Is becoming a sportswear 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 sportswear designers do?

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

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How to become a Sportswear Designer

Becoming a sportswear designer involves a combination of formal education, specialized training, experience, and developing a unique design aesthetic. Here’s an outline of the pathway to the career:

High School Diploma
Take courses in art, design, textiles, and physical education. Participate in extracurricular activities like art clubs, fashion clubs, or sports teams. Aim for strong performance in subjects like mathematics, which is useful for pattern making and measurements, and English, which helps in communication and presentation skills.

Bachelor’s Degree
Most aspiring sportswear designers pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design, which provides a solid foundation in design principles, garment construction, pattern making, textiles, sewing, draping, fashion illustration, and fashion history. Seek out programs, like the one offered by the Parsons School of Design in New York City, that include learning modules in activewear design and technical fashion design, covering topics such as materials science, sports technology, and the unique aspects of designing functional and performance-enhancing athletic wear.

A degree in industrial design or even kinesiology, with a focus on biomechanics, can also be valuable, especially when combined with fashion or textile courses.

A related area of study that some designers may choose is fashion merchandising, which focuses more on the business side of fashion, including developing a solid business plan, marketing, branding, retail management, and consumer behavior. This learning path is a potential option for students who aspire to work as an independent or freelance sportswear designers. Self-employment and freelancing require high-level entrepreneurial skills and the ability to manage various aspects of the business, from design to production to sales.

Online Courses and Platforms
Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare offer online courses in fashion design, basic sports apparel design and construction, pattern making, sustainable fashion, and textile properties. They can also cover the business aspects of starting a sportswear brand, marketing strategies, and more. While these short-term courses do not lead to a formal degree or credential, they can enhance skills and knowledge in areas relevant to becoming a sportswear designer.

Technical Training
Master design software such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) programs. These skills are essential for creating detailed design sketches and generating technical specifications.

Start Designing
Begin with freelance projects or small collections to build your reputation and gain experience. Offer your design services to local boutiques or online retailers. Collaborate with other designers or textile artists to expand your portfolio and gain exposure.

Internships and Apprenticeships
Gain practical hands-on experience through internships or apprenticeships with sportswear brands, fashion houses, design studios, manufacturers, textile companies, or retail companies. Entry-level positions such as junior designer, assistant designer, pattern maker, or technical designer can provide valuable mentorship and industry insights and help build a professional network.

Portfolio Development
Develop a strong portfolio showcasing your sportswear design projects, sketches, technical drawings, and photographs of finished garments. A well-curated portfolio demonstrates your ability to design functional and aesthetically pleasing sportswear.

Post-Graduate Education (Optional)
While not common, pursuing a master’s degree in fashion design, textile design, or a related field can provide advanced knowledge and specialization. Programs may offer specialized tracks in sportswear design and innovation. In lieu of a master’s degree, some institutions may offer specialized postgraduate certificates in sportswear design.

Create a Brand or Freelance
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, consider launching your own sportswear line. This involves designing collections, sourcing materials, and managing production and marketing. Offer freelance design services to established brands or start your own design consultancy.

Online Presence and Collaboration
Establish a professional online presence through a website and social media platforms. Use these channels to showcase your designs, connect with potential clients, and engage with the fashion community. Collaborate with photographers, models, and influencers to promote your designs and gain visibility in the fashion industry.

Continuous Learning
Continuously enhance your skills by taking advanced courses in sportswear design. Stay adaptable and innovative. Learn about integrating wearable technology into sportswear designs, such as sensors, smart fabrics, and performance monitoring. Attend fashion shows, trade fairs, and sports industry events to network with professionals and stay updated on market demands.

The following certifications can enhance sportswear designers’ skills, knowledge, and credibility in the industry:

  • Master Sewing and Design Professional (MSDP) – Offered by the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP), the MSDP Certification Program tests the knowledge and skills of seven important areas: fabric, design, fashion illustration, fit, garment construction, pattern development, and professional practices.
  • Master Alteration Specialist (MAS) – Also offered by the ASDP, the MAS Certification Program tests the knowledge and skill of five important areas: fabrics, alteration techniques, alteration fit, alteration overview, and professional practices.
  • Sustainability Certifications – With growing emphasis on sustainability in the fashion industry, certifications related to sustainable fashion and ethical practices and processes can be valuable. Organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and Bluesign offer certifications and training programs focused on sustainability in fashion design and production.
  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) – Adobe offers certifications for its software products, including Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, which are commonly used by apparel designers for sketching, pattern making, and design development. Becoming an Adobe Certified Expert demonstrates proficiency in these essential design tools.

Professional Organizations
There are several professional organizations and associations that support sportswear designers and other professionals in the broader fashion industry. Here are some notable ones:

  • The Textile Institute, based in the UK, promotes professionalism in all areas associated with the textile industries worldwide. It publishes research, organizes conferences and events, and provides professional development through courses relevant to sportswear design.
  • The Textile Society, also based in the UK, supports textile professionals, including sportswear designers, through events, publications, and grants.
  • American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) provides resources and sets standards in textile and coloration industries.
  • International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) promotes research and education in textile and apparel fields, offering conferences and publications relevant to sportswear designers.
  • International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) represents the global textile industry, including manufacturers, designers, and suppliers of textiles used in sportswear. It publishes industry reports and research.
  • Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) – The CFDA is one of the most prestigious organizations in the fashion industry. It provides support and resources to American fashion designers, including mentorship programs, business development initiatives, and networking events.
  • International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives (IACDE) is a global organization that connects professionals in the fashion and apparel industry, including sportswear designers.
  • American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) represents companies and professionals in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry.