If fashion has always interested you, a career as a designer could be a great path to pursue. When you follow this role, you must decide if you’d prefer to create clothes, shoes or accessories.
As you work in a specialty, you’re typically responsible for identifying current trends and creating fashionable designs that appeal to your target audience. This article reviews what fashion designers are and the different types of designers in the fashion industry.
What Are Designers in Fashion?
Designers in fashion are professionals who create concepts of new and trending styles, build real-life prototypes of these designs and prepare the final products to sell to customers.
Fashion designers typically specialize in one type of field and stay updated on the trends within that area. After graduating from their program of choice, a fashion designer can choose to create clothing, shoes or accessories.
There are several subsections within these categories that a designer can pursue depending on their skills and interests.
Fashion design is the art of creating clothing and accessories. It can range from creating pieces valued more like art than for function to minimalist and practical elements.
Fashion design can be thought of as an art form, with careful consideration to aesthetics and beauty when designing clothing and accessories. Fashion design varies over time and adapts to reflect social and cultural influences.
It can require a lot of creative flexibility and a finger on society’s pulse, ready to shift and evolve with changing tastes.
Every piece of clothing or accessory initially starts with an idea.
These ideas are brought to life by using fashion design to determine everything from the creative vision to the market research guiding the production, to the fabric used, to the overall aesthetic message and beyond, to bring about the final product.
The Types of Fashion Design Explained
If you spend any time studying fashion, you will probably come across the various types of fashion design. The names of these types of design may vary slightly based on the source, but in general, the idea of fashion design hierarchy remains the same.
Fashion design can generally be divided into tiers, and while there exists some overlap and subcategorization, there are five main types of fashion design. The five types of fashion design are:
- Haute Couture Fashion
- Luxury Fashion
- Ready-To-Wear Fashion
- Fast Fashion
- Economy Fashion
These types of fashion design will be explained in detail below. Still, in general, these tiers of design start with haute couture being the most skilled, most exclusive fashion creation, progressing down to economy fashion, which is the cheapest, lowest-quality fashion items.
Some of these fashion types have interchangeable names, such as ready-to-wear fashion, sometimes being called high street fashion or prêt-à-porter, so being familiar with the variety of terms used can be helpful to avoid confusion.
If you are interested in entering the world of fashion design, it can be beneficial to familiarize yourself with fashion terminology. Being aware of the different types of fashion design can help you determine career goals and better understand how the world of fashion functions.
These designers typically work for more high-profile and wealthier consumers. They often create customized and one-of-a-kind apparel according to each customers’ needs and preferences.
Haute couture designers usually have a smaller clientele. They regularly work with the same customers to take their measurements and design clothing pieces for upcoming events according to their specific styles and preferences.
At the top of fashion, the design hierarchy is haute couture. Haute couture involves the creation of limited, custom-fitted clothing and accessories that are individual works of art. Haute couture is French for “high dressmaking” and originated with made-to-order garments designed and sewed for private clients.
Haute couture pieces are often constructed by hand, taking countless person-hours. The details are often worked on by an entire team of skilled designers in an atelier or workshop.
The parties can require several fittings to perfect and are usually made of the finest materials and expensive notions. These pieces are generally one of a kind, with extreme attention to detail.
To qualify as haute couture, fashion designers must be designated by the French government.
Designers must own an atelier in Paris, employ at least 15 full-time employees, and release 35 new, original looks to the public twice a year. These guidelines were established in 1945 and must be adhered to strictly, even by the most prominent fashion houses.
Luxury fashion constitutes the fashion design that bridges the gap between exclusive, bespoke, custom made garments and mass-produced, readily available clothing. Luxury fashion includes high-quality articles of clothing that are not hand-made but are also not produced in large quantities.
Because of luxury fashion’s slightly more exclusive collection, it can be more desirable to some since it has limited availability.
Luxury fashion can vary in quality but, usually, it consists of more expensive materials and nuanced designs. With this attention to detail usually comes a higher price tag.
While luxury fashion items are still not as expensive as haute couture items, the prices are high enough to still give consumers a sense of being part of an elite market, with some of the steep prices placing the items outside the buying range of many average consumers.
The luxury fashion market continues to grow, and it is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. As such, there will be a continued need for skilled fashion designers in this market area.
Also known as pret-a-porter designers, these professionals create apparel for groups of people. These designers create outfits with the correct material presentation, cut customers’ requests, and manufacture their clothes in smaller and more segmented groups. This ensures that the apparel fits the specifications of each customer without being considered a custom-made design.
In contrast to the bespoke nature of haute couture, ready-to-wear fashion, also called prêt-à-porter, is mass-produced in standardized sizes.
