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Fashion Design Skills 101 - Skills That Fashion Schools Don't Cover Nearly Enough



In fashion school, most of your time was spent learning to create fashion illustrations, draping, sewing, and flat patternmaking. While these are good skills to have, they aren't very practical when you're trying to land your first job in the fashion industry. In the real world you'll be expected to know how to create computerized flat sketches, develop garment specs, CADs, and presentation boards. And I know some of you are thinking "But I learned those things in school too!" To which I reply: You think you know, but you have no idea! Take it from experience: fashion schools don't focus on those skills nearly enough to fully prepare you for your first design position. In this article I will discuss each skill and its importance in the fashion industry.

Draping and Patternmaking - Low Importance
While patternmaking and draping are valuable skills, they usually only come in handy when you deal with a lot of fits. However, fittings are usually conducted by technical design teams so if you got into fashion for creative reasons, you'll most likely be miserable in this type of position. On the creative side of design, all you need is a basic understanding of what creates a good fit, and how to fix a bad one. In the majority of design positions, hands-on patternmaking skills are not necessary, unless you plan to enter Project Runway!

Sewing - Low Importance
On the creative side of design, sewing isn't that relevant. Yes, it's good to understand the general concepts of garment construction, but you don't need to be a great seamstress. On the job, if you need to know how a certain garment is constructed, there are tons of references available: from clothes at the stores, to "how to" books and online articles. The point I'm trying to make is: if you're sewing skills leave something to be desired, don't stress over it.

Illustration - Almost Unnecessary
Sadly, fashion illustrations are a dying art in the industry - they are scarcely used by designers in the real world. The fashion illustration has been replaced with computer drawn stylized technical sketches (floats) or more accurate technical flats, which are faster to sketch and much more practical. Not only do they present a clear representation of design concept, but they are a must have for production. Flats can be turned into CADs and can be used in mood/presentation boards. Fashion schools have not followed this shift and still focus more heavily on illustrations, and not enough on flat sketching.

Computer Programs - Must Know
I can't stress enough the importance of knowing popular computer applications for creating floats, flats and CADs. Most companies expect proficiency in Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Excel since they are relatively affordable in comparison to more industry specific software. Unfortunately, the coverage of Illustrator and Photoshop provided by fashion schools does not meet the actual demands of the fashion industry. Many companies are also requesting knowledge of WebPDM, so if your college offers a course in this program, it would be to your benefit to take it. If your school does not teach this program, find a school or venue that does offer this program and take it!

Flat Sketching - Must Know
While interviewing candidates for design positions, we've seen applicants' portfolios filled with beautiful illustrations and then say "That's nice, but can you flat sketch?" If flats are included in their portfolios, they are usually basic, lack important details, and are not visually appealing. If the candidates sketches are halfway decent; my next question is "do you know Illustrator and Photoshop? " Almost everyone says yes, but it's usually far from the truth.

A lot of fashion school grads seriously believe that they know these programs well, but what you learned in school isn't enough - fashion schools don't teach these skills well enough for entry level designers to be competent within the fashion industry. Schools just cover basics, which are usually forgotten without practice. Take the extra effort to practice and become comfortable with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and other programs beyond what schools teach: read books and take additional courses (offered in either classroom or online settings).

Creating Specs in a Copycat Industry - Must Know
Knowing how to spec (measure and detail) a garment to create garment specifications, or "specs" is a fundamental skill. Many companies create their spec sheets using Excel. Although garment sizes and measurements vary from company to company, depending on different market segments and categories, if you know the principles, you'll be able to quickly adapt to the standards of any company. You don't even need to know how to develop specs from scratch!

As a head designer, to set spec standards for a company, I usually went to different stores, found garments with a good fit and copied the basic measurements. This is quite common - the fashion industry is a copycat industry- most fashions hanging in the stores are knock-offs of another company. Once, during a shopping trip in London, a store salesperson noticed I was a fashion designer collecting style ideas. He mentioned that his store received a constant flow of American design companies such as Calvin Klein, whose designers come to knockoff their merchandise. That's right - even top designer brands use knockoffs for their ready-to-wear collections. There are even official terms: a "knockoff" is when a style is copied and a "rub-off" is when patterns are copied.

Educate Yourself!
Many fashion schools such as FIT in New York (Fashion Institute of Technology) offer important classes like "flats and specs for the fashion industry", but believe it or not, these courses are not required by the curriculum! Another handy course that should be taken is "creative fashion presentation." Salespeople use presentations a lot as visual aids. In addition they create a good impression and convey creativity level. If you can make outstanding presentations you'll be assigned to do them often, and believe me it's more fun to make boards than do fits or send faxes and organize showrooms.

