CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a fashion designer.

Step 1

Is becoming a fashion 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 fashion designers do?
Career Satisfaction
Are fashion designers happy with their careers?
What are fashion designers like?

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

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

Steps to Become a Fashion Designer

Becoming a fashion designer is a rewarding but competitive journey that requires dedication, creativity, and perseverance. Here are general steps to help you pursue a career in fashion design:

  • Research the Industry: Start by researching the fashion industry to gain a better understanding of its various segments, trends, and career paths. Explore different areas of fashion design, such as apparel design, accessories design, costume design, and more, to identify your interests and strengths.
  • Develop Your Skills: Cultivate your skills in drawing, sketching, and visual communication by practicing regularly. Experiment with different mediums, techniques, and styles to develop your unique artistic voice. Additionally, learn basic sewing and patternmaking skills to understand garment construction and fabrication.
  • Get Educated: Consider pursuing formal education in fashion design or fashion merchandising by enrolling in a degree program at a reputable fashion school or university. Look for programs that offer comprehensive coursework in design principles, textiles, patternmaking, CAD software, fashion history, and business fundamentals. Alternatively, you can take individual courses, workshops, or online tutorials to supplement your skills and knowledge.
  • Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your best design work, including fashion illustrations, garment sketches, technical drawings, and photos of completed projects. Your portfolio should demonstrate your creativity, technical proficiency, and ability to develop cohesive design concepts and collections. Continuously update and refine your portfolio as you gain new skills and experiences.
  • Gain Experience: Seek out internships, apprenticeships, or entry-level positions in the fashion industry to gain hands-on experience and exposure to the industry. Look for opportunities to work with established designers, fashion houses, design studios, or apparel companies to learn from experienced professionals and build your network.
  • Stay Informed and Inspired: Stay updated on current fashion trends, industry news, and emerging designers by attending fashion shows, exhibitions, trade fairs, and industry events. Follow fashion blogs, magazines, and social media accounts to stay informed and inspired by the latest developments in the fashion world.
  • Network: Build relationships with industry professionals, mentors, peers, and potential collaborators by networking both online and offline. Attend industry events, workshops, and networking mixers to connect with other designers, buyers, stylists, and professionals in the fashion industry. Join professional organizations, fashion clubs, or online communities to expand your network and access opportunities.
  • Develop Your Brand: If you aspire to start your own fashion label or freelance business, develop your brand identity, vision, and aesthetic. Define your target market, niche, and unique selling proposition to differentiate yourself in the competitive fashion market. Create a business plan outlining your goals, strategies, and budget for launching and growing your brand.
  • Stay Persistent and Resilient: Building a successful career in fashion design takes time, effort, and perseverance. Be prepared to face rejection, setbacks, and challenges along the way, but stay focused on your goals and keep pushing forward. Stay true to your creative vision, embrace feedback and constructive criticism, and continuously strive to improve and evolve as a designer.
Step 3

Internship Opportunities

Fashion design internship opportunities can be found at a variety of companies, including fashion houses, design studios, apparel brands, and fashion retailers. Here are some ways to explore and find fashion design internships:

  • Company Websites: Many fashion companies, including well-known brands and emerging designers, post internship opportunities directly on their websites. Visit the career or internship sections of fashion company websites to search for available positions and learn about their application requirements and deadlines.
  • Fashion Job Boards: Explore online job boards and websites specializing in fashion industry opportunities, such as,, or These platforms often feature a variety of internship listings from companies across the US.
  • Fashion Schools and Universities: Check with fashion schools and universities in your area or across the country to inquire about internship programs and opportunities available to students. Many schools have partnerships with fashion companies and can help students connect with internship opportunities in the industry.
  • Fashion Industry Events and Networking: Attend fashion industry events, trade shows, fashion weeks, and networking mixers to meet professionals in the industry and learn about internship opportunities. Networking with designers, recruiters, and industry insiders can help you discover hidden internship openings and make valuable connections.
  • Professional Organizations: Join professional organizations and associations in the fashion industry, such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) or the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). These organizations may offer internship programs or resources for aspiring fashion designers.
  • Fashion Magazines and Publications: Keep an eye on fashion magazines, websites, and publications for internship listings and opportunities. Many fashion magazines and media companies offer internships in areas such as editorial, styling, photography, and design.
  • Online Platforms and Social Media: Utilize online platforms and social media channels to search for fashion design internships and connect with industry professionals. Follow fashion companies, designers, recruiters, and job boards on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated on internship openings and networking events.
  • Career Services and Internship Programs: Take advantage of career services and internship programs offered by your school, college, or university. Career advisors can help you explore internship opportunities, polish your resume and portfolio, and prepare for interviews in the fashion industry.

When applying for fashion design internships, make sure to tailor your application materials, including your resume, cover letter, and portfolio, to each opportunity. Highlight relevant skills, experiences, and projects that demonstrate your passion for fashion design and your suitability for the internship position. And don't forget to follow up with companies after submitting your application to express your interest and enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Step 4

Employment Opportunities

Fashion designers have a variety of employment opportunities across different sectors of the fashion industry. Here are some common employment opportunities for fashion designers:

