The career in which I am most interested in the textile industry is that of the fashion designer. A fashion designer is the person who comes up with the ideas and designs today, for the clothes that we, the consumers, will be wearing tomorrow. This alone, the power to inspire the world of fashion , would be enough to make me want to become a designer, but designing clothes is also a way of expressing yourself. Each designer is unique and thus the clothes that each create are just as unique. Although the job of a fashion designer may seem easy, there are many abilities involved in the job. Some of these abilities, which I posses, include a love for fashion, understanding of color and combinations of color, and the ability to convey design ideas through pictures. Along with the possessed above qualities, taking clothing classes in school has made me realize the many ideas that I have for clothing and becoming a fashion designer would allow me to convey these ideas to those around me.
Life As A Fashion Designer
In essence a fashion designer is a person who develops new styles for clothing or clothing accessories. These new styles can be achieved by creating original designs or by adding personal ideas to old styles to suit popular trends or environmental requirements. “For The job of a fashion designer involves many different duties. Typically a fashion designer must first develop an idea for a garment and then convey this idea graphically through drawing or computer visuals. Once this is done a pattern must be created and thus the designer must meet with pattern makers. Along with creating the pattern, the designer must choose the fabric type and color for the garment. After these choices have been made, samples of the garment must be created and shown to the management, sales and manufacturing staff. Once prices for the garment are calculated, finishing samples are created and must be approved before they go into production. Finally, once the garments are in production, the designer meets with the production staff to ensure quality control. Along with this immense amount of work, a designer is still expected to stay in tune with current fashion trends not only where they presently live, but all over the world. It is almost as if learning and putting that information into action never ends for a fashion designer.
To become a fashion designer, one must have a lot of creativity, imagination, fearlessness and passion. ” I am really passionate with making clothes.” (said by Francesca Marotta in interview) People in the fashion design world must also have a strong sense of the esthetics. This is an eye for color and detail, a sense of balance and proportion, and an appreciation for beauty. Although computers have aided in fashion design, the ability to sketch design images is an important skill that all prospective fashion designers should possess. It is also necessary to keep a good portfolio, a collection of examples of a designer’s best work, so that prospective employers can have a sense of the quality of your work.
Fashion design may seem like a career that involves no school training, but this is not true. Along with a portfolio, as mentioned above, designers are usually require to have a 2 or 4-year college degree in design. One example of a designer who attended college is Francesca Marotta, who attended the London College of Fashion. Education in fashion will be important, especially for prospective fashion designers, because statistics are now showing that the employment rate in the design industry is growing faster than the average. People looking for jobs in the fashion design industry should expect to face fierce competition for designing positions. People with little to no education in design, along with those who lack creativity and imagination, will find it extremely hard to start and maintain a career in fashion design.
In terms of money the median annual earnings for fashion designers were $48,530 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,800 and $73,780. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,970. Benefits vary with employers. Designers often negotiate their salaries and benefits individually with employers. Some firms provide vacation and group health insurance plans. Self employed designers must supply themselves with their own insurance, but it also means that their schedule is very flexible and allows them to take time off to travel for business or pleasure at any time which is convenient to them.
by Marian Buckley
In a Ladbroke Grove basement studio flat, I sit down with designer Francesca Marotta. This is couture heaven, W11 style.
Francesca says she always knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. “When I was 4 I said to my Mum, ‘I am going to work in fashion’.” By the age of 10 Francesca was whipping out the family Singer to run-up dolls’ clothes. “I remember when my Mum used to go shopping, I would open up the sewing machine and make clothes for my sister’s dolls, and then when I heard the car come back I would quickly put the sewing machine away again.”
After studying at university in Belgium (her family relocated to Belgium, leaving Sicily when she was 5) Francesca moved to London to study for a BTEC National Diploma at The London College of Fashion. She never completed the course. “They never liked my style,” she explains. “The London College of Fashion is very good for technique, but at the time they weren’t broadminded, they weren’t like St Martin’s – the crazier you are the more they like you! But there it was very different. It was good, but there were about 20 people who just didn’t fit in.”
