Fashion is worth £21 billion annually to the UK economy, making it an exciting and lucrative industry to work in. It also influences spending across many other sectors, estimated to be worth £37 billion per year. Not only does the fashion industry stimulate the economy but it’s also the largest employer of all creative industries: 816,000 people are employed across a wide range of jobs.
If you’re a fashion designer, nothing is as exciting as the fashion industry. Stockists, fashion editors and PR agencies – to name just a few – are constantly searching for new talent that will revolutionise the sector. Hopefuls from across the world compete to be the next big discovery, which is why you need to ensure you stand out at all times. It is hard work and you need dedication to create a collection and label everyone wants to wear, but the rewards are plentiful.
This article will explore all aspects of creating a fashion label from training and courses to pitching to potential clients.
Training and Courses
Fashion designers typically need an associate or a bachelor's degree in fashion design. For those who want to start their own business, some combine their fashion design degree with a business, marketing, or fashion merchandising degree.
During your course, expect to learn about colour pallets, textiles, sewing and tailoring, pattern making, fashion history, computer-aided design (CAD) and specialist design, which can include footwear, womenswear etc.
Many schools, such as London College of Fashion
, Central Saint Martins College of Art
and Design and University of the Arts London do not accept students until a basic art and design qualification has been obtained. Along with an application, students are usually asked to submit examples of their work.
The necessary skills to be a designer can also be learnt through internships; valuable experience can be obtained when working in retail stores as a personal stylist or tailor. Basic sales and marketing skills can be learnt during this time, and offers the opportunity to discover what styles and fabrics work for different people.
Aspiring designers must have a strong sense of the aesthetic; you need to appreciate beauty, have a keen eye for colour and detail and a competent sense of balance and proportion.
- Problem-solving skills
- Strong communication
- Strong minded
- Thick skinned - you will come across negative feedback, always have a positive outlook
- Pattern cutting
- Knowledgeable about textiles, fabrics, ornamentation, and fashion trends
- Sowing – both machine and hand
- Artistic flare
It’s also useful to be knowledgeable on human anatomy, mathematics, and psychology.
For most professional designers, presentations rate up there with skydiving or bungee jumping in the stress-inducement category. Completing and feeling proud of your pitch is something no one can take away from you, but the process can seem like a free-fall. Even veterans still feel the heat when it comes to pitching. Here are five simple tips to bear in mind when pitching to a potential stockist:
- Be comfortable with your portfolio and presentation style - confidence will increase the chances of you making a good first impression. The trick to a good pitch is knowing how to present your company and distinguish it from competitors.
- Make sure the stockist is right for you and the collection - the customer profile needs to match, along with the client’s values.
- Come prepared – research the client thoroughly e.g. what designers they stock already, what collections have proved popular and what they expect from designers.
- Connect with the client on a personal level – you’ve spent time putting together a tailored message of how you can bring something unique to the table, got your timings down and have practised time and time again. This could all go out of the window if you don’t connect with the client. This can be done by, for example, selling the potential relationship between you and the stockist, differentiating yourself and building personal trust.
- Command the first six minutes of the pitch – research has shown you have five to six minutes of your potential client’s complete and undivided attention. So those first six minutes ensure you make the best possible impression; what they think of you at the beginning is how they are going to think of you at the end.
What to bring with you
- Your portfolio - including sketches and professional photographs of the collection
- Notes to help you talk about the collection professionally – the story behind it, materials used, inspirations, who you have designed for (your audience)
- Samples – photographs can say one thing, but nothing is better than showing the pieces in all their glory
- Website – we live in a digital world and so having a website, dedicated to showcasing your work and you as a designer, is critical. This is the perfect time to “sell” yourself and create awareness of your work. Someone may find the website and begin to talk about you, offering the ideal gateway into the fashion world
- Portfolio/work experience - Employers usually seek designers with a two-year or four-year degree who are knowledgeable about textiles, fabrics, ornamentation, and fashion trends
- Networking events – there are plenty out there that attract people from all parts of the fashion industry. The more contacts you have the better, even the smallest of contacts could prove to be your ticket into the professional fashion world. You can also gain exposure to potential employers by entering your designs in student or amateur contests
- Business cards/C.V. – these need to encompass all experiences and your collection(s). Be as creative in the design, use of colour and pattern to attract attention