Unless you've been living on a deserted island, you've been exposed to the fashion industry at some point, whether it’s seeing the covers of magazines plastered with the faces of celebrities or designers who have just started the next fashion craze, watching TV shows where a parade of models show off the latest fashions on the runway or red carpet, or just walking down the street. Fashion can be found virtually everywhere, and many fashion designers are now just as famous as the models and actors who wear their designs. However, there is a lot more to the fashion industry and fashion careers than the designers and models we see in the media. The designs that we see on a regular basis are actually the product of a process that involves a number of different individuals with a variety of different skills. You should know a little more about the fashion industry in order to understand the careers you can pursue.
“Fashion industry” refers to all of the individuals and businesses that design, produce, and market the things that we wear, including belts, shoes, dresses, formal suits, hats, jackets, jeans, necklaces, swimsuits, T-shirts, and all of the other types of clothing and/or accessories that we purchase. However, before any one of these items can even reach a store, it has to go through a lengthy creation process that involves many different fashion careers.
- First, each individual or business gathers information about the designs that are popular now and uses that information to try to predict what may be popular two to three years from now. The individual or business then gives that information to a textile manufacturing department or an outside textile manufacturer that helps the designer identify materials that may be well-suited to the design and produces the materials that the designer needs.
- The designer then creates an initial design that a seamstress or tailor can use to make an actual garment for a model to wear. The designer uses this initial garment to "test" the design and identify problems with the garment that may need to be addressed. Once the design has been tested and the appropriate alterations have been made, fashion photographers, fashion marketers, and other members of the marketing team determine the best way to market the design to retailers. At the same time, a pattern maker breaks the design down into a series of pieces that the manufacturer can assemble to create over and over again the garment that the individual or business designed.
- Finally, after the marketing team has found some companies that are willing to buy the design and the pattern maker has created the instructions that the manufacturer needs to assemble it, the designer's manufacturing department or an outside manufacturer begins to mass-produce the item and ship it to the stores that have agreed to purchase it. These stores then display the item and use photographs and other marketing materials to sell it to consumers. It can take anywhere from a year and a half to two years for a new idea to become the garment that you see displayed in a store, the result of the efforts of those in many different fashion careers.
Careers in Fashion
There are a number of different careers that you can pursue in fashion. With the appropriate education and experience, you could become a model, a photographer, a salesperson, a stylist, a designer, or another similar type of fashion professional. Regardless of the exact job, there are some personal qualities that every fashion professional should have in order to carry out the design, marketing, and/or production tasks that are necessary in the industry.
- One of the traits that draws a number of people to fashion careers is the desire to be creative. Creativity is extremely important in the industry because the goal of the entire fashion design process is not to copy current designs, but rather to create new designs based on current trends. You have to be creative in order to come up with new ideas on a regular basis.
- Another trait common to the fashion industry is the desire to stay up to date with the latest trends. A fashion professional has to understand what is popular now in order to determine and create what will be popular later.
- Most in fashion careers also enjoy working with people. Typically, a fashion professional has to work with consumers, manufacturers, marketers, retailers, and others to create and/or sell the accessories and garments. To succeed in the fashion industry, you have to be willing to work as part of a team and be able to communicate with other people on a regular basis.
- Another thing that draws some people to fashion careers is the fact that they can put their sewing skills to use. Many of the fashion careers that you will encounter will require you to not only design an accessory or garment, but also to create that item. You will have to know how to sew in order to take a design and turn it into something that someone could actually wear. In fact, you may find that some experience as a custom seamstress or tailor can be extremely helpful when you're trying to get a fashion job.
- People are also attracted to these careers because they can put their experience or degree in art, design, marketing, manufacturing, or retail to use. Fashion professionals have to know not only how to design accessories and garments, but also how these items are actually manufactured and marketed to the retailer or consumer.
- Finally, people in fashion must have both a passion for fashion and an eye for detail. Fashion professionals have to be able to look at a garment and determine if there are problems with it, if there are certain qualities that make the garment’s design more or less appealing than other designs, if there are certain materials that should or shouldn't be used in the design, and many other pieces of information about each of the garments that they create or encounter.
Advantages of Fashion Careers
As noted above, people who enter the fashion industry tend to have certain personality traits that draw them to the field, which also make them more likely to succeed in it. However, these personal qualities are not the only things that can draw an individual to the fashion industry. Here are some other attractions of the field.
- One main advantage of a career in the fashion industry is that it is an exciting, fast-paced field. The industry is built on the demand for new designs and, as a result, is constantly changing as new fashion trends emerge and new designs are created. In fashion, there will always be something new for you to do and see.
- Another advantage of the career is that it allows you to perform a variety of different tasks. With all of the different tasks at each stage of the fashion design process that vary from design to design, there will always be a lot of variety in the work that you do; you will seldom be required to perform the same task in the same way twice.
