14 Fashion Designer Skills to Develop for Your Career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 10 October 2022 | Published 15 November 2021

Updated 10 October 2022

Published 15 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Fashion designers use a variety of creative and business skills to produce attractive garments and collections that appeal to their target audiences. To be successful in the competitive field of fashion design, it's important to understand what types of abilities you use when developing design concepts and turning them into finalised pieces of clothing that sell in stores. Reviewing common skills that fashion designers apply in their work can help you determine what talents to focus on and feature in your job applications.

In this article, we review several fashion designer skills that you can develop to enter the fashion design industry or advance your career.

14 fashion designer skills

Here are some fashion designer skills you can develop to be successful in the field:

1. Creativity

Fashion design is a creative profession that requires innovation and imagination. Having a creative mindset helps fashion designers produce unique garments and accessories that contribute something new to the fashion community and set trends. As a fashion designer, you use creativity to develop original ideas and take inspiration from other artistic sources to transform into something that fits a unique style.

Related: 14 Jobs in Art to Explore for a Creative Career Path

2. Artistic skills

Part of being a fashion designer is incorporating artistic elements into your design process, including using art skills to prepare your initial designs. Fashion designers may sketch, draw, paint and colour their initial designs before sewing prototypes and sending the patterns to the manufacturer. Having art skills can help you express your vision and ideas in a fashion collection for others to appreciate. These skills also make it easier to collaborate on a design because you have a visual aid to guide the process of constructing a garment.

3. Computer skills

Many fashion design schools train students to use computer-assisted art programmes to help in the design process. Fashion designers are often proficient in common design software, which they use to sketch digital versions of their garment designs and produce original designs for textiles. They use tools like drawing tablets and touch-screen devices to digitise their drawings on the computer quickly.

4. Communication

Fashion design is a collaborative industry that involves a range of professionals working on the production of a garment or collection, including design assistants, fashion magazine editors, retail store owners and buyers, marketers, creative directors, influencers and manufacturers. Fashion designers use verbal and written communication skills to network with colleagues, establish professional connections in their industry and work together with other creatives to produce on-brand garments. This involves discussing their designs, explaining their inspiration, brainstorming branding ideas and reviewing professional goals.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

5. Attention to detail

Working in the fashion industry requires you to notice details to incorporate into your garments and accessories. Small adjustments in the cut, colour and silhouette of a design can change the overall appeal of the entire look and make it unique to your brand. Understanding what details to incorporate in everything from the construction to the styling of a design can help you produce cohesive clothes and accessories that appeal to your target audience. Noticing details can improve both the originality of your designs and the quality of the final product that you deliver to customers.

6. Sewing and garment construction

Fashion designers can be more successful when they understand the entire process of producing clothes and accessories, including constructing garments. They use different sewing techniques and stitching patterns to create a variety of seams for their clothing, depending on the type of fabric they want to use. Understanding how to sew can help fashion designers understand the feasibility of turning their ideas into a real outfit that someone can wear. It can also make it easier to give instructions to manufacturers and assistants when producing prototypes.

To have comprehensive sewing skills, fashion designers typically understand how to make patterns, stitch by hand and operate sewing machines. Fashion designers who create accessories may have specialised knowledge in how to cut and piece together patterns for purses and shoes. Other sewing skills include attaching buttons, adding zippers, iron pressing, draping and hemming.

Related: What Does a Fashion Designer Do? (Duties, Skills and Salary)

7. In-depth knowledge of fabrics

Knowing how to select and manipulate a variety of fabrics and textiles is critical for success as a fashion designer. When creating fashion collections, you apply your knowledge of different textures and how they work together, the potential challenges of working with certain fabrics, fabric durability and ethical fabric sourcing. Some fabrics require specific types of stitching and construction techniques, so your background in textiles and fabric terminology can help inform your designs.

Some fashion designers even create their own textiles. This can include spinning and knitting fibres, collaborating with manufacturers to prepare custom prints and dyeing fabrics. Having a background in modern and traditional techniques for producing textiles is a good way for fashion designers to develop a niche for producing speciality clothing.

Related: How to Be a Fashion Stylist and Succeed in the Fashion Industry

8. Dexterity

Because they work frequently with small tools, like needles and thread, designers frequently use dexterity and the ability to see and manipulate small items when producing garments. Dexterity allows fashion designers to achieve the ideal placement for each stitch and other detail they want to incorporate into their garments. They make small adjustments with their hands to add details to sketches and articles of clothing. Dexterity is especially important for designers who use techniques like embroidery, beading and complex stitching as a way to add visual interest to their pieces.

9. Adaptability

Fashion designers often make quick decisions to adjust and improve their designs to meet the requirements of a client or situation, which involves having an adaptable mindset. This may mean altering your garments by hand behind the scenes at a fashion show, doing hair and make-up for your models, or finding ways to cover a stain or rip before a press event. When working with individual clients, fashion designers make changes to their initial ideas to match their suggestions, quickly adjusting the overall design of a piece in their collection to better meet their client's personal preferences.

Fashion designers also study the market and predict trends as they work on collections months in advance. They adapt their designs to the current market while maintaining aspects of their own originality and brand as a designer. As they gain feedback from retailers, pay attention to what other designers produce and observe consumer trends, they incorporate all of this information into their creative process.

10. Persistence

The fashion industry can be challenging, as everyone has their own personal style and taste and many people aspire to sell their designs on the commercial market. Being persistent and committing to your vision can help you focus on producing your best work, despite being in a competitive field. Your persistence can show colleagues and clients that you believe in the quality of your work and have the dedication to promote your designs, develop a professional network and grow your skills.

11. Business knowledge

Whether you want to work as an independent fashion designer operating a small business or as an employee of a fashion company, having a background in business can help you produce successful projects from start to finish. Having skills like budgeting, financial forecasting, marketing and negotiation can make it easier for you to pitch ideas and collections to business partners and convince other people in the industry to invest in your design projects. Your business skills also help you advance in your career as a fashion designer and become a leader in large-scale collections.

12. Leadership

Having leadership skills allows fashion designers to coordinate a team to accomplish their vision for a design. They direct assistants, manufacturers and stylists on how to create and present their garments and accessories to express their vision and brand. As your team grows, you use leadership skills to manage different personality types and keep everyone aligned with your ideas. You may work with design assistants, interns and administrative professionals who use your guidance and mentorship to produce consistent quality throughout your collection.

Related: 10 Leadership Skills to Highlight In Your Resume

13. Time management

The fashion industry can be a fast-paced environment with multiple ongoing projects, deadlines and events. Fashion designers may have limited time to complete requests, making efficient time management a top priority. As a result, they use strategies and skills to help coordinate tasks and manage their schedule effectively including:

  • prioritising tasks

  • delegating tasks when possible

  • creating and maintaining daily and long-term schedules

  • estimating how long each task takes accurately

  • monitoring productivity goals regularly

14. Project management

Producing a completed garment or fashion collection is a significant project that involves managing several variables and ensuring that every step in the process aligns to produce a polished final product. Fashion designers use project management every time they work together with other fashion industry professionals to complete their garments. When fashion designers take on major projects, like a runway show or filling a large order for a retail store, they apply project management strategies, such as:

  • reverse goal-setting

  • task allocation

  • setting deadlines and milestones

  • status report updates

  • using relevant project management software to monitor progress and challenges

Explore more articles