How to Become a Fashion Designer

become fashion designerThere are as many different ways to start your career as a fashion designer as there are designs. Ralph Lauren started his business by selling ties through Bloomingdales while Michael Kors started by retailing his designs from a NY boutique. However the safest bet is to start a design career is to get a degree from a prestigious design school.

Before Applying To Fashion Designing Schools

Although there are a lot of colleges in India and abroad where you can study fashion designing, only a handful are prestigious schools that would really push your career. It is indeed very difficult to get into these prestigious schools as the competition is very high. Most schools require a basic passing percentage in 10+2 and either a written exam to test your aptitude or submission of your portfolio. A design institute will not teach you how to be creative. It can only teach you how to channel your creativity in the right direction. Basic knowledge of sewing and drawing is an additional advantage though it is not compulsory. The most important quality that any institute looks for in a candidate is the passion for fashion. The rest can be worked out.

What a Fashion Designing Institute Can Do for You

Most fashion designing courses are three to four years long. During this time you will learn how to implement your ideas and visions. You will have classes in drawing, studying colors, composition and form, pattern making, draping, sewing and cutting. One of the most important advantages of studying design in a fashion institute is that these institutes work closely with the industry. Most top institutes also have many prestigious grants and awards that are given to the best students. But the most important event remains the fashion show that takes place at the end of the course where all graduating students get to show their creations. These shows are attended by big names of the industry to scout new talent.
Another very important part of curriculum at fashion institutes is the business and marketing modules. As every industry gets more corporate driven than ever its very important for every aspiring designer to be able to manage the business of their brand, negotiate a contract and choose a business partner.

Alternate Paths

Studying in a reputed fashion institute is not inexpensive. If you do not wish to invest that much time and money into a fashion institute, then there are other ways worth exploring. You can start by interning at fashion house and work your way up. Many famous designers have started their careers like this only. For instance, Nicolas Ghesquière, currently creative director for the house of Balenciaga owned by the Gucci Group, learned the on-the-job while working for Jean-Paul Gaultier. Usually you apply for an internship at a fashion house by sending them your portfolio after calling and enquiring about opportunities for internships. You can also apply for internship as a fashion stylist. This will not just help you build contacts but also give you an insider’s insight about the business aspect as well.

Fashion Institutes in India

Centres: New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Gandhinagar

New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore

New Delhi

New Delhi

New Delhi

Institutes Around the World

Academy of Art University
San Francisco

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
New York

Parsons School of Design
New York

Bunka Fashion College

Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design

Royal College of Art

Insitut Francais de la Mode

Ecole de la Cambre de Bruxelles

Also Read:
Professional Makeup Courses and Makeup School/ Academy in Delhi
Lakme Training Academy
Makeup/ Fashion Lessons from Bollywood Actresses
Estee Lauder Michael Kors Very Hollywood Collection

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47 thoughts on “How to Become a Fashion Designer

  1. Thanks for the info.

    I also wanted to ask on this forum as to how some of you have had the passion to start your own thing. I dont mean something as big as Rati or sanjeev do but more on the grounds of creating your own stuff and making a business of it like Deepika has done with jewelry. Corporate life is fine since the moolah is good but for true happiness and satisfaction of work its always nice to do something on your own. I did try designing clothes but got a little disillusioned becos there were already similar designs out there so why would someone buy something from me..this is not a crib session but more on how does one go about this stuff..ideas/suggestions anyone???

    1. Aruna, I can write a whole post on this but there are some point I would like to enumerate:
      1. You need not have a novel idea to make it work. You can start with an existing business model and do it well; people would come for you.
      2. Passion is more important. If you do not like what you are doing, you’d be likely to quit when the chips are down.
      3. It’s important to train under someone good before starting. The essence is that you should have reached a decent level without striking out on your own. Although you’d be constantly learning, some of the work should have become a reflexive action for you. Also, training under someone would also make you realize whether or not you REALLY want to pursue that field.
      4. Money is important. Respect it. Don’t throw it away, but don’t also be afraid of taking risks. You’d have to have someone experienced with you who can help you with two things- finances and negotiation.
      5. Above all, be ready to take risk. No matter what, you’d be leaving all the security that you have enjoyed and it’s a VERY uncomfortable feeling. Most businesses don’t start despite the person being good at what he/she does just because the person doesn’t want to take risk. But all I can say from what I have seen, the risk is worth it.