- A fashion job may also allow you to earn a lot of money if you can establish yourself. Most fashion companies are willing to pay excellent designers significantly more than the average employee. Some careers have extremely high earning potential, and you may be able to make well over $80,000 a year once you have established yourself.
- Another advantage of a career in the fashion industry is that it may allow you to travel. Many fashion professionals have to travel all over the country or even the world to discuss the latest trends, to find the materials needed for their designs, to present designs that they have created, and to sell their designs to retailers or other companies.
- Finally, a fashion job will be an outlet for your artistic and creative expression. Fashion
professionals have to be creative in order to come up with the new designs that the industry needs and
the new techniques that the companies within the industry can use to market and sell their designs.
Disadvantages of Fashion Careers
While most of the fashion jobs you encounter will offer you the opportunity to work in a creative, exciting, well-paying field that allows you to travel, they have their downsides, like any other career.
- One of the disadvantages is that it can be extremely stressful and demanding. New accessories and clothing can be a lot of fun to design when you're doing it on your own time, but designing can be a lot more difficult and stressful when you’re rushing to complete your work before an impending fashion show. If you like to work at your own pace or deadlines are something that you like to avoid, you may want to consider a different field.
- Another disadvantage is that it may require you to work long hours. To produce and sell your designs, you have to meet the deadlines and requirements that your employer or clients have set. This means that you may end up working nights, weekends, and significant amounts of overtime if there simply isn't enough time in a normal workday to get the job done.
- Pay can be very unpredictable. Clients and employers are often only willing to hire you if they know you and if you have designs that they actually want to use. While some careers in the fashion industry may allow you to earn a lot of money, there is no guarantee that you will earn anything if you can't make connections to sell your skills and your work.
- Another disadvantage is that you often have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Many careers in the fashion industry are based more on your experience and your reputation than on your actual skills. To sell your work and get paid, you have to build an excellent reputation.
- A final disadvantage of a career in fashion is that there are a number of differing opinions on what
"success" actually means. Your reputation and the reputation of the company that you work for
are often more important than what you're actually selling, and many clients and employers, as a result,
are more interested in how your design makes their brand look than they are in how much money your design
might make them. You could design one of the best-made garments in the world and still have trouble
selling it if the companies you are marketing to have never heard of you.
History of Fashion Careers
Many of the fashion jobs that we know today are less than 200 years old, but the basic practices and careers on which the fashion industry is based actually date back over 20,000 years. The first individuals to actually design and create garments were those who just wanted something to protect themselves from the elements. These early “fashion designers” didn't have access to the tools and materials that we have today, so most of the garments that were created during this time were practical rather than attractive. Way back then, seamstresses used needles made of bone and wood to make clothing out of animal hides and tree bark 300 years before the invention of cloth and over 19,800 years before the invention of the first sewing machine.
Seamstresses of the time designed very simple garments that were relatively easy to construct and duplicate. The simplicity of each garment was important because there were no sewing patterns to work from, and every garment had to be custom-made by hand. Making a single garment, as a result, was often an extremely time-consuming process, and the simplicity and practicality of a design were far more important than the appearance of the actual garment.
The generally held belief that clothing should be practical rather than attractive finally began to change in the early 1400s, however, when the seamstresses of Europe began to focus on the way that clothing fit and the way it looked. This new focus led to a series of designs that were intended not to accomplish a specific practical purpose, but rather to improve the way that garments fit, hung, and ultimately appeared on an actual human being. This drastic change in the attitude toward clothing eventually gave rise to an entirely new type of fashion professional, the tailor, who was responsible for ensuring that a man's clothing would fit better and look better than it ever had before. The desire for designs that focused more on an individual's appearance than the warmth of the garment or other practical concerns continued to grow throughout the next several centuries until Charles Frederick Worth, an English merchant commonly considered to be the father of the fashion industry, opened the House of Worth in Paris in 1858.
The House of Worth, like most of the fashion houses of the time, was designed to show off some of the dresses that the owner of the house had available for sale. However, unlike other fashion houses, which showcased styles already popular, the House of Worth instead featured the styles that might become popular in the near future. Today, showing off the styles that might become popular seems like a logical thing for a fashion designer to do, but at the time this tactic was actually a major change; the common practice then was to design each dress so that it mimicked the styles that people already liked. Each design, as a result, was simply a variation of an existing design. Worth turned the entire industry upside down when he created entirely new styles based on what he thought might be popular in the near future.
Many people began to buy Worth’s designs simply because they were different, which allowed him to exercise a great deal of influence over the fashion trends of the time. In fact, Worth's designs were so popular and so unique that he began to sew labels into each of his dresses to ensure that there was no doubt that they were indeed one of his designs. He also began to hire young women to act as models for each dress. The House of Worth was thus established as the first designer brand; many of the fashion jobs and practices that now exist in the fashion industry are a direct result of this brand.