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Should I consider going to graduate school for fashion design?

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2 answers

Jaye’s Answer

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Hi Natalie:

It's great that you are considering a graduate degree, but if you are planning to work as a fashion designer then the best education is experience. I suggest, once your undergraduate studies are complete, to find work as a fashion designer, learn from more experienced and/or senior designers as well as be open to acquiring knowledge from colleagues such as merchandisers, product manager, and technical designers. So if you decide you want to further your studies (later in your career), then you have a better idea of your study focus as well as graduate schools that are best suited to your area of focus. I hope this is helpful:)!

Jaye recommends the following next steps:

  • If you haven't already, then focus on completing your fashion design studies as well as looking for internships so you have valuable experience to add to your resume.
  • If you've already graduated , then focus on find a job where you can both learn from others as well as showcase your talents:).
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Emilia J.’s Answer

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Hi Natalie,

Speaking from experience, I agree with Jaye that experience is the best education. I worked in the industry for seven years before I pursued a graduate course in fashion and I felt grounded while trying to complete my degree. I know school can be a lonely "bubble" sometimes as you are so wrapped up and under pressure in handing in projects on time. Knowing the fact that there are so much to experience and a lot of challenges to take head on outside the classroom, helped me keep an open mind throughout school.

I'm sure you know, the fashion industry is constantly developing and you will get a much better idea in terms of how you can adapt as a fashion designer to the changing market, while still following your design ethos. You need to also learn how you can work in a team - you will mainly be working with the following:

Product developers / coordinators - they make sure your ideas come into fruition while trying to stick to the budget. Designers need to have room for compromise as not every design ideas can be fulfilled. Product developers work very hard to ensure that production issues are minimized, so designers should work with them to find a middle ground that works for everyone.

Clothing manufacturers - they make your ideas come to life! Every factory is different with their own specialities as well as weaknesses. So designers should build a good relationship with manufacturers in order to know what sort of clothes, designs and fabrics can really work in a particular factory. Designers should also know a factory's annual time schedule - when they are most and least busy. Most times, factories will prioritize their biggest clientele in their production run. So, if you are a fairly new designer placing a small order, it will be very unlikely that they will put you at the front of a very long queue of clothes!

Merchandisers / buyers - you will be selling your ideas to them as well as guiding them through your designs. Again, negotiation and finding that good middle ground is key as you need to understand the fact that they have their sales targets to meet and a specific customer base.

Emilia J. recommends the following next steps:

  • As per Jaye's advice, find internships during your studies (or design jobs post-graduation) and build experience and connections towards your career.
  • You should also research recommended graduate fashion design programs in the meantime. Speak with program directors and students where you can so you can get a better idea in what is expected of you if you decide to pursue graduate school as well what you can learn from different schools.
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