      That is all. 🙂

    2. Aruna, if you really are still interested in designing then id suggest you start looking for internships in fashion houses and get involved in their creative process. all big designers have their creative teams. they dont do it all by themselves. once you get used to brainstorming and coming up with new ideas then you can probably start your own boutique with some investment. or a made to order kind of thing from home. like any other setup it will obviously take time and resources.
      for Jewelry, Komal wud be the best person to talk to..
      goodluck 🙂

      1. Hi Aruna,
        The points Sanjeev has mentioned are all important 🙂
        Well, in my case I had no support people thought I am kidding when I wanted to leave my job for doing what I am doing. Passion is the only thing I had. You just have to have some patience as things work slowly.
        Now, I have the support of my family after they’ve seen my work 🙂 … It’s just many people may turn you down but have faith in yourself and go for it :waytogo: :waytogo:

        1. Thanks so much. sorry abt being late in responding. its been a very hectic weekend so opened my machine only now..the thoughts all of you have put forth are really useful and I just want to have that faith in myself that I can do it. my husband is behind me one 100% so thats not an issue at all. he is even willing to invest the basic initial money so i do have the support I need. i need that drive basically..good to chat with ppl like u guys who have so passionately followed your dreams.

  2. aashima excellent article. I am sure it would benefit a lot of people. 🙂 I personally feel that the the budding fashion designers should works under someone for a few years before doing their own thing. It gives them a huge exposure that ways. :waytogo:

    1. huhh??? when you select your photo na, it shows options like G – for general purposes, X, XXX- so there you have to select “G”… did you do that?

      may be delete photee in gravatar and reupload ? then it will show you these “g” options…

  3. Aashima….truly wonderful write-up… would help so many people out there who really want to pursue fashion but don’t know how to proceed…….thumbs up for this post :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo:

    1. Sanjeev i have always lived in Delhi, and from what all i know i think its NIFT Delhi in India. its very difficult to get in..and the alumni list hav big designer names..

  4. Kaash ke hum biology, physics, chemistry na padhke fashion designing kerte, its soo sooo innovative and creative, tab to maja hi aa jaata, life itni boring nahi hoti !! 😥 😥 😥

    1. tapaswini……thr was a point of time, wen i wanted to fashion designing, but my dad never approved of it 😐 😐
      my mom wud explain me, dat we r like block pcs of a puzzle….. we will fit ussi jagah/space/slot pe which is meant for us :victory2: :victory2: :victory2:
      i hope it makes some sense 😛 😛 😛

  5. Sanjeev asked about best schools in design. This is my personal opinion of course and relative to my experience.
    All institutes mentioned are within India.

    Fashion Design (as in garments):
    1) NIFT (Government supported under Ministry of Textile:-Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad,Hyderabad- there are other centers too but these are more popular) Best part is the Alumni network boasting of some of India’s top most fashion designers and strong industry links.
    NIFT also offers Textile, Leather and Knitwear as specialization areas besides mainstream Fashion Design.
    2) NID Ahemdabad (Government backed) offers this under Textile (UG & PG) and Apparel Design & Merchandising (PG)
    3) Pearl Academy Delhi (Private)
    4) Apeejay; JD Institute; Shrishti School of Design; MITID Pune (relatively new Institute but boasts of some of the best and experienced faculties) (All are private)

    Other design related areas like Visual communication, Product design and Interior:
    1) NID Ahemdabad (both UG and PG diploma programs though UG is more respected)
    2) IITB- IDC (yes IIT Bombay as well as Kanpur and Guwahati offer design programs at PG level but Bombay one is most reputed so far as it is the oldest)
    3) NIFT (Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and other centers): More Fashion oriented so if you are looking towards product design in fields like lifestyle accessories which would include furniture, interior decoration accessories, ceramics cutlery, table top objects etc. NIFT is the preferred option over IITB(IDC).
    4) Pearl Academy (specially for Visual communication); CEPT Gujarat (Interior related design), MITID Pune
    5) Shriti School of design, Apeejay, JD

    1) NIFT Ahmedabad (focus is on jewelry design therefore excellent choice for those interested in this field), Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata…etc.
    2) NID Ahmedabad
    3) Pearl Academy and JD
    4) Other Institutes like Apeejay etc. There is one Institute in Mumbai too which is quiet popular among Industry there but I do not remember the name unfortunately.

