The fashion industry is a highly competitive space, with many talented individuals looking to stand out. If you’re committed to a career in fashion, and have the prerequisite design talent, then it’s time to get started making that dream a reality. Here’s a look at five steps you’re going to need to take to become a fashion designer.

5 steps to becoming a fashion designer

Step 1: Start learning in high school

If you’re still in high school, that’s a bonus, because now is the time to get started on your fashion design journey. Choose subjects that work in your favour, rather that following what others are doing or feeling the pressure to take subjects related to other areas. Consumer studies, art, graphic design and computer applications are more in line with your chosen field. But beyond the mainstream subjects offered at school, try learn – wherever possible – about techniques connected to fashion design. This could be basic sewing and painting through to online programmes like Photoshop, CorelDraw, Xara and Serif DrawPlus. But more than this, it’s important to keep updated on fashion trends by reading blogs, industry journals and magazines. It’s important to remember that trends often originate out of socio-political and economic activities globally, so the more informed you are, the better.


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Step 2: Start getting your portfolio together

You’ll be showcasing a portfolio to potential employers following your studies, but that’s no reason why you can’t start collating your fashion design portfolio now. If you’ve already starting creating garments, or are undertaking any interesting projects, get your portfolio practice in early by showcasing this in the correct format so that it best highlights your diverse skill range – sketching, sewing, pattern-making etc. When you get to tertiary level, you must keep your portfolio in the back of your mind, as this is what will set you apart when it comes to landing a job.


Step 3: Get real-world experience

Having passion and knowledge means very little if you don’t have some form of real-world fashion design experience. This doesn’t mean you have to be working under a world leader in fashion, but, wherever possible, aim to get job experience within the industry. This can start in high school and will continue through to tertiary education level where you’ll need to include internships and experience on your application. Look for opportunities in the industry, from fashion houses and design firms through to clothing manufacturers, personal stylists and even fashion journalism. There are lots of sectors connected with the fashion industry and so much to learn, you just need to keep your eye open for opportunities.


Step 4: Extend your skills

Fashion design entails so much more than just the design, element. If you’re looking to merely work in the industry, then you can focus solely on the creative aspect. However, to really make a name for yourself in fashion, you need to broaden your horizons and learn the business side of things as well. The behind-the-scenes elements are vital if you want to establish a successful fashion business that can compete with the best. So, while you might focus on creative subjects at school, don’t overlook the financial ones if you’re that way inclined. Learning economics, sales and marketing will help immensely in the field of fashion design.

fashion career

Step 5: Choose the right fashion school

Choosing the right fashion design school is probably the most important step in becoming a fashion designer, because even if you weren’t on track before starting, an established fashion school will ensure you leave prepared for everything. You can choose to study a degree in fashion design, or you can complete fashion short courses in elements like garment construction, pattern engineering, styling, textiles and computer-aided fashion design. You can also explore elements beyond design, with a good fashion school providing grounding in business aspects as well. Another massive benefit of working with a good fashion school is that you’ll be immediately connected within the industry, as the draw on the best for lecturers, mentors and set up internship opportunities. You’ll get the chance to network and meet like-minded industry players who can expand your reach within the world of fashion.


A leading South African establishment, Villioti Fashion Institute, provides students with the opportunity to study either short courses or gain a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design through the school. This extraordinary fashion institute has international affiliations with Parsons New York, FIT (NY) and London College of Fashion, enabling them to internationally benchmark its fashion courses to ensure international alignment. They offer students exposure to the vast network within the fashion industry so that they stay ahead in the fast-changing world of fashion.