Fashion Design: A Brief Yet Definitive Guide

Fashion can be opulent or unadorned, made to order or ready to wear, detailed or simple, fitted or free, organic or synthetic, shape and line, black and white and colour, chaos, and couture, pristine and imperfect. In short, fashion is just about anything!

But, have you ever wondered who creates this language of fashion? Ever wondered how skinny jeans became the most popular jeans around, and why we said goodbye to flared pants in the 70s and sequined tops in the early 2000s? You have come to the right place. Read on…

History of Fashion Design

The lineage of Fashion Design can arguably be credited to Charles Frederick Worth, a British couturier in the 19th century, considered by many as the Father of Haute Couture. Tailors and seamstresses would normally sew garments with reference to a particular design primarily under anonymity. Royal courthouses were the runways of the 19th century, with fashion trends being decided based on the royal attire worn by influential personalities at major events. Worth, however, was a designer extremely in demand—so much so, that he was the first designer ever to have his eponymous label sewn onto his creations.

The study of Fashion Design truly began after the year 1858, prior to which it was primarily studied as Costume Design. Sketching a sample design of one’s creation also began around the same time, as a means of saving money on actually sewing the dress and then showing it to the client. The sketch would be painted or hand-drawn on paper and shown to the client. If the client liked the design, they would then order the same and the couturier would get construct the final garment.

The cut-throat world of fashion has always been a lucrative career option for the young. So here’s your chance to get to know the discipline slightly better.

Also Read: Evolution of Fashion Industry in India

What is fashion design?

Let’s start with the basics. Fashion Design is essentially a stream of design meant purely to manufacture apparel and other accessories. Today, we can safely say that modern fashion is divided into three categories: Haute Couture, Ready-to-wear (prêt-à-porter) and Mass-market.

The basic difference between ready-to-wear and haute couture is that ready-to-wear is exactly just that: outfits and pieces of clothing that are ready to be worn by the customer, fresh off of the runway. Haute Couture consists of creating handcrafted, highly customized and personalized pieces of clothing for a particular rank of sartorial buyers, such as celebrities, movie stars, and other affluent personalities. While on the other hand, Ready-to-wear apparel are said to be somewhere between Haute Couture and Mass-market. Though they are not tailored to fit an individual customer, they are produced in small numbers to maintain exclusivity and are presented by the leading Fashion Houses during fashion weeks. Mass-market would be the clothes that are designed and produced for the masses, in large numbers.

In fact, owing to the startling figures of fashion being the second largest polluting industry after Petroleum, designers have started integrating sustainability as an integral aspect in the production process. Even the consumers are growing aware about where their clothes are sourced from, how they’re made, who makes them, and just how much of an impact their clothes will have on the environment. Sustainability in fashion is also seen as striving towards creating a system that can be supported for generations to come, is ethically sourced, and has a minimum to zero damage on the environment.

What exactly does a fashion designer do?

Fashion designing, like anything that falls under the spectrum of arts, is a field that not only has a rich, cultural heritage but also requires a solid combination of the designer’s vision along with the current global trends. So, to say that a fashion designer simply designs clothes would be a serious understatement!

Fashion designers work closely with fashion forecasters and the design & marketing team to get designs ready at least two seasons ahead. There is immense amount of teamwork that goes into taking a collection from the concept phase to the rack. With experience one also gets to explore aspects like market research, fashion trend analysis, production management, ideating, creating garment prototypes and much more.

If one gets down to make a list, fashion designers would ideally be involved in the following:

  • Coming up with innovative concepts for a particular clothing line
  • Creating detailed technical sketches
  • Creating mood, shape and trend boards
  • Coordinating with various manufacturers for fabric and other material requirements
  • Sourcing and assembling samples
  • Pattern making, sewing and pattern grading
  • Ensuring timely completion of samples
  • Conducting quality checks during the process and upon production

They are the brain behind the outfits, brands, and trends we all love to wear on a daily basis. This process, however, takes place over a period of several months.

There are various verticals that designers specialise in like apparel, accessory, costume designing, styling and costume designing. Fashion designers can work for either fast fashion brands that are more on the lines of mass-produced fashion or start their own fashion house or label. Starting off alone, although possible, takes a tremendous amount of perseverance coupled with veritable industry experience.

How do I become a fashion designer?

As mentioned earlier, having industry experience in a field that is constantly evolving is highly crucial for any aspiring designer. Understanding how the industry operates, it’s evolution, what has the potential to stay and what doesn’t, are all tricks of the trade that can be learned only through hands-on experience. Aside from experience, a designer should be skilled at producing sketches that do the job of communicating their vision perfectly. One may not be the greatest of artists, but having the ability to skillfully combine different colours, fabrics, shades, etc. in a fashionable manner is a talent any aspiring fashion designer must possess. Innate skills aside, fashion designing also requires an aspirant to have completed a formal education in the field. In today’s world, with the rapid demand for new, creative and innovative fashion perspectives, it’s important for a student to enroll in fashion designing courses that imbibe not just the traditional knowledge about the stream, but also the evolving global scenario of fashion as a whole. India has a host of good institutes that offer quality education in fashion designing. One such Institute being the Indian Institute of Art & Design in New Delhi, India.

Can I do more with my fashion designing degree?

A fashion designing degree can take you to more places than the runway. With your fashion designing degree, you can be any of the following things: a Fashion Journalist, Fashion Illustrator, Fashion Publicist, Fashion Stylist, Fashion Photographer and Fashion Curator. You can also consider becoming a Fashion Forecaster, Pattern Maker, Draper, Production Manager, Buyer or even a Fashion Merchandiser. They are professionals who ensure the garment has a smooth journey on its way to the rack.

We hope this quick and easy guide into the world of fashion design has given you a better perspective and provided you with an insightful approach towards this field. Now, it’s your turn to make the world a stylish place.

  • Dongha is a freelance writer, editor and content developer. Giving the needed information to people in all areas. Contact me if you need help.