Despite having a rough time at LCF, Francesca fell in love with London and has made the city her home ever since. “There is a London style,” she says. “whenever I go away and I am coming back I can feel the buzz on the plane… there’s a London smell.”
Since LCF, Francesca has designed for Souled Out, worked for a retail company, taken a business course and is now looking at expanding her business. In March 2002 she came 2nd at the Neuvieme Concours Jeunes Creaturs, an award for new design talent in Lille.
Her latest collection is in a suitcase. “I start by finding the fabric first,” she tells me as she unsheathes reams of gorgeous textures – a crystallized piece of mesh that’s she discovered in a fabric shop, it looks like woven gold wire with glittering beads, but feels like a piece of jewelry. Francesca describes how this will form a top with just a fastening at the back. Her inspiration for the collection was, “What do I want to wear next winter?”. She adds “It’s very feminine.” Don’t expect any easy, straight to the high street trends going on here. Forget jackets and other cold weather items. Francesca loves ball gowns. For this collection she’s created a bonkers straight-at-the-front-curved-at-the-back skirt with an under wired petticoat, leather tops, feather arms bands. She’s using taffeta, silk, curtain fabrics and has a magpie’s stash of feathers (chicken and turkey bought from a basement shop just off Oxford Street), chicken wire, camping tent rings, pendant earrings and leather. From this amassed material 8 outfits are to emerge to be shown at The Cobden Club in a few weeks time.
“I am really passionate with making clothes,” she confesses, and you know this woman is telling the truth. Marotta has developed her own unique couture – it could never officially be labeled couture because it doesn’t comply with the rigid rules that govern the practice – but it is her own version. “I love couture,” she admits. “If I could, I would make a million pound dress… Most people think of couture as something for mature women. I like edgy couture. It’s not French, it’s more avant garde.”
The collection will be handmade and most elements are designed on the fly. She doesn’t work with a toile and although she can sketch, she prefers to dive in and design without one. Her mother is fantastic knitter and she contributes to the collections: “All the knitting you see in my collections my Mum makes for me. She could have been a designer because she does some really funky pieces.” Her parents are also her main backers, but Francesca is hoping to find some investors, people who like her vision. “I am trying to find investors to be able to do the London Fashion Week. I would really like to do that,” she says with a beaming smile.
“I’ve always liked the idea of becoming a band stylist, where each song has a new theme so you design a mini collection for the band. With bands you can always go over the edge and use your imagination.” Which bands would she ideally like to work with? “Ms Dynamite, I think she’s funky or So Solid Crew.”
In the meantime, she’s building up her personal client list by making one-off pieces. “If a friend says to me I want a top I know exactly what to do… a friend said they wanted a velour tracksuit I say we don’t do velour we do suede with crystals. I have people say they want a fake Versace and a fake whatever and I can do that – you know you have to make ends meet.” She’s approached a few shops but local retailers feel she would be better in the West End. “I went to a few shops in Portobello and they said my designs were too futuristic. I am hoping that Pineal Eye, Tokian To Zai somewhere like that will take some pieces.”
Being a fashion designer had many advantages, but it has many disadvantages as well. Below is a chart of most of each.
Being a fashion designer is not a job that I would like to pursue professionally. I love to create clothes for myself, but only for my pleasure, almost like a hobby. If I were interested in pursuing the career, there are a few things that I could do. These include taking clothing courses and designing courses. As a junior it is also important to look for good colleges that specialize in fashion design. Through college there are some co-op programs that make the transition to the work place easier.
Buckley, Marian; Basement Couture [interview on-line] (London, England: WideMedia Ltd., 1995, accessed May 20, 2003); available from
http://www.widemedia.com/fashionuk/fashion/marotta/index.html ; Internet.
Battock, Tina ; In Style [magazine online] (Boulder, Colorado: About Inc., 2003 accessed May 20, 2003); available from http://sewing.about.com ; Internet.
Ungless, Simon. “Careers in the Fashion Industry.”
The Career Center [magazine article] May 31,2002.