The Creative Spark—How to Get an Edge in Fashion Design

The Creative Spark—How to Get an Edge in Fashion Design

Wouldn’t you love to design Cinderella’s sportswear?  Brad Pitt’s leather pants?  Or Margot Robbie’s PJs?  Well, if you love fashion, you can do all this and more.  You could even start your own clothing line.

So, what does it take to succeed as a fashion designer?  “Great fashion designers have strong illustration and drawing skills” (17%).  Plus, “a great fashion designer also has deep knowledge about fabrics, textiles, and textures” (17%).  If you often play with materials, peer at clothing labels, or stare at Vogue magazines, you’ve got fashion designer potential.

As a teen, I used to draw fashion designs for hours, dreaming of the jumpsuit with cutout sleeves I’d one day sew.  Today, although not a fashion designer, I like to take graphic design inspiration from ads.  So, I collect promo materials from stores.  I snap photos of posters and magazine ads.  I also screenshot posters I find on EventBrite.  You can model your fashion designs on ads, posters, and promos, too.

But that’s small-time design.  To become a world-renown fashion designer, consider going to some of the world’s top schools.  These schools include “Parsons New School of Design ….  The Fashion Institute of Technology at FIT ….  Central Saint Martins ….  Royal College of Art ….  Instituto Marangoni … Ecole dela Chambre Syndicale dela Couture Parisienne” (81%).

But “if you do not have enough funds or means to go to fashion school, no need to worry” (35%).  You can learn fashion on your own.  But if you go this route, learn at least the following:

  • “latest trends by reading a lot of fashion magazines” (37%),
  • “colors and designs that are dominant in the market today” (37%),
  • “sewing techniques” (48%),
  • “different styles and types of clothing” (51%), and
  • “the different body shapes” (61%).

To learn all this, “find fashion school syllabus and find textbooks associated with the syllabus” (37%).  Many schools have their syllabi listed online.  “To learn the basics of fashion design, you have to buy and study a fashion illustration book ….  This is one of the most basic and most important skills that a fashion designer must have” (39%).

Your illustration skills don’t need to be top notch.  But “you need to start sketching your fashion figure or Croquis.  Croquis is French for ‘figure.’ … Then draw your design on your croquis ….  If you have difficulty drawing a croquis, you can print a photo of a figure that has a great pose and a body form that you would like to design for.  You can trace the body shape on a new sheet of paper.  When you already have your croquis, you can draw the design over it” (42%).

For creative inspiration, in high school, I flipped through many Dungeons and Dragons books and comic books.  My brother collected them.  So, I’d use superheroes and dragons as models for art projects.  Similarly, fashion designer hopefuls should collect fashion magazines and figure drawing books for inspiration.

To turn your tracing of a croquis into digital art, first, to make your croquis, trace on paper an image of a person.  Use tracing paper you can buy at most any art store.  Then, take a photo of that tracing with an S pen-compatible tablet.  An S pen is a drawing pen for tablets.  Then, use your S pen to digitally sketch the photo using an app.  Finally, send the digital sketch to Photoshop to color.  Artist Patrick Brown teaches this style of illustration.  He has a class on Skillshare called “Characters in a Scene: Sketch to Digital.” You can even get a two-month free trial—more than enough time to watch Patrick Brown’s two-hour class.

Not only do you need to know how to illustrate, but you also need to know pattern making.  “Most of the time, designers hire pattern makers and seamstresses.  But, it is best to learn the basics of dressmaking.  To make your own patterns, you will need pattern papers, pencil, marker, tape measure, tailor square, and curve ruler.  Dressmaking is a craft that takes so much practice to perfect.  You can find a good pattern book that will teach you how to create patterns for dresses, shirts, skirts, and pants” (44%).

But what holds most people back from the fashion world?  For some, it’s the dog eat dog industry.  But for me, it’s the lack of sewing knack.  “If you want to become a successful designer, you have to learn how to use a sewing machine.  Most successful designers use expensive and heavy-duty machines.  You should learn how to use those” (46%).  Some expensive sewing machines make sewing simple (Lewis, 2014).  So, if sewing doesn’t seem your gig, save up to save grief.

Perhaps it’s time you tried out fashion design.  Your clothing line might go global.  And even if you self-study, you’ll still get an edge.  After all, many world-renown fashion designers never had a fashion design education (Lewis, 2014).


Lewis, Thomas.  (2014).  The Ultimate Guide to Become a Fashion Designer:  How to Be a Successful Fashion Designer.  E-book.