  • Fashion Houses and Design Studios: Fashion designers can work for established fashion houses, luxury brands, or independent design studios, where they create original designs for clothing, accessories, or footwear. They may work as part of a design team or independently, developing collections for fashion shows, retail lines, or special events.
  • Apparel Companies and Retailers: Many apparel companies, clothing brands, and fashion retailers hire fashion designers to develop and oversee the design of their clothing lines. Designers may work on a range of products, from everyday apparel to special occasion wear, catering to different market segments and consumer preferences.
  • Textile and Apparel Manufacturers: Fashion designers can work for textile mills, apparel manufacturers, or garment production companies, where they design fabrics, prints, and textiles for use in clothing and accessories. They may collaborate with production teams to ensure that designs are translated accurately into finished products.
  • Costume Design for Film, TV, and Theater: Costume designers create costumes for film, television, theater, and other performing arts productions. They work closely with directors, producers, and costume teams to develop costumes that reflect characters, settings, and narratives, often within specific historical or thematic contexts.
  • Freelance and Consulting Work: Many fashion designers work as freelancers or consultants, offering their design services on a project-by-project basis to clients in the fashion industry. They may specialize in areas such as fashion illustration, patternmaking, technical design, or trend forecasting, working with a diverse range of clients and projects.
  • Fashion Journalism and Styling: Fashion designers with strong communication and creative skills may pursue careers in fashion journalism or styling, where they write about fashion trends, review collections, or style outfits for editorial shoots, fashion shows, or advertising campaigns.
  • Fashion Education and Academia: Some fashion designers transition into teaching or academia, working as instructors, professors, or educators at fashion schools, colleges, or universities. They may teach courses in fashion design, textiles, patternmaking, or other related subjects, sharing their knowledge and expertise with aspiring designers.
  • Entrepreneurship and Fashion Entrepreneurship: Fashion designers with entrepreneurial ambitions may start their own fashion labels, brands, or businesses, launching their own clothing lines, accessories collections, or fashion startups. They may oversee all aspects of the business, including design, production, marketing, and sales.
  • Fashion Retail and Merchandising: Fashion designers can also pursue careers in fashion retail and merchandising, working for fashion retailers, department stores, or e-commerce platforms. They may be involved in product development, merchandising strategies, visual merchandising, or buying and planning.
  • Fashion Technology and Innovation: With the rise of fashion technology and innovation, fashion designers can explore opportunities in areas such as wearable technology, sustainable fashion, 3D printing, and digital fashion. They may work for companies or startups developing innovative solutions and products at the intersection of fashion and technology.
Step 5

Online Resources

Fashion designers can access a variety of online resources to stay informed, inspired, and connected within the fashion industry. Here are some valuable online resources for fashion designers:

  • Business of Fashion (BoF): A leading platform for global fashion news, analysis, and insights.
  • Vogue Business: Offers industry analysis, trends, and intelligence for fashion professionals.
  • Fashionista: Provides fashion news, trends, career advice, and industry insights.
  • The Fashion Law: Focuses on legal issues and developments in the fashion industry.
  • Fashion Snoops: Offers trend forecasting, market analysis, and insights for fashion designers.
  • Skillshare: Offers a variety of online courses in fashion design, illustration, patternmaking, and more.
  • Udemy: Provides courses in fashion design, sewing, CAD software, and other related topics.
  • Coursera: Offers fashion-related courses from top universities and institutions worldwide.
  • YouTube: A wealth of free tutorials, DIY projects, and educational videos on fashion design and related topics.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud: Includes software such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, widely used for fashion design, illustration, and digital rendering.
  • CLO: Provides 3D fashion design software for patternmaking, draping, and virtual prototyping.
  • Lectra: Offers CAD/CAM software solutions for fashion design, patternmaking, and production.
  • SketchUp: Useful for creating 3D models and visualizations of fashion designs and collections.
  • Fashion Forum: An online community for fashion designers to discuss trends, techniques, and industry news.
  • Reddit's r/fashiondesign: A subreddit for fashion designers to share ideas, ask questions, and connect with peers.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Join fashion-related groups on LinkedIn to network with professionals, share insights, and explore job opportunities.
  • Behance: A platform for showcasing creative work, including fashion design portfolios, illustrations, and projects.
  • Dribbble: Focuses on design portfolios and projects, including fashion design, graphic design, and illustration.
  • Carbonmade: Offers customizable portfolio websites for fashion designers to showcase their work and projects.
  • Fashion Week Online: Provides coverage of fashion weeks, events, and runway shows from around the world.
  • The Fashion Challenge: Online fashion design competitions and challenges hosted by various organizations and platforms.
  • Design Contests: Platforms like 99designs and DesignCrowd host design contests and challenges for fashion designers to showcase their skills and win prizes.
Step 6


There are several certifications available for fashion designers. It is important to note that certifications are not always necessary for a career in fashion design, but they can be a great way to demonstrate expertise and gain a competitive edge in the job market. Here are a few examples:

  • Certified Fashion Designer (CFD): Offered by the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, the CFD program is designed for individuals with prior fashion design experience or education. It covers topics such as design principles, garment construction, pattern making, and portfolio development.
  • Certified Professional in Fashion Merchandising & Design (CP-FMD): Offered by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), this certification is targeted towards professionals working in fashion merchandising, design, and related fields. It covers areas such as textile science, color theory, fashion product development, and sustainability.
  • Certified Adobe Creative Suite (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.): While not fashion-specific, becoming certified in Adobe Creative Suite software like Illustrator and Photoshop can be highly beneficial for fashion designers. Adobe offers certification exams that demonstrate proficiency in these essential design tools.
  • CAD Certification (e.g., Lectra, Gerber): Companies like Lectra and Gerber offer certifications for their CAD software, which is widely used in the fashion industry for pattern making, grading, and marker making. These certifications validate proficiency in using these specialized tools.
  • Textile Testing Certification: Organizations like the International Association for Textile Testing, Inspection, and Certification (IATTIC) offer certifications for professionals involved in textile testing and quality assurance. This certification can be valuable for fashion designers who need to understand textile properties and performance.
  • Sustainability Certifications (e.g., Sustainable Apparel Coalition): While not specific to design, certifications related to sustainable fashion practices can be beneficial for fashion designers. For example, the Higg Index certification offered by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition demonstrates commitment to sustainability in fashion production.