Because Being a Fashion Designer Isn’t Your Only Option!
Fashion Job #1: CAD Designer
To put it simply, this job is a mix of both fashion and graphic design. As a CAD designer, you’re responsible for doing pretty much everything that’s computer generated.
- Sketching tons of fashion flats in Illustrator (usually interpreting the designs from someone else’s direction)
- Creating textile prints and seamless repeating patterns
- Generating placed prints and graphics (think t-shirt graphics)
- Developing graphics for hang tags, trims and findings (labels, custom buttons, zipper pulls, etc)
You will spend A LOT of time on the computer, and your Illustrator and Photoshop skills need to be really strong. So, if you enjoy working behind a screen and still want to be involved in some of the creative process, a CAD Designer is a great fashion job for you.
Fashion Job #2: Technical Designer / Garment Technician
As a TD, your job is to figure out how to turn a 2D sketch into a 3D garment. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean sewing the garment in real life, but instead making sure the design is constructed right and fits well in all sizes.
Depending on the company, a tech designer’s job duties may vary. Some brands drape on mannequins, some draft flat patterns, some sew samples in house. Others simply send a chart of measurements (known as Points of Measure or POMs) to the factory to make the garment.
TDs are also responsible for conducting fittings on fit models and making any adjustments, reviewing all samples and prototypes for construction, and communicating any changes needed to the factory.
If you love problem solving, engineering, solving puzzles and building stuff, being a technical designer is a great job for you.
Fashion Job #3: Product Developer
Again, depending on the company, a PD job may be an entirely separate position (or even an entire department), or it may be the responsibility of the actual fashion designer.
Either way, the product developer is in charge of managing the entire product development process and making sure the factory to keep things on time to meet deadlines.
This includes everything from initial sourcing to selecting the final factory. You’ll negotiate pricing to ensure development is in budget, and come up with creative ways to adjust the cost if needed (ie change fabric quality, remove trims like zippers, etc).
The PD role requires a lot of tracking, follow up and review. You’ll be responsible for reviewing or rejecting every individual component for every garment in every color including:
- Hang tags
You’ll communicate any comments, changes or approvals to the factory, and you’ll also be the one who makes sure things stay on track. You’ll continually push the factory to ensure deadlines are met and garments are produced on time and accurately.
If you have super good communication skills, love keeping things organized, are excellent at following up and negotiating, a fashion product developer job is a great match for you.
Fashion Job #4: Merchandiser (different than a visual merchandiser!)
When most people think of a merchandiser, they picture the person that merchandises store windows and displays. That is actually a visual merchandiser (which we’ll talk about in job #5).
Alternatively, a fashion merchandiser is the person responsible for figuring out what pieces the collection should include. They’re the one to decide if the assortment should be 4 blouses, 2 trousers and 1 jacket, or maybe 5 blouses, 2 dresses, and 1 pant.
In a fashion merchandiser job role, you’ll need to keep up with the competition and trends so you don’t miss out on any key categories. You’ll also regularly review and analyze past sales to see what sold well – and what didn’t. This information will help inform how you merchandise each collection in the future!
If you still want to be involved in the design process, a fashion merchandiser is a great job for you. You’ll be responsible for more of a 10,000 foot view of the process (what the assortment will be) rather than focusing on the details (what buttons and fabric to use), but you’ll still get to use your creativity and design eye.
Fashion Job #5: Visual Merchandiser (sometimes called a stylist)
Unlike a fashion merchandiser, the visual merchandiser is in charge of styling the clothes after their produced. This can be anything from store window displays to nesting table assortments.
A VM may also be in charge of styling for photo shoots, whether that’s putting together outfits for models or designing flat lays like this:
If you love putting creative outfits and looks together, and also want to work with your hands, a visual merchandiser is a great job for you.
Fashion Job #6: Sourcing Specialist
First, what is sourcing? Simply put, it’s finding the right vendors who have the right supplies (trims, fabrics, materials, etc) or capabilities (machinery, tools, etc) you need to produce your garments.
As a sourcing specialist, it is your job to always be finding new vendors and discovering new and unique trims, new construction techniques, or cutting edge technology and machinery.
Because here’s the thing you may not realize: not every factory can do everything! Some factories have very specific capabilities, or simply don’t have the right machinery to do certain things.
Think about specialty areas like denim, waxed canvas, lingerie, etc. There are often machines made for just one type of stitch on just one type of fabric, and as a sourcing specialist, your job may be to find that factory!
Additionally, a brand always needs to have a good backup supplier or vendor to fill in any gaps in production. If one factory is booked, you need to have somewhere else to go! It also helps to keep vendors competitive when you have more than one supplier or factory to get costing from.
As a sourcing specialist, you’ll be managing relationships, negotiating pricing, terms and delivery timelines, and you’ll also make sure quality standards are met.
If you love connecting with new people, forming new relationships, and communication, a sourcing specialist is a great job for you.
Fashion Job #7: Customs Compliance Coordinator
Here’s the interesting thing about boxes and boxes of garments that factories produce for a brand. They don’t just magically show up at the warehouse! The process of getting them from the factory to their final international destination is a complex one.
Which is why this is often a job in itself! You can’t just drop packages off at FedEx or UPS or load them onto a cargo plane. Why? Because transport by air (plane) is VERY expensive.
When it comes to internationally shipping large amounts of goods, most product is imported on a boat. And coordinating boat transport is like a giant game of Tetris! Garments have to fit into a box, then onto a palette, then into a shipping container, and then onto a boat.
Kind of like this:
Beyond the Tetris logistics, there are further complexities when importing products. You have to deal with duties and customs. Duties (taxes) are determined by the HTS code (of which there are thousands!) that each garment falls into…and there are a lot of specifics that determine what code is right. It can depend on the fabric (cotton vs polyester have different codes) or even the finish (waterproof vs water resistant have different codes).
As a customs compliance coordinator, your job is to make sure each garment has the right HTS code, you’re paying the right duties, and that it passes smoothly through customs and does not get held up.
Beyond this? You’ll manage insurance to make sure if anything happens to the clothes in transit (ie the shipping truck or boat catches on fire…I’ve experienced this firsthand!), they’re insured.
It’s a lot of moving pieces and parts to manage, but if you love problem solving and coordinating, a sourcing specialist could be a great job for you.
So remember, when you think about working in fashion, there are a lot of opportunities beyond just designing.
And a lot of these jobs pay more and are much less competitive, but you still get to have a lot of the fun of working in the industry and being in fashion.
Now, after all that, whether you want to be a designer, a sourcing specialist, a merchandiser, or whatever, a lot of the strategies in this book will still help you land your dream fashion job.
While the advice here is somewhat specific to fashion design, most of it can easily be applied to other areas of our industry.
So dig in, use this free advice, and squeeze every last bit of value out of the Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Dream Fashion Design Job.