To sum up: in order to get a job before the rest of the entry level fashion design candidates, you need to focus on refining skills that are highly demanded in the industry. Become proficient with flat sketching, include flats in your portfolio, and be extremely comfortable and knowledgeable in Illustrator and Photoshop. Not only will you be ready with the skills you need to succeed in fashion, but discussing how you went the extra mile to keep up with industry standards will definitely impress any prospective employer!

For your reference and use, we have posted lots of industry standard flat sketches and CADs in JPEG and vector (Illustrator) formats on DesignersNexus.com. If you can improve your skills to reach the quality of those shown, you'll be in a very good shape

© 2008 Designers Nexus Inc. All rights reserved. Originally published at DesignersNexus.com. This article may be reproduced unedited, unaltered and in its entirety. This copyright, author bio(s) and all active links must be preserved and included when reproducing this article. Contact us for approval if you wish to publish it contrary to these guidelines.

As a NYC fashion designer, Natalie has traveled to Europe and Asia for shopping, researching trends and production. In a 14 year career, she has gained a lot of insights in the industry, and has trained designers with her knowledge of global trend market. Due to popular demand in response to her advice and training, she created a free fashion resource center at DesignersNexus.com to share her experiences with a larger audience, helping aspiring designers learn from her mistakes and successes creating their own successful careers.

Fashion Design From Concept to Retail - The Who, What, Why and Wear of How a Garment is Made



We wear clothes all day and every day, but most people don't think about how their garments make their way from the fashion designer's imagination to the store. Sure, we know that designers come up with the concepts, and that stores sell the clothing, but what happens in between? As you'll see, the fashion design process has many steps and countless professionals involved along the way. It really makes one appreciate the work that goes into what we wear - and how large the fashion industry is.

1. Research. Before any design can begin, the fashion designer has to do some research. First of all, who is the target market? Is it men or women? What age group? How much money do they make? What are their interests? The second type of research needed is trend forecasting. Since it can take up to two years before a garment makes it to retail, designers have to know what will be popular in the future in terms of styles, trends, and colors. Fortunately, there are companies who specialize in market research and trend forecasting, so apparel companies can subscribe to the information without actually doing all the legwork.

2. Design. After digesting all the research, the fashion designer begins creating. He or she will hand sketch the designs using the industry standard Nine Heads drawing technique, or sketch them with a computer program. In the margins, the designer will write specs, e.g., the color, fabric, texture and other details. The fashion sketch is called a "croquis."

3. Sourcing materials. Once the sketch is completed, the materials need to be found. Either the designer or a design assistant looks for fabric, buttons, trim, zippers, anything that is necessary to complete the garment. It sounds like a fun shopping trip, but keep in mind that the person sourcing has to stay within a budget.

4. Pattern making. Next, the pattern maker takes the fashion designer's sketch and creates a workable pattern from which the actual garment can be sewn. The pattern maker also develops the marker, a layout for how the pattern goes onto the fabric. All the pieces of the garment, in every size, are configured on the marker so there is minimal fabric wasted.

5. Production. When the pattern is created, apparel manufacturing can begin. This step involves many areas including costing, production planning, global dynamics, and quality control. At this stage the company must decide whether to manufacture locally, or even within the United States, or overseas, where labor is cheaper. With so many components and production channels involved, the manufacturing aspect of fashion design is an industry within itself.

6. Buying. Unless apparel companies have their own stores, they will present their merchandise at trade events to fashion buyers. Buyers then choose the pieces they feel will sell at their stores at the best price. Just as the fashion designer must forecast the styles that will appeal to consumers in the future, so must the buyer.

7. Marketing. Behind the scenes, the fashion marketing machine is in full motion so that when the clothes are manufactured and hit the stores, shoppers will want to snap them up off the racks. Marketers need to understand consumer attitudes and behavior and develop a keen sense of the emotional triggers that will persuade them to make purchase decisions.

8. Merchandising and retail. Once the clothes hit retail, it's the job of the fashion merchandiser to create a visually appealing merchandise display to lure consumers into the store to buy, buy, buy. Mannequins, props, and sometimes very unexpected elements all work together to stop customers in their tracks. But merchandising is only part of the equation at retail. Savvy fashion design companies educate retailers on their merchandise so the sales staff can be knowledgeable about the product line and more effectively sell one-on-one with customers. Marketing and merchandising hooks them in; the retail staff closes the deal.

Although the preceding was a very basic rundown of the production of a garment, it's clear that the fashion design industry is huge, with many layers and players. It bodes well for those interested in a fashion career, as there are myriad job positions besides the fashion designer. Therefore, whatever interests or skills one might have, there's probably a career in fashion for them.



Top Fashion Designers



Most of us tend to stick to the high street for our retail therapy, but sometimes it's well worth spending a big extra on that special piece of designer clothing. The competition is fierce out there as there are loads of hot designers to choose from, all with unique and fabulous styles.

