Do you know what the best part about the creative industry is? The fact that you are your only competition; comparing your work to others is nothing but futile. No two people have the same work, thus no two people have the same career. As a fashion designer myself, “how to become a fashion designer without a degree” is a question I get a lot. As still a student at NIFT, this article speaks from my learnings and experiences; which very much like the creative industry, are my and my personal views and opinions.
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How to become a fashion designer without school?
Before we get into the names and numbers, let us examine how fashion designers evolve and learn:
Know your strengths
No, fashion designing is not your strength. There are hundreds of branches under this huge umbrella; one or a few of which you can express better than the others. Here are some of the popular types of fashion design that are currently thriving in the Indian markets:
Know your audience
Careers like these cannot survive with only a producer, it is a two-way deal. After you analyze what is it that you want to do in this industry; the next most important task is to know who will buy from you. You could be making the best pieces of your life, but if it does not have a customer, you will have to lose your dream. Reading fashion articles, knowing the current trends and fads; basically, reading the minds of people, what they want and how they want it helps more than you think.
For example, there was a time when fast fashion companies were the ‘it’ factor. Everyone wanted to buy from them, because who wouldn’t? Low prices for expensive-looking clothes seemed amazing. But then, activists started looking deep into how they sell their clothes so cheap and still make profits.
Slowly, awareness about the underlying issues came to light and people started realizing the gravity of their doings. This caused a shift from fast fashion to slow and sustainable fashion. Now 9 in 10 brands have started doing their part to show their customers how woke they are.
This, even though is a marketing strategy to draw the customers’ attention, became a lifesaver for many misused communities; who had to tirelessly work to produce our clothes for unrealistically low wages.
Can I learn fashion design on my own?
To all the people who are wondering,
- how to become a fashion designer without a degree?
- can I get into designing without a degree?
- how to become a fashion designer with no experience?
The answer is, YES! But, as black has white, yin has yang, and heads have tails; when you learn a craft by yourself, you miss out on some things.
Fashion designing, even though primarily is an artistic craft, has now become a very competitive industry. With more than 5000 young adults graduating from fashion every year, fashion designing has gone to an extent where it is nicknamed “a failing dream”. Every job vacancy has become a battleground with hundreds of uniquely talented people justifying their works
But, the silver lining shines bright and white. wherever you go, the first and foremost criteria by which the hirers will judge you is your work. If you are scrolling through this article, it is enough proof to understand that you are ready to work hard for this.
And from a friend to a friend, I can tell you that your works, their quality, quantity and the way you present yourselves are way more important than the certificates you have. Do not waste your time. This is an industry that starts very young and the clock is always ticking.
Here are some exercises and tasks you SHOULD be doing on a daily basis to be a better designer than the one you were yesterday.
- sketch and illustrate everything that comes to your mind, be it fashion-related or not
- understand fabrics, touch and feel them, from how it is stitched to how it is torn apart
- create boards; mood, inspiration, theme, client boards, create your themes and visually represent it
- find your aesthetic; explore different color palettes, textures, prints, ensembles and get closer to what liked the most.
- get practical, even if your mind takes you to imaginary places. Start designing and creating dresses from the basic level and gradually go up the levels.
- once you have enough works, start creating your portfolio; make sure to add your specific aesthetic and style into it.
- most famous fashion designers of today started as an assistant or an intern under someone’s label. So go ahead and apply for all the jobs that suit your strengths.
- if and when the entrepreneur in you awakes, grind. There is no better way to create a mark in the industry than to be that mark. Start prepping with your own collection/label/brand or company according to the intellectual and material resources you own at the moment. See our article on how to finance start-ups and small businesses for more information.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.James Clear
What qualifications do you need to be a fashion designer?
Just like all the other career options, fashion design courses also provide a variety of options if you want to take up a course on the same. As I specified earlier, it is optional, but is preferable, because of reasons like;
- getting a job is easier if they get to know about your formal education.
- more experience learning subjects related to fashion design than those who have not.
- many professional works that you took up as assignments throughout your semesters.
- you are already a part of this industry thanks to the internships the colleges will offer you.
Bachelor of Design is the degree that is currently given by the National Institute of Fashion Technology and many other private colleges around the country in various disciplines such as
- Fashion Design
- Textile Design
- Accessory Design
- Fashion Communication
- Leather Design
- Knitwear Design
- Apparel Production
The best part about these undergraduate courses is that the age limit for applying is 24 years. The world of PG courses is spread like crazy too, with MBA, MA, MSc in fashion design and branches related to it. Two of my favorite branches of Fashion design that have gotten very popular are Styling & Image creation, and Fashion Business Management. As you can guess, I also love writing content related to fashion which itself is another career on its own.
How do I know if fashion design is for me?
So the first and easiest option is to talk to a career counselor or take up a career aptitude test to find this out. If that is done and dusted, you could take up a one/two-year diploma course in Fashion Design; gradually, you will start realizing if it was a pass time hobby or a serious passion. If that seems like a big leap, the best possible way is to start working on yourself, ideate, illustrate and create dresses; imagine you have become a fashion designer who works all day every day for fashion. Put in some quality time and effort and if you like the grind, the long work hours with the beautiful results, then it is a green signal.
There are also situations where, you might be more interested in writing about fashion, managing the fashion business, styling the garments with brilliant accessories and theming it; and the one sole way to find what your forte is to work. You can read a hundred articles on ‘how to become a fashion designer without a degree’ which are meant to help you decide but remember that only you know your passion and potential. And the only way you can come to the best decision is to find what you do the best, by actually doing it and deciding.
Fashion designer salary
If you are talking about the most renowned names of fashion, their salary is a combined result of hard work, talent, luck, brand value and promotion. As a graduate or a self-taught fashion designer, you will be landing in an industry that is greatly different from the industry they started in. The competition has never been this strong, therefore the standards have never been this high. Your salary largely depends upon the quality of your work and your understanding of the industry.
Talking in numerical may not be the best idea here, because neither do I want to raise your expectations, nor to bring your will down. Doing part-time or full-time internships is a great way to get to know people in the industry and create contacts. As I said, promotion and communication by word of mouth, about your talent and hard work creates a huge impact. Most of the higher-paying jobs require an extreme amount of dedication and obviously, work hours. Here, passion pays. It is all about how much you love your work and would wanna wake up tomorrow and come back to this. Fashion design is an art, so if you start seeing it as a means to get a salary, you might not get much of it. Compromising on the quality of your work is also not the best way to finish a task.
As a creative industry, the start will always be the rockiest, so get ready for a bittersweet ride.