Fashion Designers, Job Description, Salary and More

Fashion designer job description salary and how to be one.

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they design. See resume keywords for fashion designer. The median annual wage for fashion designers was $86,110 in May 2019. See salary details.

A fashion designer job is an artistic occupation that appeals to the creative INFP personality type.

Fashion Designer Job Description

Job Duties

Fashion designers typically do the following:

  • Direct and coordinate workers involved in drawing and cutting patterns and constructing samples or finished garments.
  • Examine sample garments on and off models, modifying designs to achieve desired effects.
  • Sketch rough and detailed drawings of apparel or accessories, and write specifications such as color schemes, construction, material types, and accessory requirements.
  • Confer with sales and management executives or with clients to discuss design ideas.
  • Identify target markets for designs, looking at factors such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
  • Attend fashion shows and review garment magazines and manuals to gather information about fashion trends and consumer preferences.
  • Select materials and production techniques to be used for products.
  • Provide sample garments to agents and sales representatives, and arrange for showings of sample garments at sales meetings or fashion shows.
  • Adapt other designers’ ideas for the mass market.
  • Purchase new or used clothing and accessory items as needed to complete designs.
  • Visit textile showrooms to keep up-to-date on the latest fabrics.
  • Collaborate with other designers to coordinate special products and designs.
  • Design custom clothing and accessories for individuals, retailers, or theatrical, television, or film productions.
  • Determine prices for styles.
  • Draw patterns for articles designed, cut patterns, and cut material according to patterns, using measuring instruments and scissors.
  • Develop a group of products or accessories, and market them through venues such as boutiques or mail-order catalogs.
  • Read scripts and consult directors and other production staff to develop design concepts and plan productions.
  • Test fabrics or oversee testing so that garment care labels can be created.
  • Sew together sections of material to form mockups or samples of garments or articles, using sewing equipment.

Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative director.

Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design; others create designs in all three fashion categories.

For some fashion designers, the first step in creating a new design is researching current fashion and making predictions about future trends, such as by reading reports published by fashion industry trade groups.

Other fashion designers create collections using a variety of inspirations, including art media, their surroundings, or cultures they have experienced and places they have visited.

After they have an initial idea, fashion designers try out various fabrics and produce a prototype, often with less expensive material than will be used in the final product.

They work with models to see how the design will look and adjust the designs as needed.

Although most designers first sketch their designs by hand, many now also sketch their ideas digitally with computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

CAD allows designers to see their work on virtual models. They can try different colors, designs, and shapes while making adjustments more easily than they can when working with real fabric on real people.

Designers produce samples with the actual materials that will be used in manufacturing. Samples that get good responses from fashion editors or trade and fashion shows are then manufactured and sold to consumers.

The design process may vary by specialty, but it generally takes 6 months, from initial design concept to final production, to release either the spring or fall collection.

In addition to releasing designs during the spring and fall, some companies release new designs every month.

The Internet and e-commerce allow fashion designers to offer their products outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

These designers ship directly to the consumer, without having to invest in a physical shop to showcase their product lines of collections.

Types of Fashion Designers

There are types of fashion designers. This is an illustration of people putting together a garment.

Accessory Designers

Accessory designers design and produce items such as handbags, suitcases, belts, scarves, hats, hosiery, and eyewear.

Costume Designers

Costume designers design costumes for the performing arts and for motion picture and television productions.

They research the styles worn during the period in which the performance is set, or they work with directors to select and create appropriate attire.

They also must stay within the production’s costume budget.

Clothing Designers

Clothing designcreate and help produce men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, including casual wear, suits, sportswear, evening wear, outerwear, maternity clothing, and intimate apparel.

Footwear Designers

Footwear designers create and help produce different styles of shoes and boots.

As new materials, such as lightweight synthetic materials used in shoe soles, become available, footwear designers produce new designs that combine comfort, form, and function.

Where Fashion Designers Work

Many fashion designers work in-house for wholesalers or manufacturers.

These wholesalers and manufacturers sell apparel and accessories to retailers or other marketers for distribution to individual stores, catalog companies, or online retailers.

Self-employed fashion designers typically create high-fashion garments and one-of-a-kind (custom) apparel.

