.
To be a good fashion designer, you have to always come up with new ideas. When you first start to draw, you should try to draw every day and come up with new ideas often. Even if your ideas don’t work out as planned, practising can help you improve your skills and build a good portfolio. As you add ideas for clothes, accessories, and outfits to your sketchbooks, include colour palettes, swatches of fabric, and other details you would use if you decided to make each design.
As a fashion designer, one way to improve your skills is to look through your sketchbooks for ideas that you want to improve on. Take your original design and draw it in different ways to come up with the most interesting, fashionable, flattering, or eye-catching design. You can also think about how you would change or style a piece of clothing to fit a different look or audience.
4. Read books about how to sew and make things.
Good fashion designers need to know a lot about how the clothes they design are put together. As you get ready for jobs in fashion design, you’ll probably need to make and sew some of your own pieces. Read books about sewing techniques, stitches, making patterns, and other important ideas to learn the technical skills you need to make well-made clothes. If you know how clothes are made, you can make designs that are thoughtful and realistic and that can be turned from a two-dimensional drawing into a real outfit.
5. Take a quiz on fashion words.
If you don’t have a degree, you need to know the language of the fashion industry to get in. Read fashion magazines to learn common words and phrases about clothes and fashion. This will help you talk about your design ideas in a smart way with potential clients and employers. Knowing the right words for your designs can also show that you’re serious about a career in fashion and make it easier to connect with other designers and fashion executives.
6. Get used to making prototypes.
Once you’re happy with your designs, you can start making patterns and making prototypes for your clothes. To do this, you might need to buy a dress form, an industrial sewing machine, and other professional tools for making clothes. Even if your prototypes aren’t perfect, they can give you a general idea of what your finished designs should look like. You can use your first prototypes to show your overall style, aesthetic, and vision as a fashion designer in your portfolio.
7. Go to fashion shows
In the fashion industry, networking is a key part of getting a job. If you know the right people and make connections with experienced fashion professionals, you can get entry-level jobs or meet people who want custom designs. You can meet people who work in the fashion industry by going to fashion shows, gallery openings, conferences, and other events.
When you go to these events, talk to people and ask them about how they are involved in the fashion industry. Showing a genuine interest in what they’re working on can help you build strong relationships, which can make it easier to talk about your own designs and career goals in the future. Bring updated business cards with your contact information and be ready to show photos and examples of your work.
8. Start a collection of your own
A collection is a group of clothes and accessories that all have the same theme. Once you know how to put together your own clothes, making your own collection of designs is a great way to break into the fashion world. Think about what you want your first line of clothes to say about you as a designer, and spend some time making different versions of the designs you like best. Create an artist’s statement that describes your collection so that potential employers can easily discuss your work.
9. Take photos of your good work.
Once your clothes and drawings are ready, take high-resolution photos to post online and add to your portfolio. In your fashion design portfolio, you should have pictures of both the sketches you started with and the finished pieces. It’s important to have a professional portfolio with interesting photos if you want fashion brands and other employers to notice you. If you don’t have a good camera, you might want to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your clothes, both on the rack and on models.
10. Set up a web presence.
Make a web portfolio and pages on social media where you can show off your designs. This makes it easy for possible employers to look at your work and decide if you have the skills to work for their brand. Your online presence should be appealing to both people who work in the fashion industry and casual fans who might want to wear your clothes. By building an online following, you can show employers that there is already a demand for your designs. This can help you get your first official job offer for a full-time fashion design job.
11. Give your clothes to people who have a lot of influence.
Sending public figures free samples of your designs is a great way to get your name out there as a designer. Having other people wear your designs can bring you the attention and show potential employers that you already have a following. Think about the fashion brands you want to work for when you reach out to influencers and models to ask them to wear or promote your clothes. By choosing influencers whose audiences are similar to those of your dream employers, you can show how you would grow and promote their brand if you got the job.
12. Send pitches to companies that might hire you.
Send out pitches to potential employers once you have design experience, a portfolio, and connections in the field. Share your portfolio and include a statement about how your designs would help them reach their brand’s goals. Be ready to send out a lot of pitches before employers pay attention to you. Keep yourself motivated and look for new opportunities by using your professional network, asking advice from people in your field, and making small changes to your designs often.