Burberry

Burberry is a British fashion label whose design is an instantly recognisable beige tartan colour. The label was created by Thomas Burberry in 1856, and has grown in popularity throughout the years. It is adored by celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, who is often seen wearing the designs in the Sex and the City television series. Burberry designs clothing and fashion accessories, with the latest range being a more tougher leather look, including thigh high boots and leather jackets. The 'right on trend' aviator jacket was also part of the Burberry collection, displayed recently at London Fashion Week.

Dolce and Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana, or D & G as it is also known as, is a famous Italian fashion label created by two dynamic individuals. Dolce and Gabbana is famous for it's clothing, jewellery, footwear, with a large slice of the sunglasses market. Many of the clothes designed by the label are black in colour and the look is always sexy, young and extremely vibrant.

DKNY

DKNY (Donna Karan New York) was created by American designer, Donna Karan and has a sophisticated but fun style. The label's new collection features in House of Fraser and consists of lots of winter styles, including gorgeous cardigans and jackets. The DKNY label has many different brands, including DKNY Active, Kids and Baby.

Christian Dior

Christian Dior is a French design house, established in 1947. The label creates clothing and accessories, which are of a very feminine and sensual quality. Dior has many celebrity fans, including Charlize Theron and Sharon Stone. The latest collection from this designer follows with the latest trend of leather and sexy thigh high boots.

Marc Jacobs

American designer, Marc Jacobs is known for his feminine style, gorgeous dresses and fabulous cuts. Selma Blair and Soffia Coppola are both celebrity followers of this highly respected designer. Marc Jacobs latest collection has followed the current trends.

Prada

Prada is an Italian fashion label, which oozes celebrity status. This fashion label is
one of the top influences throughout the design world whose styles are worn by the crème de la crème of society. Prada is known for its feminine styles which are both sensual and seductive. Recently the fashion label has started to use more curvaceous women to model their clothing range, a positive move which is bound to spark a following from other competitors.

Chanel

Parisian fashion house, Chanel is a huge player in the fashion world, with an impressive celebrity following, including Nicole Kidman and Keira Knightley. The main trend by Chanel for this season is fur, and lots of it.

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen is a fashion label with plenty of pizazz and creativity. Many designs by this label are worn by Lady Ga Ga, which gives you an idea of how far out and imaginative the clothing ranges are.



What's Hot Across The Pond: European Fashion Designers



It seems like Europe is always one step ahead of the United States of America when it comes to fashion design. Whether you know it yet or not, what's fierce on the runways of Paris and Milan's fashion weeks have likely not made it over to American runways just yet, and when they do, Europe will likely be on to more cutting-edge trends by then. So what is it that keeps the European fashion market one step ahead of the American market? Among many things, fashion school students speculate that it is the inventive European designers that keep their eyes wide open and their collections fresh and innovative. For those of you in speculation of this phenomenon, here's a list of European designers who put on 2011 runway shows that awed young fashion lovers, photographers, magazine editors and seasoned fashion veterans alike!

Daughter of Beatle, Paul McCartney, the British-born Stella McCartney has been a successful designer since the nineteen-nineties. Though some speculate that she got an industry advantage because of her ultra-famous father, McCartney has proved herself time and time again to have immense creative vision and talent. After she graduated from fashion college in England, she was quickly appointed chief designer at the Paris fashion house of Chloe. Since then, her designs have been almost unanimously commercially successful. Her most recent collection for Autumn of 2011 plays with a lot of delightful gender ambiguity. McCartney has created loose, yet tailored women's wear, including collared coats and blazers with a playful sensibility.

British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood was raved about after February's Autumn/Winter 2011 fashion week presentations. Relatively new as fashion industry insider, the designer has practically re-defined what is thought to be possible in shoe-design, with his alienous, decorative collection. Kirkwood's shoes are usually unthinkably high, and they are often sprouting fur, feathers and beads. Often, they feature wild patterns, layered and diverse fabrics and materials, and always artful and unexpected angles. Kirkwood's Fall and Winter shoes are truly a fashion delight.

Of Italian and Japanese heritage, Nicola Formichetti is the creative director for the French fashion house, Thierry Mugler, and the chief designer for pop sensation Lady Gaga. Originally an architecture student, Formichetti dropped out of school and became heavily involved in London's club scene and immersed himself in the world of European street fashion. Eventually, he got himself a job at a fashionable boutique called The Pineal Eye quickly working his way up to art director and head buyer. His talent was soon recognized by fashion editors, which led to work in several high fashion publications, and eventually to his position at Mugler. Formichetti's designs are often futuristic and hyper-sexual, evocative of the club scene he was once so heavily immersed in.

