Becoming a Creative Director or a Design Director for a clothing company requires a path of progression thru the ranks of an organization. Most people start as assistant designers or designers and work their way up thru the ranks with progressive responsibility. It differs from person to person and brand to brand, but I’d say it takes 7-10 years to arrive at a director role at a reputable brand.
This is a good thing! In order to become a successful creative director you need to gain understanding of not only how to design a successful, commercially viable, consumer driven product, but also understand the business model, strategic organizational goals and become a strong people leader.
you can have great ideas, that doesn’t make you reassure to be a great creative director- leadership and strategic thinking do.
As a creative director you transition from an individual contributor (designing) to a team leader and coach. People leadership skills, the ability to motivate, teach and shape direction while ensuring that a large group of teammates follows your lead and believes in your direction is a critical component of success - if you ascend too fast they the ranks you risk not having the credibility and humility to succeed in this. In the end as a leader the buck stops with you, you will be responsible for everything the team does and have to own the results.
Creative directors are also large part politicians. We spend half of our time working with clients, influencing constituencies internal and external within the organization, selling ideas, working with partners in marketing, sales, merchandising and commercialization to make sure the ideas are adopted.
Its an incredibly rewarding career, but not as glamorous as it seems. Lots of hard work and continuous learning is required.
I’d start by identifying brands you are aspiring to work for, research which of their values you identify with, research leaders within those organizations and the path they took to get there. Start with your foot in the door as a designer. Be humble, patient and learn from those above you. Find great mentors in the organization and ask them to coach you in your growth. Progressively take on more responsibility and potentially direct reports, until you are ready to provide creative direction to others. This takes years and you don’t want to skip any steps, the gaps in institutional learning will hinder your growth if you do.
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- Research companies
- Contact leaders in your target companies and ask for a foot in the door- internship or assistant role
- Attend industry networking events and build your network
- Map out your 5-10 year plan