Fashion designers and clothing designers have a similar overarching objective: They create wearable clothing items. However, key differences exist between the two professions. Traditionally, clothing designers create practical, useful, everyday – sometimes upscale, often utilitarian – types of apparel. On the other hand, fashion designers, are known for creating wearable works of art.
Types of Apparel Designers
Apparel designers traditionally fall into one of three categories:
Haute Couture: High-end design for an upscale luxury market, haute couture designers provide individualized, custom design services to an elite clientele.
Prêt-a-porter: Designed for the general populous, these designers create lines for a slightly upscale mass market, with above-average attention to fabric, cut and detail.
Mass Market Merchandisers: The highest on-demand type of design, mass market merchandisers specialize in creating clothing en masse. The same style will be reproduced in multiple sizes and colors in large numbers.
Role of Fashion Designers
Fashion designers craft from scratch, drawing inspiration from a multitude of sources, such as pop culture, history, nature or art. They may design lines or single items, depending on their proclivity. Fashion designers may launch their own lines, work on commission for high-profile clients or work for elite design firms. Here are a few other things fashion designers are known for:
Materials selection: Fashion designers experiment with various materials, often mixing textures, textiles or even incorporating multimedia elements into their designs.
Unique design elements: Fashion designers hand-sketch, use computer-aided drafting programs and may work and rework their designs repeatedly until they achieve the desired finished product.
Accessories: Fashion designers don’t just specialize in clothing – they also develop accessories including footwear, purses, hair accessories, hats, outerwear, eye wear and more, often to complement their unique main designs.
How Fashion Designers Create
While fashion designers are highly creative individuals, they’re also savvy about the fashion industry.
- They research trends in an effort to stay ahead of the crowd in terms of bringing new and exciting products to market.
- They may travel extensively to learn about fashion evolution in other parts of the world.
- Participation in national and international trade shows helps fashion designers stay in touch with trends and allows for high-level networking.
- Fashion designers may create lines specifically for a single season, around a particular theme, or as a tribute to a particular genre of music, art, theater or film.
- Some fashion designers work with production companies, movie makers, theater or musical productions or other costume designers.
Fashion designers often collaborate with other professionals to produce prototypes of their work.
How Fashion Designers Pitch & Promote
In a highly competitive, fast-paced environment, fashion designers must advocate on their own behalf. Some employ agents or publicists to help them market their wares. This might include outreach to clothing manufacturing companies, fashion merchandisers, fashion show managers and high-end boutiques and retailers. Up-and-coming fashion designers can also get their name into the public by working with stylists of the rich and famous – having a gown worn by a high-profile celebrity at an awards show can launch a fashion designer from oblivion to stardom overnight.
A strong design portfolio and a willingness to relocate can boost your chances for success in the fashion design industry; the majority of jobs are located on the East and West coasts of the United States.
The Role of Clothing Designers
Clothing designers serve as the more practical side of the fashion world. While this is not to say clothing designers are any bit less creative or talented than fashion designers, they simply have a different objective with their work. Clothing designers often focus on areas related to the following by:
- Conforming to the brand identity of clothing manufacturers.
- Creating affordable looks that fit the budget of a mainstream consumer population.
- Utilizing design materials that are both durable and attractive.
- Taking all body types into consideration with design features.
- Creating designs that are suitable for mass production.
Much like fashion designers, clothing designers study consumer trends, create sketches and prototypes and present their concepts to decision makers. They also participate in trade shows, collaborate with other professionals in their field and strive to find creative and inventive ways to create desirable looks for even the most budget-conscious consumers.
Clothing Designer Education
Much like fashion designers, clothing designers can also benefit from education in fashion design and merchandising, business and marketing. They may be further served with training in areas related to consumer behavior studies, retail trends and purchasing. Education and experience in product development can also be an asset in this field.
Job Outlook for Clothing Designers
Clothing designers have a healthier job outlook than their fashion design counterparts, simply due to the fact that everyday clothing is in higher demand than high-fashion. Average earnings for a clothing designer are just over $57,000 per year. Advanced experience and an impressive portfolio can boost that figure.
Other Clothing-Related Fields
Fashion and clothing designers are not the only apparel-related industries in which to apply a passion for creative design.
Seamstresses are experts who sew clothing items from patterns, alter and adjust clothing, add embellishment and repair torn or worn items.
Tailors are experts who conduct fittings and adjust clothing to fit the exact specifications of their customers.
While income varies based on experience and industry, on average, seamstresses earn about $13 per hour, tailors approximately $15 per hour. They may find employment in high-end clothing stores, dry cleaners and bridal salons.
Trends, Fads and Classics
When it comes to the topic of clothing design, there’s often debate surrounding the definition of trends, fads and classic designs. While much is in the eye of the beholder, there are a few basic things to consider, including the differences between fashion and trend.
Trends are styles that are mainstream today. They may be inspired by a celebrity, a movie or by a collective move toward a specific fashion element. Fashion trends tend to come and go; they’re hot and popular, then they fade away but some are known to make comebacks in future generations. Case-in-point: High-rise jeans, bell-bottom pants and tie-dye apparel.
Fads are more short-lived than trends and are usually considered flashes-in-the-pan. Fashion fads are often highly unusual or unconventional and simply don’t make sense in the long-term. For example, high-heeled sneakers, parachute pants and rubber dresses.
Classic is a term used to describe fashion that never goes out of style. Classic clothing items might change or evolve over time, but remain traditional staples of a wardrobe. Examples of classic clothing items include dress suits, blue jeans, white button-down shirts, penny loafers, pea coats and the little black cocktail dress.
What Is Style?
Style is simply a term used to describe individual preferences and choices for personal expression. Some terms – which inevitably evolve over time – are ascribed to styles, but they are as unique as the individuals who select them. Here are a few common genres:
Hipster: Skinny jeans, slim suits, tight t-shirts, monochrome color choices.
Grunge: Baggy rumpled clothing, mismatched items, second-hand shopping selections.
Metro: Polished hipster, slim-fitting clothing, showing socks with loafers, coiffed hair.
Goth: Baggy dark clothing, chunky accessories, often accompanied by light/dark make-up and hair color.
Preppy: Traditional college look, oxford pressed shirts, slacks, blazers, polo shirts, sweaters and sweater vests.
Classic: Traditional garments including sweater sets, cardigans, button-downs, skirts and slacks, heels and dress shoes.
Country: Plaids, flannels, jeans, cowboy boots and hats, thick leather belts and large belt buckles.
Bo-Ho: Short for bohemian, a style comprised of flowing, colorful multi-pattern garments with multiple textures.
Why Are We Fashion Conscious?
While the earliest clothing items were created for warmth, comfort and protection from the elements, today’s fashion choices are often intended to make statements. Clothing has the potential to:
- Improve one’s self image.
- Make one feel successful or elegant.
- Create a specific image, like professionalism, sexiness or wealth.
- Align with a cause – school spirit, fan loyalty, product. advertising, political or social statements.
Fashion and clothing designers of all walks of life are each artists in their own right. Although trends and fads may pass, the need for well-made quality clothing – both affordable and luxury – will never go out of style.