What Makes a Good Fashion Designer?

Running and growing a fashion business is challenging.

You’re taking the challenges associated with entrepreneurship in general and then adding a layer of difficulty that only the fashion industry brings about- short-run production, limited exposure to financial education, and market saturation being big fat ones.

There are many practices, habits, and mindsets that contributed to the success or failure of emerging fashion brands.

Regardless of how you define success, there are some things that you can’t do if you want to reach the goals you create for yourself and your fashion business.

Fashion designers initiate and oversee the entire creative process that creates articles of clothing-from conception to finished garment.

This process begins when designers come up with a concept that they turn into a sketch.

Next, they determine specifics such as the garment’s dimensions, what colour it should be, what fabric should be used and create a pattern based on their conclusions.

The job title of fashion designer encompasses everyone from world-renowned couturiers who make fashion haute couture gowns to artists who create ready-to-wear garments. 

What are the primary responsibilities of a fashion designer?

As a fashion designer, you will be expected to create and assist in developing clothing, footwear, and accessories. An essential skill is identifying trends, creating silhouettes, selecting colours, fabrics, prints, trims, and building them into a collection.

As a fashion designer, your core duties will include:

  • Developing concepts and producing designs, either by CAD or hand.
  • Staying tuned with emerging fashion trends related to colours, fabrics and basic shapes.
  • Analyzing structures from a technical perspective can involve producing and creating specifications.
  • Adapting existing methods for mass fashion production.
  • Collaborating with the broader development team and buyers to develop products.
  • Interacting with sales executives to discuss the upcoming ideas for designing.
  • Identifying the target market for designs based on criteria such as age, gender, and socio-economic status.

Character traits to become a successful fashion designer

What Makes a Good Fashion Designer?

Over time, you can develop a wide range of skills that will help you to thrive in your job. In addition, some innate or trained character traits can boost your chances of becoming a successful fashion designer. Here are a selected few:

Confidence

The fashion industry is well known for its challenging work environment where you may experience rejection as part of your job. It takes a lot of confidence to present your projects to retailers, stakeholders, buyers and other designers.

Remember that this is a long-term race, and it takes time and effort to develop a reputation in the industry, and you will need tons of confidence to reach your goals.

Perseverance

As we mentioned, it takes blood, sweat, and tears to become a renowned fashion designer. The shooting star cases are sporadic in the industry; you will need to arm yourself with patience and never give up when adversity comes.

Personality

If a designer has a lot of personality and persuasion, it will be easier for him/her to deal with customers, the press and decision-makers.

This doesn’t mean that a designer who decides to stay away from the spotlight can’t succeed on his/her talent alone; however, he or she will need someone else to do the promotion and deliver his or her messages to the right ears. 

These qualities can be learned and nurtured to transform you into a better designer.

What skills will a fashion designer need for the future?

Fashion design has come a long way from the mere art of designing clothes. It has evolved into a full-fledged industry and is now considered a highly desirable career worldwide.

Nowadays, apparel & footwear is not simply designed based on colour or style choices but also on function, customer behavioural preferences and emerging trends. Innovative technologies and social media trends are transforming the fashion world at a faster pace than ever.

Good Business Sense

A successful fashion designer needs excellent business skills to stay within their budget and market their clothing. 

Good Communication Skills

Designers need to make their instructions and expectations clear to everyone involved in making their vision a reality.

Competitive Spirit

Since the fashion world is highly competitive, designers must be willing to push themselves and continually strive to stay one step ahead of their competition.

Creativity

Designers need to constantly develop original and creative ways to make the clothing they make a standout. 

Artistic Ability

To effectively convey their ideas, designers must be accomplished sketch artists.

Sense of Style

Having an eye for which fabrics and colours will complement a garment is a talent all designers need.

Strong Sewing Skills

Designers need to be able to construct the garments they create correctly.

Team Player

A successful fashion designer knows how to collaborate with every member of their design and marketing team. 

Knowledgeable of Current Fashion Trends

The ability to anticipate the latest trends in fashion will help keep any designer at the top of their game.

Strong Visualization Skills

Great designers know how to visualize an article of clothing and express that vision to others.

Computer Skills

Fashion designers need to know how to use computer-aided design (CAD) programs and be familiar with graphics editing software that could help them improve their designs.

Decision-Making Skills

Knowing how to make the right changes and choices regarding your designs will be critical to your success.

Be Detail-Oriented

Fashion designers must have a good eye for minor differences in colour and other details to make a design successful.

