Is becoming an accessories designer right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do accessories designers do?

Still unsure if becoming an accessories designer is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an accessories designer or another similar career!

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How to become an Accessories Designer

Becoming an accessories designer involves a combination of formal education, technical training, and practical experience. Here is an outline of the pathway to the career:

High School Education
Take courses in art, design, textiles, and business. Participate in extracurricular activities such as art clubs or fashion design clubs to build foundational skills.

Post-Secondary Education
Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree
Obtain a degree in accessories design, fashion design, industrial design, or a related field. Study subjects like fashion drawing, design techniques, color theory, material studies, manufacturing processes, fashion history, and trend analysis.

Among accessories designers who hold a university degree, a bachelor’s is the more common credential. Some, however, choose to pursue a relevant master’s degree to further specialize and enhance their skills and marketability. For a comprehensive list of specializations in the field, please see the What does an Accessories Designer do? section in the career overview. Specialized programs might also include luxury accessories design, sustainable design, and advanced material studies.

Certificate or Diploma
Institutes of technology, technical colleges, or schools focused on specialized training in a particular kind of accessory design, such as jewelry or footwear, provide an alternative to a university education, offering shorter and sometimes less expensive certificate or diploma programs.

Participate in internships or apprenticeships with fashion houses, accessory brands, or designers to gain practical experience and make industry connections.

Develop Technical Skills
Become proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and specialized 3D modeling tools. Learn techniques for making prototypes by hand, including sewing, leatherworking, metalworking, and jewelry making. Understand different materials used in accessories, such as fabrics, leather, metals, and gemstones. Online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, and MasterClass offer courses in these and related areas.

Build a Portfolio
Create a strong portfolio showcasing your design work. Include sketches, finished designs, and photos of prototypes. Demonstrate versatility by including various types of accessories, such as handbags, shoes, jewelry, and hats.

Gain Experience
Start with entry-level roles such as design assistant or junior designer at fashion houses, accessory brands, or retail companies. Take on freelance projects to build experience and expand your portfolio.

Stay Updated on Trends
Keep up with current fashion trends and consumer preferences by reading fashion magazines, industry reports, and trend analysis publications; attending fashion shows; and following industry news. Join professional organizations, attend industry events, and connect with other designers and fashion professionals.

Create Your Brand (Optional)
If you are interested in starting your own line, develop a business plan, create a brand identity, and learn about marketing and sales. Build an online presence through a professional website, social media, and e-commerce platforms to showcase and sell your designs.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation
Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and customers to continuously improve your designs. Be adaptable and willing to continue to learn as the fashion and accessories industry evolves.

To complement their accessories design education, designers may opt to pursue some notable voluntary certifications relevant to working in the fashion and accessories field:

  • Leathercraft Certification – available from organizations like the Leathercraft Guild; focuses on techniques and skills specific to leather accessories
  • Gemology Certification – provides jewelry designers with valuable knowledge about gemstones, including their characteristics, quality assessment, and sourcing
  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) – recognizes proficiency in design software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, crucial for creating design sketches and patterns
  • Rhino 3D Certification – for designers using Rhino 3D software for digital modeling of accessories
  • Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) – offered by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM); covers aspects of supply chain management relevant to accessory production
  • Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP – offered by the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI); useful for designers looking to market their accessories effectively

Professional Organizations
There are several professional associations and organizations that cater to professionals in the fashion industry, including accessories designers. These associations offer resources, networking and professional development opportunities, and advocacy for individuals working in various areas of accessories design. Here are some notable ones:

  • Accessories Council – The Accessories Council is a leading trade organization representing the accessories industry.
  • Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) – While primarily focused on fashion design, the CFDA also supports accessories designers through programs, events, and initiatives aimed at promoting and advancing American fashion.
  • International Fur Federation (IFF) – The IFF offers resources and education for designers working with fur and fur accessories.
  • The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers – Based in the United Kingdom, the Cordwainers is a historic guild that supports footwear and accessories designers through scholarships, awards, and industry connections.
  • British Footwear Association (BFA) – The BFA represents the interests of footwear designers and manufacturers in the UK.
  • Jewelers of America (JA) – JA represents the fine jewelry industry in the US, providing resources, representation, and recognition.
  • Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (SLTC) – SLTC provides support for professionals working in the leather and leather accessories industry.