For many careers, a college degree is a requirement you can’t do without. Fashion designers, however, aren’t like dentists, doctors or lawyers. Creativity, hard work and some business savvy can provide you with many opportunities, with or without a degree, either when you work for an established designer or take the plunge to start your own business.
Dreams and Work
Many people dream of becoming a fashion designer, but if you want to make it a reality without a college degree, you’ll need to put a lot of work into it. To begin with, you’ll need to decide on the market you want to specialize in: women’s wear, menswear, sportswear, accessories and so on. You’ll also need to know if you will work primarily with computer-based design or if you want to take a more hands-on approach, cutting and fitting fabric.
Without the benefit of experienced college instructors to guide you, you will need to work hard on your own to develop a portfolio. It should include a collection of your designs, like drawings and photographs, gathered together – either on paper or in digital format. If you plan to work for someone else, potential employers will expect to see the portfolio along with your resume. If you plan to start your own fashion business, investors will want to see your portfolio as well.
Understanding the Business
The business of fashion design involves much more than knowing how to draw a new dress or create a new style of shoe. Trends are always evolving; the bottom line of any business is to make money, which can be difficult in an ever-changing industry. Those who understand the fashion industry recommend that you stay abreast of developments by subscribing to publications like Women’s Wear Daily. Consider taking online courses in business or attending college part-time, to ensure you have an understanding of business basics. This will prepare you for when it’s time to launch your own company or sign a contract with a company interested in bringing you on board.
You don’t need to be in college to land an internship. The process may take a lot more grit and determination, but if you have a great portfolio and have the skills employers are looking for, you may find doors open to you. Rather than applying everywhere, research the companies you’re most interested in to be certain you can match your skills to what the employer is looking for. Depending on where you live, you should be prepared to move to a city like New York or Los Angeles if that’s where the best designers in your field are located. While established designers are always busy, they are often willing to meet with aspiring designers who have the courage to try to book an appointment.
Starting Your Own Business
Many successful designers got their start not by working for someone else, but by harnessing their own entrepreneurial drive and starting their own businesses. With websites like Etsty, Shopify and eBay, it takes only a few minutes – and very little technical know-how – to open your own online storefront. You can easily start by designing a few T-shirts and using social media and online advertising to get people to your website.
The online fashion market is crowded, so you will need to hone your marketing skills and listen to customers in order to thrive. However, if you aim to become a successful fashion designer by earning as you learn, you will learn a lot of lessons through trial and error that you probably couldn’t learn in a classroom.