What You Need to Become a Great Fashion Designer

It Takes Creativity to Become a Great Fashion Designer

So number one, the first thing that it takes to be an excellent fashion designer is to be creative—being creative means taking something from nothing and turning it into something else that is a piece of art.

Take, say, a seashell that you see on the beach and understand how to make a picture frame out of seashells.

So, you’re taking something from nothing or something that’s initially used for one type of purpose, and you’re turning it, and you’re transforming it into something else.

That’s what being creative is. As a fashion designer, you take something that’s two dimensional, a sketch or paper pattern, and you’re turning it into something three-dimensional.

When you’re looking at fabrics as a fashion designer, you need to understand in your brain and your mind what that’s going to look like as a garment. How is that fabric going to be treated?

If it is a stiff fabric, what type of garment are you going to make that will suit that fabric the best? And that’s what is going to make you become a great fashion designer. So, number one is being creative.

An Eye to See How to Make an Item Better

It would help if you had an eye to look at something and see how to make it better.

When they go into a store, some people know a garment like a T-shirt or a shirt, for instance, and they automatically think in their brain what is that going to look good with?

Oh, that shirt will look great with the skirt that I have, or that will look great with a striped dress that I need to go out and buy or that outfit there looks great, and these shoes that I have at home would look perfect with that. 

That’s more of a stylish mentality. 

When you’re taking something that’s already there, and you’re just styling it, you’re just putting them together. You are not creating something new or changing something.

You are taking two garments and saying, “Oh, this and this will look great together; let’s put them together.” That’s more of a stylist. Many people get confused with the difference between a stylist and a designer and all these different types of fashion jobs that are out there.

It’s OK to be a stylist, but understand that usually, if you are good at styling, you’re not always good at being a designer, and usually, they’re not together, or they don’t overlap very much.

They can’t look at a fabric and see how it’s going to look in the skirt. They have to look at a final garment, and then they can say, “Oh, that skirt will go right with this top” or “that dress would look great with these shoes.”

That’s how their brain functions. Suppose that’s how your brain functions; maybe you would be better as a stylist. That’s good to know upfront ahead of time, so you don’t go down the wrong path.

To Have an Eye for Fit on the Body

Okay, number three, you have to have an eye for fit how a garment should fit on a body, whether it’s a woman, a man or child. Whoever you’re designing for, you have to have that eye for fit. You have to be able to see if something is even a quarter of an inch off. 

Great Fashion Designers have a Talent for Color and Style.

What Makes a Good Fashion Designer?

Talent for colour and style is tough to learn. It’s something that has to be born within you; it has to be innately put inside you. God has to create you to have these things like talent, colour, and style already within you. It’s essential as a designer that you have this.

You have to say this colour is a little too red or it’s a little too blue or the yellow needs to be reduced by 10%.

Even if you have a job in the fashion industry as a head designer, you will be approving lab dips for production all the time, and they will need comments.

You can’t just say, “Oh, I don’t like this red.” You have to give them comments so that they can fix it. So, your comments might be to add 10% yellow, reduce 30% blue, make 10% darker—these types of things you have to have an eye for.

You have to have the vision to see how the colour needs to be tweaked just a little bit to make it the colour you’re looking for to make it the colour that’s going to match everything else you’re designing.

You need to know, why do specific colours look good together? Why does orange and blue work well together? Why do the colours in this dress that I’m wearing work well together? There’s a reason for that.

Having that sense of style and colour is essential. You can get better at it over time, but again it’s something that you can’t learn and has to be kind of innately born within you. 

To Have Stamina and Determination

This is a big one because working in the industry; whether you’re working for another company or working for yourself, you will be working very long hours. I’m talking 16 hours a day, six days a week.

It never ends. You are going to be working long hours, so get used to it now. Get used to it now because it’s going to take a lot of stamina and determination.

Things are also going to come up that are very frustrating.

Maybe your factory will not make something the way you wanted it, or your fabric is not going to be available, or things are not going to ship on time. Things will constantly come up, so you must have the stamina and the determination to keep going. 

Having Problem Solving Skills – Think Outside the Box!

Number six is problem-solving. The job is to problem-solve.

The job is to go around and make sure that everything was going according to plan, according to the way it needed to happen.

So when a fabric didn’t come in on time or we couldn’t get the material we wanted, or something came up, and it needed to be solved immediately.

That’s important. So get used to the fact that you will be problem solving all the time, and to be good at problem-solving, you need to think outside the box; you need to be creative.