Ready-to-wear garments are more accessible, available for purchase by the public in large quantities, with variations in sizes to accommodate many more body sizes than haute couture, typically made for a unique individual’s proportions.
Some haute couture designers still release ready-to-wear collections, but these are generally much different from haute couture collections.
While ready-to-wear designs may take inspiration from haute couture runways, the haute couture designs are too labour-intensive to produce at a mass scale. Often, individual elements of an haute couture outfit may be incorporated into several different ready-to-wear garments.
Ready-to-wear fashion focuses on producing attractive garments that appeal to the current market trends of the season. Ready-to-wear clothes often have a shorter turnaround time than haute couture.
Designers need to continually work to stay on top of current fashion trends to release multiple collections per year.
High Street fashion is also a term that generally applies to ready-to-wear clothing. The term refers to buying the items in shops on the main street (or high street) in town.
This means the dress can be purchased in ordinary shops, rather than being specially made by fashion designers.
The majority of apparel brand names that average consumers are familiar with are most likely fast fashion brands. Fast fashion consists of mass-produced clothing with a very rapid turnover rate.
The driving idea behind fast fashion is the desire to put trendy, marketable clothing on the market as cheaply as possible. These fashion designs usually jump from catwalk shows to retail hangers in a lightning-quick process.
Some of the most notable fast fashion houses can have pieces developed, produced, and stored within a couple of weeks of the inspiring fashion show. Other companies may take up to 6 months to replicate these trends.
Fast fashion design is less tethered to the idea of seasonal collections of clothing. While luxury and high-end ready-to-wear design houses will often release new dresses on a seasonal basis, fast fashion will frequently buck this trend and remove multiple pieces every week.
Because of the rapid pace of fast fashion, many of the designs created may be obsolete or out of style in only a few months.
However, the more accessible price point of fast fashion appeals to consumers who want to look trendy but not spend an entire paycheck on an outfit.
Fast fashion has more recently come under scrutiny, with many claiming that the pieces produced are low-quality and encourage a throwaway fashion culture.
This trend is often only being worn once before being thrown away, resulting in a massive environmental and economic impact upon the world.
These designers create apparel that’s stylish, trendy and affordable all at once. Many of these pieces are also good for the environment, as most of the items or fabrics come from sourced materials. Designers usually make these items for customers who want to wear socially conscious and environmentally sound attire at a reasonable and affordable cost.
At the bottom of the fashion, design hierarchy is economy fashion. This style is below even fast fashion, with the ultimate goal being solely to mass-produce garments most efficiently and ship them to stores. The purpose of the most economical manner is for the producer to turn a profit, so usually, the cheapest labour and materials are used.
Economy fashion designs may take general inspiration from seasonal trends but often cannot replicate exact directions due to constraints on budget and time. Economy fashion starts by producing a massive quantity of clothing, which will then be sold for a relatively low price.
Economy fashion is generally the least environmentally friendly type of fashion design. The very low-quality standards result in a short lifespan for garments, and pieces are released on a slower basis, often at the peak of a trend, making them out of style much sooner thanks to the rapidly shifting trends governed by fast fashion.
This type of fashion is most appealing to those who do not have a large budget to spend on clothing or have no interest in buying quality clothing.
Other Types of Fashion Designs
Footwear designers create new shoes, like sneakers, flats or high heels. Many professionals who pursue this field can specialize in certain areas, like athletic or formal footwear.
Employees who work in this field typically follow apparel trends to ensure they match well with the shoe designs they create.
They may collaborate closely with apparel designers to build complementary structures. Some footwear designers may create custom designs for individual consumers, especially sneaker designers.
Footwear designers are in the market to design shoes and footwear.
Within this category, there are many other types of fashion designers as well. These include athletic footwear and formal footwear and can be categorized the same way as apparel designers.
These designers create jewellery, like bracelets, earrings and necklaces or accessory items like scarves, hats, handbags and glasses. Accessory designers are typically responsible for creating captivating and fashionable designs for things that aren’t considered apparel or clothing.
They usually visit design conventions or other related industry events to meet with manufacturers to purchase individual materials and pieces to build exclusive accessory designs.
Fashion accessory designers focus on designing jewellery and other items that are not necessarily considered ‘apparel’. These fashion designers create necklaces, bracelets, hats, scarves, handbags, and other things we use to accessorize.
Designers within this category typically make fashion pieces for athletic or daily wear. The fabrics they use often contain more comfortable and durable materials that can stretch easily and wick away moisture or sweat when customers exercise.
