Career Guide

Fashion Designer

Emily Hanson  · Jan 25th 2023

A fashion designer uses flair, creativity and a keen eye for detail to create and design new clothing items. Fashion designing involves planning, pitching your ideas and managing projects.

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers plan, create and construct clothing to meet a specific target market. They will usually combine user research with trends and market projections to create profitable garments that their target customers will buy.

Business of fashion jobs

What is a fashion designer?

Fashion designers have a big impact on modern culture. They combine technical ability with an eye for great design to create garments that will appeal to their target customer base.

Fashion designers usually begin their work with research. This includes customer research, global trends, competitor markets and usability plans. They’ll take this research into account when drafting clothing plans, liaising with a wider team of design professionals to ensure their plans meet specifications.

Much of your training towards becoming a fashion designer will come from your degree or apprenticeship study.

Fashion designers can work in a variety of settings. They may work for a particular fashion brand on the high street, run their own design company, work at high level haute couture fashion outlets, or work on a freelance consultancy basis. They could even work in the film or television industry in costume designer jobs.


As a fashion designer, your responsibilities will vary depending on the brand you work for, and your level of experience. Some common duties include:

  • Undertaking detailed global research of fashion trends, both looking towards the future for the expected interests of your clientele and looking to previous trends for ideas on how to adapt or take influence from old designs.
  • Undertake user research, such as planning focus groups, to learn the key elements your target audience is looking for, such as practicality, particular trending elements, or particular clothing functions.
  • Create designs using both technical drawings (pen and paper) and computer aided design (CAD) following client or company briefs.
  • Sharing initial designs with a wider team for feedback on aesthetics, functionality and audience suitability.
  • Adjusting designs based on team feedback.
  • Planning full product ranges for the autumn/winter and spring/summer seasons if working in haute couture, ensuring garments are on trend and suitable for the weather conditions of your market.
  • Planning capsule collections, such as those in combination with particular influencers, or those meeting particular interests such as festive clothing.
  • Regularly creating new designs to keep your customer based engaged and interested in new releases for your brand.
  • Creating samples of your designs to be used for further copies, or mass production if working for a large high street brand.
  • Working alongside marketing, manufacturing and fashion promoter teams to ensure that promotional materials and overall designs are replicable across different marketing channels.
  • Liaising with sales teams to ensure planned budgets are possible on a mass production scale based on your ideas for design creation.


A fashion designer salary varies. It usually will depend on the size and reputation of the company you work (haute couture, for example, will likely pay more than high street retailers), as well as your level of experience and expertise.

Junior fashion designer salaries usually begin on around £23,000. Companies usually hire multiple designers at junior level. With experience, you could earn closer to £35,000[1]. If you become a senior designer, overseeing junior designers or working at a well esteemed firm, you could earn considerably more.

If you work as a freelance fashion designer, your rates, as with an employed role, will vary. The average day rate for a designer is around £313[2]. With particular expertise or time working in a prestigious brand under your belt, you could charge more.

Apprentices on fashion courses will bring in £4.81 per hour while studying (aged 16-19 and in their first year). If you are over 19 and in the second or beyond year of your apprenticeship, you will earn minimum wage for your age[3].

Customer profile fashion


While you don’t need a degree to enter the fashion industry, it can be helpful. The key skills required from both a technical and creative perspective are usually found at degree level.

Some example degrees that would set you in good stead include:

You will need to choose a degree that combines technical and creative skill. An understanding of sales, marketing and publicity would be helpful in proving your ability when applying to positions.

Alternatively, you could study towards a fashion apprenticeship. The British Fashion Council is a great place to start when searching for an apprenticeship which interests you. It offers three specialisms: product development and production, sales and operations, and fashion marketing and communications. You will usually be assessed at Level 3, and you will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and maths.

Training and development

Much of your training towards becoming a fashion designer will come from your degree or apprenticeship study. During your studies, you will learn key skills like technical drawings and CAD. You will also usually learn key principles in marketing, publicity and operations around the design of garments.

Fashion design is a competitive industry. With this in mind, it’s important to get some work experience in a fashion design studio under your belt prior to applying to roles.

The learning doesn’t stop at your qualification, though. A great deal of the practical elements of being a designer will come to you through your work. It’s a good idea wherever possible to shadow senior designers to learn tricks of the trade, from how best to research fashion trends through to optimising your garments to meet the needs of clients. If you work in a large agency or brand, it’s a great idea to try and shadow workers in other areas of the company, like marketing. This will give you a broad and balanced view of how fashion works holistically.

Various organisations offer further continuing professional development to help you advance in your career. Members of the British Fashion Council are offered networking opportunities and have access to industry insights. Many universities also offer short courses on particular areas of fashion design to help you develop your craft.


Your skills as a fashion designer combine a creative eye with technical ability. These include:

  • A good working knowledge of the history of fashion trends, especially in recent years.
  • A creative eye for designing new and innovative garments.
  • Drawing abilities, both freehand and via CAD software.
  • Technical ability in designing garments, such as meeting specific measurements or accessibility requirements for customers.
  • Technical skills in creating garments, such as sewing and sizing fabrics.
  • Ability to use computer aided design software, and quickly learn new methods or programs.
  • Excellent team working skills - you’ll usually work within a group of other designers, and your work sits within a larger team of production, sales, marketing and publicity professionals who bring your designs to the hands of the consumer.
  • Confidence in showcasing your work to members of your team and the public.
  • Ability to take on constructive design criticism and accept changes to your designs that you may not agree with.
  • Ability to understanding accessibility and practicality needs, such as the needs of athletes in sports wear.
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal in order to present your designs confidently verbally while providing written explanations alongside them.

Graphic designer clothing

Work Experience

Fashion design is a competitive industry. With this in mind, it’s important to get some work experience in a fashion design studio under your belt prior to applying to roles.

It is a good idea to utilise any industry connections you have from your studies to leverage some work experience. You may find that your course already includes time in industry, which you should capitalise on. If there aren’t set placements, ask your course tutors if they can connect you with someone established in the field and currently working in a brand, and ask to spend time observing or shadowing. This will give you vital industry knowledge that will help inform your idea of the kind of role you are looking for.

Many fashion design brands offer internships to give you a taste of what being a fashion designer is like. These are often unpaid, so you will need to decide if this is something you are comfortable doing.

Career Prospects

The fashion industry moves quickly, so your options for advancement are varied. You will usually begin your work as a junior fashion designer, but with time and evidence of creative abilities, you could move on to more senior positions. You may find that you need to move between different fashion outlets in order to advance your career.

Fashion designers have a big impact on modern culture. They combine technical ability with an eye for great design to create garments that will appeal to their target customer base.

Many fashion designers build up their experience in house, then choose to go freelance as a fashion design consultant. Some designers specialise in a particular area of design, like being a fashion print designer or working in fashion illustration jobs. This often gives the opportunity to bid for part time fashion jobs on a freelance basis, that fit better around family commitments.

You could even build up your experience of the industry and set up your own fashion label, managing junior designers yourself. If you enjoy teaching others, you could move towards fashion teacher jobs at college or university level.


  • [1]Fashion Designer Salaries in United Kingdom — Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  • [2]Rates and Project Lengths for Freelance Designer — Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  • [3]SBecome an apprentices — Retrieved 29 September 2022.

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