    Institute’s tie up with industry is major point to consider while making you choice. For this reason those located in fashion hubs like Delhi, Mumbai etc get natural advantage as many established designers, fashion houses and export businesses are located there.

  6. As you can see there is no simple answer to the question Sanjeev asked. It depends on the stream you want to chose. BUT that being said I personally will give an arm and a leg to get into either NID Ahmedabad(UG level) or IITB-IDC(PG level) as I myself prefer more serious tone (read technical) to design. If you are fashion mad than this is no-brainer. NIFT Delhi FD(Fashion Design UG) course should be your dream course 🙂

    Coming to International Schools in order of preference (my personal opinion again):
    Royal college of art- London (All streams I guess)
    Parsons school of design- New York (Though not budget friendly)
    FIT- New York (Fashion Design)
    Domus Academy- Italy (Product Design- furniture, lifestyle accessories)
    IED-Italy (Jewelry, Product, Interior)
    Creative Academy-Italy (Jewelry)
    You can also check out the list compiled by ‘Businessweek’ for International schools.

    Hope this helps 🙂

    @Aashima thank you for the post, it is very informative :). I really appreciate the honesty behind it.

    She is absolutely right about the part that an Institute can merely guide you, above all you need the passion or zest for design for success in this field 🙂 A formal training is not at all the essential ingredient here.

      1. I would say those mentioned by Aashima and me are all prestigious ones. Getting into any one of them is not an easy task. As they are situated in different countries their USP are different. Those in Italy and closer to Milan benefit from it. Same is for London and New York. Choice should be made according to your own aesthetic preferences. For example if you like fashion movements happening in Milan go for a college in Italy. If you rather prefer aesthetic sense of fashion in New York go for a college situated there. It is more about which market you will like to experience or get influenced by. Some people say colleges situated in USA are more focused on commerce side of design. While studying in Italy major problem faced will be language as more than 50 percent teaching is usually done in Italian language. You should check up with the university or college you are interested in about the language of teaching.

  7. excellent article aashima……
    i have a lot of designer frends, and thy so wanted to get into NIFT 🙂
    but its reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyy tufffffffffffffffffffffffff to get thr…….
    even pearl is grt………..ranks next to NIFT :waytogo: :waytogo:

  8. wow… this was really informative.. specially for a person like me.. im doing engineering right now but im so interested in accessory n lifestyle design.. i just dint make the right decision :smug: .. n i was thinking about sitting for the NID entrance for PG .. can anyone suggest something… ?? :struggle: *sighh*

  9. Hey Aashima,

    I have a query –
    I am gng for a career change from IT to Fashion designing…At 29, I explored lot many schols which could give me the tools and techniques without spening 3-4 yrs and I found a one year course in a very reputed fashion school in Italy. The school has lot of contacts and helps you make awesome portfolio but they dont open their connections to this one year course graduates. You have to go around asking the fashion houses showing your portfolio. Moreover, its difficult to work in Italy if you do not know Italian. Yet, this school is very well known. I am now apprehensive of the struggle involved in looking for a job after that course. What would you suggest for me?

  10. i want to know where will i get the cotton fabric which will not give away its color while washing. nowdays we do not get the fabric which has fast color. there is no garanty of color. even a light color alos goes away while washing in cool water.

  11. hey do u know any fashion schools(indian or international) offering distance learning courses…m fashion design graduate from nagpur..m searching for distance learning courses in fashion feild from soo many days as i m not able go elsewhere out of nagpur due to sum problems..pls help me guys..
    i searched for job or internship in ngp but nothing i decided to slowly start own boutique.but need sum more studies

    pls pls help me

    1. hi mrunmayi,i read your problem & i have a solution for u.there is a fashion institute in your city nagpur,it is the branch of new delhi fashion institute & it is 21 year old.i had also same problm as u.but now in my state orissa jd fashion institute opened here.

      best of luk my friend

  12. i’am very glad to read this.i help me to become a famous fashion designer & the comments of my unknown friends make me strong…………………………….
    i pray to god u will catch ur destination 1 day.
    thnks guys……

    thnks a lot

  13. Hello everyone,
    I would like to start my career in fashion designing. I already enrolled myself in International institute of fashion Technology. Could you please suggest me is it worth to do course from this institute.

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