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.

Kristin is an experienced fashion designer in NYC. Since graduating with honors from Drexel University with a Fashion Design degree, she has gained valuable experience designing for the fast paced, fashion f

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Promote Your Own Clothing Brand – Top Fashion Networking Sites

Fashion marketing is undergoing a quiet revolution at the moment. Traditionally new fashion designers have had to compete with the major corporate labels through magazine advertising, direct mail, events promotions and if the budget is there, television ad campaigns. The Internet has for a long time been a useful tool for introducing sales leads to your clothing range, but until recently, budget dictated your site’s popularity on the net.

Things are rapidly changing, and it is almost all due to the Social Networking phenomenon. You will have no doubt heard of Facebook and MySpace, however over the past couple of years there has been a distinct increase in social community sites that have geared themselves towards the consumer lifestyle market, and in particularly fashion. Many of these online communities run on a democratic principle. Ideally, if enough people vote or bookmark a particular product, say a t-shirt for example, the product and designer’s popularity increases. Within a relatively short time. Using tools such as bookmark sharing and recommendations, a relatively unknown designer can attract an enormous amount of positive publicity.

I have researched and collated a list of the most popular and useful fashion social networks for you to browse at your own leisure. You will find there is a wide variety and scope offered by these fashion-related communities. The larger and more established sites are great for breaking new products in to the fashion consumer market, others will provide invaluable assistance from fellow designers, retailers and manufacturers. Most of whom I am sure will be more than willing to guide you through the next stages of your burgeoning fashion career.

Fashionising.com is dedicated to fashion, this social fashion community offering a news, photo and video service for upcoming and established designers, labels, models and more. Very friendly and welcoming community, mainly professionals in all fields of fashion.

Stylehive.com is an online style portal for people who love and/or work in fashion, design and retail. You can connect with fellow style addicts and share all of your new design discoveries and latest finds together. A trend-setters social-networking club, part pop-culture lab, Stylehive.com is one big ensemble cast of trend-setters creating, discovering and buying the next big thing!

Kaboodle.com is a social shopping network where people discover, recommend and share products. Kaboodle’s excellent range of shopping widgets mean you can begin organizing all your favorite items in shared lists, discovering new things from people with similar style. Easy to find the best prices and discounts on the most popular products. This site offers fashion products amongst many others including gadgets, soft furnishings, art and more.

ThisNext.com focuses its online and social-shopping community more towards the next big trends. Your popular votes count, everyone recommends their favorite up and coming products for others to discover and purchase online. This global community is in the pursuit of cross-cultural shopping habits for the year to come. This site is laden with more branded advertising and e-commerce solutions making it a more attractive media platform for corporate marketing. The system encompasses each product in a process of discovery, consideration, trial and purchase. Fashion is a big favorite here.

StyleFeeder.com is a personal shopping engine that uses a unique matchmaking system to offer daily personal recommendations, just for you. It’s a great way to find new clothes, shoes, in fact anything stylish and keep track of what you’re shopping for online, using visual their bookmark options. Great widgets for incorporating your style-feeds in to your personal blogs or commercial sites. I regularly use this site to promote my own fashion — a great resource for designers.

ShareYourLook.com is a new fashion community for all trends-setters, shoppers and designers, (currently in beta). If you read articles New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, you will probably recognize the co-founder’s name – fashion have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, fashion journalist Melissa Ceria. The format is easy to use and on the eye: upload photos of you modeling your favorite outfits, and let other members rate your look and leave you comments. Don’t worry, there is a policy of fair and objective criticism, even compliments and most of all useful style tips. The whole site relies on a great blog style tagging process, plus a great feature where you’ll be able to post favourite ‘looks’ to your network of fashion friends. You even get your own styleblog.

OsoYou.com is the UK’s first social networking and fashion website. Focusing more on High Street fashion and all the latest clothing items, plus features on the hottest celebrity styles and a chance to share fashion with your friends via some innovative social networking options.

Avenue7.com should be classed as up and coming. From my research it seems to be aimed at a younger audience. They already use some rather clever programming to help you create your own perfect outfit and also offer fashion scouts. However there are some even more promising features in the pipeline including ‘The Fashion Show’ and ‘Start a Makeover’. This is more of a hot or not direction for the field of fashion social networking, but it’s bright, bold and adventurous and I’ll take a punt it will do well in the future.

StyleMob.com is rather funky looking (though corporate owned) street style community StyleMob offering a service that is part Hot or Not, part fashion magazine and part MySpace.

TeamSugar.com is one of the latest contributions to the market. Backed by the Sugar Network, this series of blogs primarily targets fashion-conscious women. The most popular is PopSugar.com, where celebrity gossip and fashion come together in a hedonistic mix. TeamSugar.com pro-actively promote their content, encouraging their community to form around it. Blog syndication integrates the network — PopSugar.com, DearSugar.com, TeamSugar.com and FabSugar.com, encouraging users to switch sites to see the latest news on each one. Ultra intelligent marketing – helping to boost the popularity of the whole network at the same time. Standard social networking features friends list, leave comments, send messages, write a blog and voting in polls.

This supplemental list offers links to more general/shopping social networks that feature some fashion content, and a few to keep an eye out for in the future:

TheFind.com is the leading shopping search engine to find stores, brands and products, bigger than any other product finder online.

ShopWiki.com is a shopping search engine designed to help consumers find specific products on the Internet with ease. It is the only shopping search engine that combines advanced Web-crawling technology with a consumer-written wiki.

Etsy.com is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade and only handmade.

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