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How to Become a Fashion Designer: Steps to Success


Written by
Amber Hendriksen
Published date
07 June 2020

An exciting career that allows you to express your passion and individuality? Who wouldn’t want to be a fashion designer?

But the fashion industry is fiercely competitive, so this article will share with you the latest creative, technical and business skills that will help you stand outset you on the road to becoming a success.

For help, we turned to some of the most exciting emerging designers in the world – selected from a global search to join the prestigious International Fashion Showcase. They know first-hand how to navigate the challenges facing new designers, and we share their words of wisdom below!

Creativity is individuality

Your creativity is what is going to separate you from the rest, you just need to harness it and weave it through everything you create. You can bring different mediums of inspiration together – images, words, collections – to create visual research and generate new ideas. Visual mood boards are used by top designers to generate a certain ‘feel’ or atmosphere in their own work. Start by using images or words that you are attracted to then branch out from there. Through working on your visual research, you can also incorporate trend forecasting towards the next season. Trend forecasting is used in the offices of top designers and can often predict the next silhouette, design and colour palettes.

Your individual interests can speak through your clothing. If you are passionate about sustainability then incorporate this into the material, colour and even pattern cut of the clothing. Similarly, if you are interested in gender and sexuality, you can experiment with gender roles and non-gendered clothing, experimenting with different garments and shapes. Try bringing your point of view into the fashion world.

Laura Laurens is an advocate for playing with gender through fashion. She suggests that “there have been social and dress codes through history that reflects the architecture of the thinking at the time. In contemporary fashion I think we are in a time of dissolution, so those old codes about one thing or another are kind of vanishing and fashion reflects that.”

Experimenting is a key skill possessed by the professional fashion designer as is having the self-discipline to try again if a design doesn’t work initially. Developing your fashion design skills and persevering will help separate you from the rest.

Time to get technical

For you to become a fashion designer you need a strong ability to sketch your designs. This includes paper and pen but also Photoshop and other softwares.

You will need to make sure that you can express your ideas through one of these mediums so that other designers and creatives can comprehend your work. These free tutorials might help you develop your fashion illustration skills.

An essential skill for you as a fashion designer is to be able to understand colour, textures and fabric. Getting the colours wrong can make your garment a lemon rather than mustard! This is similar with textures and fabrics. It is essential to know your fabrics as well as knowing about the sustainability of your chosen fabric.

Rahemur Rahman knows the importance of knowing your materials inside out. His advice for you is to “show the world a lot more compassion in how fashion is made, built, and consumed.”

Your technical skills will improve as you work but they can also be improved by the effort you put into them. Make it your aim to learn a new fabric or technique each week and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful fashion designer.

Once you know your fabrics and have improved your colour palette, the next essential skill is learning to sew and pattern cut. These are fundamental within your field as when you are getting started with your designs.

You will need to learn the basics of sewing on a machine as well as the basics of cutting your own patterns for your garments. This is one of the essential steps to success as you can learn how to create new and unique silhouettes and figures as you learn to sew and create.

A Brain for Business

In the era of social media, everything is online. This means that for your brand to succeed you will need to be able to present and market yourself online. It can be a good idea to have an online portfolio for your designs and creations.

Visual research can help you create the image that you want your brand to convey. Research how other brands have conceptualised their image and start to develop yours. There are many social media online courses, or you can research how other brands identify with their online presence and factor this into your own work.

When working in a creative industry, it is important to have strong interpersonal skills. Curtis Oland from the International Fashion Showcase stresses that “working with other creatives can be the most rewarding aspect of the industry but can also be the most challenging.”

Being able to discuss your ideas with other creatives, pattern cutters, marketers and buyers is essential. You will need to know your materials, patterns and textures and be able to communicate this to the rest of your team. Practice using these skills with your own work and see if you can communicate your idea for your work efficiently. Try this on your family and friends and see if you can keep them interested.

During the early days of your career, you will be working every role of your business. It is important that you begin to understand budgets, buying and merchandising, sale concepts and trends. Understanding your budget is essential for your business to thrive, allowing you to deliver your garments from concept to completion. By monitoring your sales and budget you will also be able to monitor what is selling well and learn how to deliver more similar products.

Read our handy guide on how to start a career in fashion.

These are the most important steps to success for you to become a successful designer, but of course, there is a lot to learn along the way. If you want to develop your skills, check out our range of online fashion courses.


If you are looking to kickstart your career, develop new skills or refresh the ones you already have, the short courses offered by UAL are delivered by industry experts with the overarching benefit of equipping you with skills and insights that you can easily transfer to your career or personal projects. Take a look at our upcoming short courses as well as our range of online courses to find out how they can help you.

We also offer a wide range of unique courses for kids and teens aged 11 to 18 years-old, including within fashion design, who wish to explore their creativity.

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