McCartney, Kirkwood and Formichetti are only three of the countless innovative minds in European fashion design. We look forward to future fashion seasons, and the striking collections that they will surely produce in years to come.



Fashion Design Supplies



Fashion design may appear to be a glamorous profession with branded clothing and accessories. However, a lot of hard work goes into the creation of a designer item. Creation of a design involves a multi-step process. The designer has to keep in the mind not only the theme of the design but also how to create that design. This requires a proper selection of fashion supplies.

The designer has information of all the work aids. These include pattern masters, rulers, French curves and setsquares with engraved markings. A Pattern master comes in different sizes for cutting patterns, while a flexi curve draws the design along it. A metric vary form curve helps in the creation of flowing lines.

The colorings of designs require color pastel and high quality charcoal sticks.

The designers also need a hem maker for making chalk lines at the hem length of the cloth.

Other supplies include the grader ruler, which is used for measuring curves. The designers also use the fashion scale, which contains curves for making armholes, necklines and sleeves.

Another item that helps in the process of style planning is the fashion tape. It is used for fixing up the designed outfit on the dress stand.

Both amateur and the professional artists use non water-soluble pencils in the process of designing the outfits. In addition to these supplies, there are the pin holders used for pinning the fabric.

The other essential supplies are the dressmaking dummies and the tailors bust forms that assist in cutting of the patterns and making samples.

The fashion designers need carrying cases for carrying their sketches, patterns, fabric or incomplete garments from one place to another. The wallets are also used by the designers to carry their fashion portfolios.

All these supplies put together help a fashion designer complete his job in the best possible manner. From the first sketch to the final outfit, these fashion supplies are almost indispensable.



4 Steps to the Right Fashion Design School for You



Right after taking the major step of deciding to study Fashion, the next big question is: WHERE? There are many design schools available, each with their pros and cons. You might be considering one with better facilities, or one which produces famous couturiers, you might even be thinking about the total amount you will be spending for your education - right down to your transport fees. So how exactly do we figure out which option's the best?

Here's a guide to find out what you'll need to look out for in a Fashion school:

Step 1: Decide on your Dream Job!
First up, it's important to know which career direction you like to adopt. The earlier you figure out what you want to do, the more time you will have to fine-tune and develop skills in your choice of expertise.

These are a few career paths that you can learn about in Fashion Design school:

- Costume Designer/ Coordinator (for Television, Film or Theatre)
- Fashion Designer/ Assistant designer
- Pattern maker
- Fashion Illustrator
- Fashion Merchandiser/ Buyer
- Fashion Stylist

The fashion industry is enormous and is worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year, worldwide. Some might think that the fashion industry is exclusive and hard to break into. But try to get to know your opportunities better before giving into the temptation of settling with a mundane career.

Step 2: Find out Your Dream Job's Responsibilities
Having an ambition is great, but if you want to turn it into reality, you've got to be realistic. Fashion may be a creative field, but employers tend to prefer and respect job candidates who know their responsibilities. To find out your future job description, simply search for your job in a career search engine and you'll see a list of hiring companies. Click on the more reputable-looking ads and collate what they have in common.

Normally, employers would expect a fashion designer to have:

- Proficiency in software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand and CorelDRAW
- A portfolio
- A keen eye for fashion

Knowing what you will need to learn for career purposes will allow you to understand what you see in module guides from school brochures.

Step 3: Look for a Reputable School
You can spend thousands on a certificate, but if it's not recognized, it will be hard or in some cases, impossible to advance your studies. It can even hinder your chances of getting a job in Fashion. Look out for schools that are accredited by the country's education ministry - it will at least ensure that your certificate is recognized in your country. Look out for their track record, find out how their graduates are faring in the fashion industry.

Step 4: Select your Country of Choice
If you have got extra cash to spend, have a good idea of how you are going to repay your student loan, or if you have got yourself a scholarship, consider studying overseas. Choosing to study locally or overseas depends on what you want out of your educational experience, the price of living in the country, how accessible it is and how much you are willing to travel.

Hardcore fashionistas may insist on schooling in elegant/romantic France which produced top notch designers like Issey Miyake, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. But if you are up for exotic fashion and culture, the Asia Pacific could be an ideal option with at least half the world's population here.

Verdict
A school is ultimately a place for you to study, develop your portfolio and contacts that will help you in your future career. Choosing a school is like shopping for stuff - you can get branded stuff with lots of quality and recognition that makes you feel good, or you can settle with a school that suits your needs and gets you where you want to be.

Donald Pang is the International Admissions Director of Raffles Education Corporation, a company that operates 36 business & fashion design schools in Asia Pacific across 33 cities in 13 countries (Singapore, China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia and Hong Kong). If you have further questions about studying abroad in Asia especially in the fields of fashion design, interior design, product design etc, submit an online enquiry at our Raffles International Admissions Office site.



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