Both apparel and shoes designers often work within this category of designers. These designers need advanced knowledge of unique finishes and performance textiles to create quality, long-lasting and durable designs.
Designers for this type of fashion typically focus on more luxurious styles, fabrics and materials. Customers usually wear these designs to elegant events.
Because of this, the fabric used to make these pieces is often more expensive than most, so the revenue gained from product sales can be high. Common types of apparel these designers make include evening gowns, suits, tuxedos and wedding dresses.
Childrenswear designers create shoes and apparel for kids of all ages, from infants to teenagers. They usually work with fewer fabrics and materials since children-sized clothes are often smaller than other clothing items.
Most of these items’ designs also come with lists of materials, fabrics or other design choices designers can’t use. For instance, designers shouldn’t include detachable buttons on infants’ or toddlers’ clothes, as they could be choking hazards.
Limited edition designers typically create pieces for customers who prefer more exclusive apparel, shoes or accessories at lower prices than haute couture items.
Many popular brands with mass-produced items may offer more exclusive product lines or collections with additional customization options for slightly higher prices than the rest of their mass-produced attire.
Those who design classic wear pieces usually create timeless designs that rarely go out of style. These designers create most of these items using high-quality fabrics or materials that are incredibly durable and long-lasting.
Customers can also usually wear these pieces all year round, rather than only wearing them during certain fashion seasons.
Mass Market Fashion
Mass market fashion designers are creating new styles for the general population. Their items will be mass-produced and sold on the open market.
There are no limited editions or custom fitting involved in producing mass-market apparel. By far, mass-market apparel is the most popular option among new designers entering the field of fashion.
Types of Fashion Styles
Fashion may be all about finding unique ways of dressing, but sometimes it helps to have a blueprint. Below are some of the broadest categories of style to help get you started.
Sporty style, also known as athleisure, takes elements of athletic wear, like leggings, bike shorts, and oversize sweatshirts, out of the gym and onto the streets.
Also known as “boho” or “boho chic,” the bohemian style borrows from the 1960’s hippie aesthetic and festival culture. The technique incorporates earth tones, natural fabrics and dyes, and prints and accessories worldwide.
The hallmarks of boho style are flowing maxi dresses, long skirts, bell-bottom pants, large brimmed hats, fringe, suede, and slouchy handbags.
Inspired by grunge music and the subculture that originated in the ’80s and ’90s Seattle, grunge fashion features thrift-store finds like plaid flannel shirts, oversize knits, and feminine dresses styled in a provocative, chaotic way.
Grunge looks often include ripped jeans or tights, messy hairstyles, and black boots.
The preppy style is inspired by the clothing and uniforms traditionally worn at private East Coast prep schools and Ivy League colleges.
Preppy style often takes inspiration from upper-class sports like polo, sailing, tennis, and horseback riding. Preps are known for wearing polo shirts, Oxford shirts, argyle sweaters and socks, cloth-wrapped headbands, boat shoes, blazers, pearls, cardigans, and khaki pants.
Punk fashion is inspired by the provocative punk rocker styles of the ’70s and ’80s and comprises many subcultures, each with its specific style codes.
Some overarching elements of punk style include leather jackets, deconstructed blazers, ripped fishnet stockings, skinny jeans, and chunky black boots.
Provocative messaging, band logos and customization with safety pins and patches are common themes in punk clothing. Punk grooming includes heavy black eyeliner, mohawks, dyed hair, and spiked hair.
Streetwear is a casual fashion style that first became popular in the 1990s. It incorporates comfortable yet trendy clothing such as logo T-shirts and crop tops, hoodies, baggy pants, and expensive sneakers.
Streetwear takes inspiration from both hip-hop and skater style, with the added element of intentional product scarcity. Followers of the latest trends in streetwear are known as hypebeasts, and many go to great lengths to procure limited-edition designer baseball caps, hoodies, sneakers, and more.
Classic style is an umbrella term for a polished everyday style that incorporates workwear elements, such as blazers, pencil skirts, and khakis. This more professional look is appropriate for the office and other settings where you want to look your best.
Casual style is what you might wear on the weekend. Think jeans, comfortable T-shirts, and sneakers or flat boots. Both streetwear and sporty style might be considered casual styles, but simple style can also lean preppy or hip.
Fashion designers sketch the following big fashion designs, conceptualize new styles, and put together some of the most desired accessories in the world.
The life of a fashion designer is riddled with all-night design parties to meet strict deadlines, trend-spotting to stay on top of the game, and intuitively predicting what the hottest styles of the season will be – well before the season even gets here.
Many types of fashion designers are doing well in their industry, but what sets them apart from the competition may be less about college and more about getting into the right sector of their industry.