Design Your Fashion Career

Design Career Challenge

Take The Fashion Design Career Challenge!

I want to challenge you to think about your fashion career in a different way. Starting today you will no longer be an employee. I want you to think of your current position as an internship or an apprenticeship. Why? Because as an intern or apprentice you are there for the sole purpose of learning new skills. You are a sponge. And you will stretch outside of your job description to try new things.

Now if you are just starting out in your career this concept is probably easy to grasp. However, for those of us who are much further along in our careers, or maybe have already reached “expert” status in our given fields, this may feel awkward or a step back. It’s not. I promise. This new way of thinking just might make you even more successful and break your out of your shell.

How I Came Up With This Concept

Years ago I read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. In this book the main character is starting his career and he asks his mentor for advice.The mentor explains that each job one takes is an opportunity to learn a new set of skills that will eventually help you to achieve your ultimate goal. In this case the main character wanted to be a business owner. So, he encourages the main character to take different jobs, such as sales, to help him learn all the different skills that he would later use as a business owner.

I was thinking about this concept the other day, and if it could be applied to a career in the fashion industry. Many of us go through our careers in the typical miles stones of assistant designer to associate designer to designer to director, and so on. But what makes you a great Director?

In my experience some of my best bosses were not great design directors because they were such amazing designers themselves. They each had a certain characteristic that made them perfect for that position at that time. One director was absolutely amazing at leadership. He really knew how to build a team that wanted to work for him. And as the team grew he was able to give new opportunities for each team member to continue their growth. Another previous boss drove us all crazy with his constant changes and tweaks to the line, but at the end of the day when you walked into that showroom your breath was taken away. It was the most incredible visual display, and that is what sold the line to the buyers.

Take The Fashion Career Challenge

My challenge to you today is to really think about what your goals are for the future and what skills you need in order to get there. Make a list. Write down everything you think would make you better at your current job as well as what you think you will need to know in order get your next promotion or reach your future dream. Write down everything from task skills to more creative things such as presentation skills. Don’t limit yourself when making this list. It is just a brain dump. Below is a list of skills I thought of that might apply to you.

Design skill listBuild Your List Of Skills

Now that you have your list I want you to pick just one item that you are going to work on this month. Just one. How are you going to learn or improve on this skill?

Some skills can be learned by taking a class. If you need to learn a new program that is used in your industry then I challenge you to research that today and sign up. There are also a ton of online tutorials now. I highly recommend lynda.com. They have millions of tutorials for just about every possible thing you would ever want to learn about. It is great for creatives.

What if the skill that you want to learn or improve on is not part of your job requirement? For example, if you are on the design team but you want to learn more about say how the marketing team comes up with their strategies, then I would encourage you to make friends with someone in that other group. Or connect with someone on LinkedIn who works in that field. Take them out for coffee and ask them questions. People love to be helpful and to explain what they do. And you may find some surprising ways that your teams can better work together.

What Is Your Goal?

Now if your goal is perhaps to own your own line of clothing, jewelry, or accessories one day, then yes. It might be a very good idea for you to consider taking a job in sales or merchandising, or even planning. There are a lot of factors that go into running your own business that have nothing at all to do with design. So, consider getting out of your comfort zone and taking on a new position for the sole purpose of learning that skill for your future business. Remember. You don’t have to do that job forever. It’s just temporary.

My Experience As A Mentor

For the past couple of years I have been a mentor through the YMA. The other day I was talking to my mentee (she got her first job as an assistant designer/ sales coordinator 9 months ago), and I found myself offering her the same kind of advise. I said, “You are not stuck. You just need to decide what you want to become.” I challenged her to think about what skills she needed to learn in order to move on to her next job or the next company. In her case, she wants to have her own line of activewear for cycling one day. She does not like the sales side of her current job, but I explained that having your own line of clothing means selling it to the stores and buyers. You need to learn that skill too.

My first job in the industry was as a graphic designer. I worked for a very small company, and I designed all the hangtags, logos, catalog, and website. Because it was a small company I also was sort of an assistant to the designer. I made all the tech packs and sketches and I helped approve lab dips and things like that. Now, if it wasn’t for that small amount of design experience I would have never been able to get my next job as an assistant designer at Perry Ellis. Fast forward ten years later. I am a senior designer for a huge corporate company and the President says he is tired of our packaging and trims. Ding, ding, ding! Designing new creative trims? Now that is a skill I know well!

I hope this is a challenge that you will take on. I would love to hear what skill you are going to learn and improve on. Please reach out to me and tell me all about it.

If you are interested in learning more about taking your fashion design career to the next level I highly recommend the following reads: