12 Tips On How To Be A Fashion Designer Without A Degree

careers Jul 01, 2016

If you have always wanted a career as a fashion designer but either cannot afford to go to University, or just don't want to spend three to four years at college before doing so, don’t be disheartened as a degree is not required to break into the profession.

If you really have a raw talent, you are willing to work hard and you have picked up the basic skills necessary to secure an entry-level position in the fashion industry, there's a good chance you'll be able to make it without a degree!

A great example of a designer who went from a New York staple to fashion legend, as he took the lofty reins as the creative director at Balenciaga, was Alexander Wang. Wang was actually a Parson’s Fashion School of Design dropout!

Many of today’s renowned designers DO have degrees but often in entirely different areas. Commes des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo studied art and literature and Raf Simons was on his way to becoming an industrial furniture designer. While the Prada family had been in the fashion business for decades, the founder’s granddaughter Miuccia Prada actually studied political science and attended Teatro Piccolo with the intention of becoming a mime artist.

To be a fashion designer, I cannot stress the importance of being a creative who is willing to work hard, without this asset you certainly will not succeed!

Consider if you have the qualities and skills to make it as a fashion designer? Are you creative? Can you work with detail and illustrate any of your ideas?

Here are The Fashion Student Hub’s top 12 tips to ask yourself if you really want to get into the Industry on your own:

  1. Make sure you have a basic knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and CAD. Many fashion designers use computer-aided design software as part of their work, so it would be advisable to learn the basics of these. You can learn everything here from the internet or some very good books on the subject. A good book on Photoshop and Illustrator is Fashion and Textile Design with Photoshop And Illustrator Paperback– 16 Jun 2016 by Robert Hume.
  2. Although you may not want to go to University to do a BA or equivalent, you will need to be able to make yourself equally attractive with your talents to potential employers if you have some on line certificates or non-degree qualifications in the relevant areas of fashion design. If you are still at high school try to make sure you do well in all subjects, especially study art-related subjects and information technology to pick up your computer skills. If you have opted out of school make sure you gain as much as you can from online courses on fashion related subjects.
  3. Start drawing and fill sketchbooks - I can’t stress this enough. It is very important to sketch, write, and layout ideas on paper first. Don’t worry if they are not brilliant to begin with. Remember, practice makes perfect! You should be sketching your ideas during any spare minute that you have during the day.
  4. It is essential to build up a portfolio of your ideas and designs. This is absolutely vital to demonstrate your style and ability to potential employers.
  5. Try to learn as much as you can about fabric and textiles. Making a swatch book using scraps of fabric collected from tailors and fabric shops will also be a productive use of your time.
  6. Make sure you learn the basics of sewing from books, magazines or the internet.  You can pick up titles in bookstores or online.  Many books and courses have been published on fashion-design related skills over the years. And YouTube is full of help, so you shouldn't have too much trouble tracking down some useful reading materials. Practice every technique that you can find, from the most intricate stitch to the smallest detail.
  7. Try and do an internship with a design brand or manufacturing firm. If you can work part-time, even unpaid this will give you great experience and really help you to learn about the fashion industry. This will also help you gain sales and marketing skills while learning.
  8. Connect with as many fashion brands as you can. Ask questions and help, they will normally be more than willing to speak with you if you can show them you are really passionate about your future.
  9. Send speculative applications to companies you'd like to work for. Many fashion designers start their careers working as patternmakers or sketching assistants, or even ‘making cups of tea!’ Once you've built up some experience in this way, and you have contacts and your portfolio, you will be able to start applying for design positions in your own right.
  10. Try and enter any and all fashion design, stitching and sewing competitions. These are perfect places to make not only business connections, but to add to your resume and if you win or do well, can unlock a lot of doors in the fashion world.
  11. Network. When trying to learn how to become a fashion designer without a formal education, the best way to get your name out there is by good old-fashioned footwork. Use social media and try to get along to as many fashion related events as you possibly can.
  12. Visit Museums and galleries and learn as much as you possibly can about the history of costume and art as this information is an invaluable source for any fashion designer of the future. There are always some great exhibitions on to do with fashion, make sure you go along to as many as you can. Scour the internet, but also your local tourist information will always be able to help.

Finally, remember that education is a lifelong habit and whether you gather it in a formal setting or by working in the trenches of the design world, one thing is certain because you have a degree in fashion, it does not necessarily follow that you will be successful as a designer.

If you are willing to invest in hard work and above all else keep learning, you can succeed even without that BA!

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