If you’ve always dreamed of a career in fashion, read on. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of starting a career in the fashion industry, including tips and advice, and a few careers you might want to consider that aren’t “designer.”
If you love putting together just the right outfit or creating amazing clothing designs for your friends and family, a career in fashion might be right for you. But isn't it a tough field to break into? Where do you even start? Don't be discouraged. The most famous designers and stylists were once where you are now: at square one. Even if you're not a designer and just want to work in the field, there’s a position for you. You don’t need a fancy education, either. You need drive, talent, and the right information.
In this article, we’ll discuss starting a career in the fashion business, including:
Is there a career in fashion?
Is it hard to get a job in fashion?
How do I start a career in fashion?
3 Careers in fashion to consider (that aren’t designers!)
You might be wondering if there's a career to be had in the fashion world. The short answer is: absolutely. While designer or stylist might be the first jobs that come to mind, there are a whole host of other jobs in all other areas of the business, from photography, marketing, business, manufacturing, or even public relations. While the average growth rate for fashion designers, for example, is only 3%, that’s considered about average and shouldn’t work as a deterrent. There are also about 2,300 new fashion designer positions projected for each year through 2032, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The increase in online retailers and social media influencers has necessitated a demand for new fashion designs, along with a developing consumer desire for eco-friendly or sustainable options. It might be tough to go it alone, though, and the most reliable forms of employment will be with established companies and manufacturers. But once you get your foot in the door, the opportunity for a career in fashion is wide open and can include positions as diverse as pattern design, executive assistant, sales, buyer, merchandising, or account executive. The choice is yours.
The global apparel market was $1.53 trillion (U.S.) in 2022 and is projected to increase in 2023 to more than 1.7 trillion dollars, with the majority of the demand coming from the United States and China.
It’s challenging, like most any other field, but not impossible. While the level of difficulty will depend on what role you’re perusing, in general, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind:
You might have to start at the bottom. The industry is very competitive, and you might have to take a low-level position and “pay your dues.”
It’s important to build your professional network and develop strong connections with others in the industry. Don’t burn any bridges—kindness and compassion will be remembered, and might come in handy during tough times.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Success rarely comes overnight, especially in the fashion industry.
Keep an open mind and be willing to challenge old ways of doing things. Fashion is an industry of constant change; so make sure to stay up to date on other industry’s trends, art, design, and culture.
Like any other career, you need a plan. Here are a few steps you can take to get that first job in fashion and set your career on the right path.
Decide what job you want in the fashion industry. Designer? Buyer? Stylist? Editor? Make note of your skills and interests, then do some research to find out which jobs align with them.
A degree in fashion isn’t mandatory, but if you’re going to college (or going back), do consider a fashion degree or something fashion-adjacent, such as art, communications, graphic design, or marketing.
Take advantage of your network by making contact with other professionals on LinkedIn, following people you admire in the industry on social media, or simply cold-emailing a hiring manager.
Start in retail. It’s a great way to get some experience in merchandising, buying, and clothing displays. (Plus, working with the public is a great way to develop “tough skin.”)
Pursue entry-level positions at one of the “big players" in the fashion industry such as H&M, Fast Retailing, or Condé Nast, the conglomerate that owns publications such as Glamour, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. Or apply to volunteer at fashion events such as Fashion Week—you never know who you’ll meet!
And don’t forget the old “making your own opportunity” route. Starting a blog, promoting your Instagram account, or establishing your own stylist business will help to get your name out there and possibly lead to bigger and better opportunities.
Not everyone is a designer. If that’s not where your skills lie, but you still want to work in the fashion industry, consider these 3 careers.
If you're on the analytical side, you might enjoy being a Trend Researcher. A Trend Researcher uses statistics to evaluate data to determine if there have been changes in that area over a certain amount of time, taking into account economic climate, technology, marketing, and human demographics. All of this information is used to predict what’s going to happen in an industry (such as fashion) to predict a company’s financial performance or what the target consumer is likely to do. Pattern recognition skills are important, and you might also want to consider starting by taking college classes in business and statistics.
CAD, also known as Computer-Aided Design, can be used to create and modify precise fashion designs in 2D or 3D models before they’re sent into production. CAD designs can incorporate exact measurements and proportions, create designs without drawing skills, and can be shared digitally with others. CAD designers create prototypes of designs, which save the company time and money. They may work for design studios, retail, fashion houses, textile companies, or clothing manufacturers.
Love window shopping? Then you’ve admired the work of visual merchandisers, who create creative store window displays by arranging items to show them to the public. The visual merchandiser must display apparel in a creative, organized manner, making them appealing to the consumer. Visual merchandisers need strong visual communication skills, a sense of art and aesthetics, and knowledge of sales and promotional trends, and their designs can range from simple to ornate and exciting. In general, successful visual merchandisers have a degree in visual communication, fashion merchandising, or event design, certifications in visual merchandising, and skills in lighting design, color theory, and marketing.
Success in fashion is possible, but it requires dedication and inspiration. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to break into the fashion industry, and who are willing to give it 100 percent. Make sure you’re one of them.
Need help keeping track of your job applications? Check out Career.io’s Job Tracker tool to stay organized and view all of your applications in one easy-to-use dashboard.
There are a lot of jobs in all areas of the fashion business, from photography, marketing, business, manufacturing, or even public relations.
To get started in fashion, decide what position you want to pursue, be prepared to start at the bottom, and network, network, network!
Other jobs in the fashion industry to consider are Visual Merchandiser, CAD Designer, and Trend Researcher.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.