Ability to Focus on One Idea or Concept

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Most creative people have so many ideas. They have thousands of ideas.

But, the problem is, they can never focus on one idea and bring it to completion. So please, whatever you do, make sure you pick one idea and see it all the way through.

Make sure you’re picking one idea and nursing it through to completion. Otherwise, you will have a ton of ideas, and nothing is ever going to get finished.  

To Become a Great Fashion Designer, You Must have the Ability to Multitask!

This one is huge. I know as women, most of us are great at multitasking which is good. But to become a great fashion designer, you need to be super good.

It would help if you were a superwoman as a fashion designer to multitask because you’ve got a million things going on at once. Most fashion designers are working on anywhere from two to five seasons at once.

You might be working on your spring line, approving your fall production strike offs, sourcing fabrics for your spring 2 line, spring-summer line, or doing trend forecasting for the trend’s line that’s coming up.

You have so many things going on at once, and you need to be able to juggle everything in your head. You must be on time and stick to a calendar. Staying organized, multitasking, doing multiple things at once is essential to become a great fashion designer.

Being Able to Work Well With Others

Next is being able to work well with others because, as you are doing all these things, you will be working with a ton of different people.

You have fabric vendors, factories, patternmakers, sample makers, cutters, production coordinators, salespeople, production assistants, tech designers, etc. There are so many different jobs and functions that are people that you’re going to interact with on a day-to-day basis.

If you’re an introverted person, being a fashion designer might not be the best job for you. You have to talk to so many people on any given day that it is going to be vital that you are good at working well with others.

A Great Designer Can Separate Your Style from The Style of The Line You Are Designing

Number ten is to separate your style from the style of the line you are designing. Now you’re probably saying, “Well, I’m designing a line for me. I’m my perfect target customer, and I’m designing my line, and I am the customer.”

That might be true, and that might be how you start your fashion line, especially if you are not working for someone else and this is your fashion line.

But that probably won’t be how the line evolves. Over time, your customers are going to dictate what they want. You might find that the ugliest thing you think is so ugly, but your customer loves it.

This is business, and because this is business, you better be selling and making that nasty thing that you can’t stand because your customer wants it and they’re willing to pay for it.

That’s important. It would help if you had that separation from your style, what you like personally for yourself, and who you are designing for or what the line is.

This is especially so if you have a job because, most likely, you are going to be creating things that you hate.

Being Able to Detach from Your Emotions

Okay, this tip kind of goes along the same line. It’s able to detach from your emotions. So again, you might love something, and someone else hates it; you can’t take it personally.

You just can’t. You’ve got to be able to detach from your emotions. I talk to my clients all the time and teach them ways to separate from their feelings and not let your emotions stand in the way because you’ll never get anything done.

You’ll never reach your goals, and you’ll never achieve your dreams if you let your emotions stand in the way. So you must detach from your feelings, especially if you’re working with these Devil Wears Prada ladies.  

Ability to Design Within a Price Point

The last one can design within a price point. This is the most important one. If you’re planning a high-end line, the sky’s the limit.

You can choose any fabric; you can select any trims, you can have hand-beading done, you can have any seam finishes that you want. It is “sky’s the limit”, and you have no limitations because you’re probably charging thousands and thousands of dollars for these garments.

But if you’re designing a low-end line, especially if you’re trying to compete with these high-end designers and trying to create something cheap but yet looks high-end, you have your work cut off for you.

This is going to be a challenge for sure. Understanding how much fabric costs, how much your trims cost, how much labour for certain things costs (specific seam finishes cost more than others) etc.

For instance, flat-fold seams or flat-lock seams on leggings in activewear cost ten times more than a regular five-thread overlock stitch. You need to know that.

As a designer, if you’re designing activewear, you need to know that. You can’t just be putting all these flat-lock seams anywhere you want, and then your garment ends up costing through the roof, and no one can afford to buy it.

You must understand your costing; you know how everything works together. It’s necessary so that when you’re designing, you are creating within that price point.

That way, you don’t develop a dress that no one will be able to afford to buy at the end of the day because you wasted all your money and time designing that dress, to begin with.

Conclusion

There are many resources available to upskill; you can nurture your general knowledge by reading articles, attending conferences, or watching tutorials.

If you want the proper training and to dive into specific topics and hard skills such as sustainable fashion, apparel costing, fit or 3D product development, you can learn from leading practitioners at your own pace by taking online courses.

Remember that you are not alone in this race; listen to other designers, share your experience with them, don’t be afraid of embracing new challenges, keep learning, and bring innovation to the industry.