How Do I Break into the Fashion Industry?

T. Webster

Breaking into the fashion industry requires persistence, creativity and a little luck. The best route to take depends on which area of the fashion industry you are trying to enter. A college education or other training often is required in fields such as fashion design or photography. For modeling, formal training usually is not required.

Some people break into fashion by launching their own companies.
Some people break into fashion by launching their own companies.

Often, jobs in the fashion industry relate to clothing design. In this area, a college education is a good first step to break into the fashion industry. Getting into a reputable design school usually requires a portfolio that shows strong artistic ability. After you are accepted, you will receive a well-rounded education that includes coursework in fashion history, designing with computers, colors, fabrics and how to design various kinds of clothing.

Any experience in high-fashion markets is helpful for breaking into the fashion industry.
Any experience in high-fashion markets is helpful for breaking into the fashion industry.

One way to break into the industry is to enter design contests while in school. Some of these contests allow students direct exposure to potential clients or employers. Any exposure or experience in high-fashion markets such as New York or Paris also is helpful.

Actors and models often use clear, simple portraits for their head shots.
Actors and models often use clear, simple portraits for their head shots.

Perhaps the best thing that will help you break into the fashion industry is a strong design portfolio. Your work should reflect an understanding of color, balance and beauty. In many cases, your portfolio will determine whether you are hired.

A fashion portfolio is very helpful to breaking into the industry.
A fashion portfolio is very helpful to breaking into the industry.

When you start out as a designer, you might first work as a pattern maker or a sketch assistant. Although design work also is done with computer software, it always helps to be able to sketch. Being able to draw attractive sketches quickly will work to your advantage.

Entering design contests may help people break into the fashion industry.
Entering design contests may help people break into the fashion industry.

As a fashion designer, there are several routes you can take to break into the industry. The most obvious way is to apply for jobs at companies where you want to work. You also have the option of starting your own design company. Top designers sometimes are fortunate enough to sell directly to high-end retail stores or to offer original designs to upscale clients.

In addition to entering design contests, you also can utilize job placement services that might be available at your college. In creative fields such as the fashion industry, competition tends to be fierce. In addition to having talent, you need persistence and strong networking skills to land a good job in the fashion industry.

Becoming a fashion model or photographer arguably is even more difficult. High-fashion modeling agencies often require no prior training or experience. Rather, they are looking for a certain look and usually can make a decision based on a few head shots and an in-person interview.

If you want to break into the fashion industry as a photographer, you will need a strong portfolio of pictures. It is common for photographers to have a portfolio on a website so clients and potential employers can easily access it. Although it is not a requirement, some formal training can help you to break into the fashion industry as a photographer.

Working as a costume-maker may help aspiring fashion designers build contacts and draw exposure to their work.
Working as a costume-maker may help aspiring fashion designers build contacts and draw exposure to their work.

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