Archive for April 18th, 2005

Q&A: So you want to break into the fashion industry, Part Une

I got a question from OrangeBox5 about what fashion designers and fashion stylists do, and how to break into the industry.

So here’s the scoop:


Fashion Design: Fashion designers provide “creative direction” for a line of clothing—they are responsible for the look and feel of the collection, and they oversee the design process.

What is the design process? A simplified version looks like:

  • Choose collection theme.
  • Choose fabrics and colors.
  • Sketch garment ideas.
  • Refine the sketched garments, and choose the garments that will move on to the next stage: first samples.
  • Make first samples.
  • Test these samples through fittings on fit models.
  • Refine samples, and choose those for production, using input from fashion merchandisers and retailers who have placed orders.
  • Manufacture garments.
  • Quality assurance: check for garments out of spec.
  • Finishing & Tagging.
  • Ship to stores/customers.

Things can get pretty crazy, considering that all this work needs to be done for each collection, and work is usually being done on multiple collections at the same time. The lead time from beginning to end of the design process has traditionally been about a year. This means that for a company with two collections per year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter), they’ll be working on both at the same time, though they’ll be at different stages of the process at any given time. Just imagine how crazy it is for companies that produce four or five collections each year!

Now, depending on the size of the company, designers will have a variety of assistants helping with the nuts and bolts of the process. There are textile specialists that source out fabrics from textile manufacturers, technicians that ensure that the fabrics are dyed the Exact Right Color, patterndrafters, sewers who sew the first samples, sketchers who translate the designer’s vision into a physical drawing, and more.

Fashion Styling: Fashion styling, or fashion consulting, involves designing a “look” for a client. Stylists don’t make the clothes—they act as editors and pick and choose what they want to create the image they’re after. Stylists can work for celebrities, for clothing manufacturers (Fun Fact: Queer Eye’s Carson worked as a stylist for Ralph Lauren), for films, and for individuals. Each job is different, but here’s an outline of how a styling job might work:


  • Discuss with the client the look they’re after (and the budget for the job).
  • Obtain measurements of the individual(s) you’re dressing.
  • Shop! Find clothes! This has to be my Favorite part.
  • Meet with the client and review the clothing selections.
  • Dress the individual(s), and make any adjustments (style wise via accessories or tailoring for fit), as needed.

FYI—the sheer length of my answer motivated me to split this post into two parts. Check back tomorrow for second part of this post, which discusses how I got started in fashion, as well as advice for those who want to break into the fashion industry.

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