Fashion Careers, Colleges and Programs

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Even if you’ve never been involved in fashion before, if you have the skill and the talent and receive the right training you can have a successful career. When most people think about a career in fashion the first one that comes to mind is being a designer. True, fashion design is more of the more visible professions within the fashion industry, but the industry is huge, and there are several different types of fashion careers. The following are just a few of the many career opportunities available to those with the passion and drive to launch a career in fashion.

Fashion Merchandising/Sales and Marketing

Fashion merchandising is where the world of design and business come together. While everyone wants to be a fashion designer, there is far more opportunity within the world of design for those interested in getting involved in the business end of things. In fact, savvy fashion merchandisers, marketers and sales professionals can make an attractive living, while experience the world of fashion design to its fullest. Even the best designs, produced by the best designers, will never see if light of day without the assistances of a fashion merchandiser. Merchandisers must stay on top of new fashion and consumer trends to make sure they’re in the know. And they must be extremely creative and very good with numbers as well. And they must always have their finger on the pulse of the industry.

Fashion merchandising is a rather broad field and there are several disciplines that fall under the umbrella of “merchandising”. One of the largest, but under-appreciated, career paths within fashion merchandising is Retail Management. You can make a very attractive salary as a retail manager and you’ll become an expert in fashion brands, industry trends, marketing strategies, and management.

Another common career path within merchandising is Buying. Becoming a Buyer typically occurs when you have enough practical experience and education in the industry. While education is important, ultimately Buyers work their way up in a organization – as they’re required to have in intimate understanding of a company’s product line. It’s not uncommon for Buyers to start out selling shoes and eventually work their way up to the position of Buyer as they become more familiar with the products of the industry.

If you’re more of the artsy type, have a zest for the dramatic, and have a creative mind, then you may want to consider advertising. While not as “glamorous” as other design professions, advertising is the backbone to the creative process when it comes to developing a brand in the mind of the consumer. All top fashion designers, fashion design retailers and marketers rely on savvy fashion advertisers. Brands including GAP, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Lacoste, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gucci and many more became popular brands due to the ingenuity and creativity of skilled advertisers. Of all the disciplines within fashion merchandising, advertising requires the most in-depth understanding of what fashion really means to the consumer.

To launch your fashion merchandising career, we highly recommend that you start with a solid education. While experience is paramount, the large majority of fashion merchandisers these days have at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study, and many possess a master’s degree. For those specifically interested in a retail management career, a college degree with a business focus and coursework in accounting, sales, marketing, staff management, strategy, and retail operations is recommended.

Production Management

Another aspect of the fashion design industry is the front line. Production managers work at the manufacturing level acquiring textiles and making sure that clothing is made to spec. Production managers work directly with suppliers and retailers and are vital to the success of any fashion, textile, or clothing company.

While we fully admit that being a production manager isn’t in the same ballpark as being a famous fashion designer, you need to realized that (1) most fashion designers never become famous and (2) production management has the potential of being quite a challenging and exciting career. Just recently, there has been a big push among corporations and agencies towards “zero waste” production, where very little material is wasted. Who do you think they turned to address this problem? Production Managers.

While some colleges and universities offers production management as a standalone degree program, the majority do not. If you’re interested in training to become a production manager, then you’ll need to take courses in business, operations management and related disciplines. While not absolutely necessary, earning an MBA in operations can give you a leg up on the competition.

Visual Presentation and Fashion Styling

While both visual presentation and fashion styling overlap, they are two distinct disciplines within the realm of fashion. Visual presenters work with all aspects of fashion as it relates to developing creatives, props and visuals presentations for retail establishments and fashion shows. They have been described as three dimensional storytellers, creators of environments designed to inform, inspire, and persuade. Given the growing demand for professionals with advanced visual presentation skills, many art and fashion colleges offer specialty degrees in visual presentation.

Not quite as well-known, but just as important, are fashion stylists. Stylists work with creative teams including designers, photographers, and/or art directors to develop a vision for an image or brand. They are also tasked with the responsibility of making clothes look spectacular. When it comes to runway shows stylists call all the shots. They design accessories, edit fabrics and silhouettes, and inspire other team members. Stylists influence just about every creative element.

If you want to become a fashion stylist, it’s important to have a solid understanding of business and numbers, and have the ability to communicate. A degree isn’t absolutely necessary for this career, but it’s very helpful.

Public Relations

You might not think that public relations falls within the field of fashion design, but any successful fashion designer or fashion design company will tell you that public relations played a huge role in their success. Public relations specialists are the middle men between a product and the consumer – at every level. PR specialists are responsible for ensuring a brands image is clean and that it maintains its public appeal. A degree in communications, marketing or business is an asset for PR specialists (and most PR specialists have a degree) but interpersonal communication skills and unquenchable enthusiasm are more essential assets for success in this field.

Fashion Journalist

If you have a flare for writing and a passion for fashion, then a career as fashion journalist might be the perfect career for you. Fashion journalists are much more than just writers, their critics, and what they say influences what is happening in the world of fashion. With the advent of the Internet, fashion journalists now include bloggers and online editors that report up-to-the-minute news. More traditional employers of fashion journalists include PR firms and trade publications. To become a successful fashion journalist you must be a good writer. A bachelor’s degree in English, writing or journalism is a common prerequisite for a job in this field. However, many journalists these days have a master’s degree as well.

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