In some cases, a self-employed fashion designer may have a clothing line that bears his or her name.

Most designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest trends.

Designers also sometimes travel to other countries to meet suppliers of materials and manufacturers who make the final products.

Most fashion designers work in New York and California.

Work Schedules

Fashion designers occasionally work many hours to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows.

Generally, designers who freelance are under contract; these designers often have long workdays that require them to adjust to their clients’ schedules and deadlines.

How to Become a Fashion Designer


Many fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising.

In these programs, students learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also work on projects they can add to their portfolio, which showcases their designs.

For many artists, including fashion designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential.

Students studying fashion design often have opportunities to develop their portfolios further by entering their designs in student or amateur contests.

When making hiring decisions, employers rely on these portfolios to gauge talent and creativity.

Find accredited programs in art and design, that award degrees in fashion design.

These schools often require students to have completed basic art and design courses before entering a program. Applicants usually must submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Other Experience

Fashion designers often gain experience in the fashion industry through internships or by working as an assistant designer. Internships introduce aspiring fashion designers to the design process, building their knowledge of textiles and colors and of how the industry works.

Fashion Designer Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

What You Need to Know About to Be a Fashion Designer

Design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.

The structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.

Top Fashion Designer Skills

  • Active listening 
  • Critical thinking
  • Active learning 
  • Coordination 
  • Judgment and decision making
  • Social perceptiveness 
  • Speaking
  • Complex problem solving

What You Need to Be Able to Do

  • Communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
  • See details at close range
Fashion designers have to use judgement and communications skills

Fashion Designer Resume Keywords and Phrases

  • Develop, design, or create new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
  • Develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Develop specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Observe, receive, and obtain information from all relevant sources.
  • Assess the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Schedule events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
  • Communicate with people outside the organization
  • Representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources.
  • Provide information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Analyze information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Convince others to buy merchandise/goods or to otherwise change their minds or actions.
  • Establish long-range objectives and specify the strategies and actions to achieve them.
  • Identify information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Provide documentation, detailed instructions, drawings, or specifications to tell others about how devices, parts, equipment, or structures are to be fabricated, constructed, assembled, modified, maintained, or used.
  • Develop artistic or design concepts for decoration, exhibition, or commercial purposes.
  • Coordinate design activities.
  • Draw detailed or technical illustrations.
  • Write informational material.
  • Collaborate with others to develop or refine designs.
  • Monitor current trends.
  • Conduct market research.
  • Select materials or props.
  • Promote products, activities, or organizations.
  • Build models, patterns, or templates.
  • Maintain inventories of materials, equipment, or products.
  • Study scripts to determine project requirements.
  • Conduct research to inform art, designs, or other work.

Fashion Designer Salary

The average annual wage for fashion designers was $86,110 in May 2019.

The median salary for fashion designers are as follows:

Percentile 10% 25% 50%
75% 90% 
Hourly Pay $17.92$25.20$35.48$48.48$71.64
Annual Pay$37,260$52,410$73,790$100,830$149,010

Top Paying States for Fashion Designer Jobs

Map of the states that pay the highest salary for fashion designers
State Hourly
average pay 
average pay
California $45.13$93,870
New York $44.64$92,860
New Hampshire $39.08$81,280
Oregon $38.57$80,220
Massachusetts $38.50$80,080

Top Paying Cities for Fashion Designer Jobs

map of top paying cities for fashion designers
Metro area Hourly
average pay 
average pay
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $54.10$112,530
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $45.71$95,080
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX $45.66$94,980
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $44.05$91,630
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $42.98$89,400
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH $39.60$82,360
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA $39.45$82,050
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA $38.46$79,990
Columbus, OH $38.11$79,260
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $36.94$76,830

Applicants who have formal education in fashion design; are proficient in technologies such as CAD; have excellent portfolios; and have industry experience will have the best job prospects.

However, strong competition for jobs is expected because of the large number of people who seek employment as fashion designers and the relatively few positions available.

In addition, it may be necessary for some fashion designers to relocate, because employment opportunities for fashion designers are concentrated in New York and California.

More Information

Council of Fashion Designers of America

For more information about educational programs in fashion design, visit

National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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