Fashion designers attempt to design clothes which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They must consider who is likely to wear a garment and the situations in which it will be worn. They have a wide range and combinations of materials to work with and a wide range of colors, patterns and styles to choose from. Though most clothing worn for everyday wear falls within a narrow range of conventional styles, unusual garments are usually sought for special occasions, such as evening wear or party dresses.
Some clothes are made specifically for an individual, as in the case of haute couture or bespoke tailoring. Today, most clothing is designed for the mass market, especially casual and every-day wear.
StructureFashion designers can work in a number of many ways. Fashion designers may work full-time for one fashion as 'in-house designers' which owns the designs. They may work alone or as part of a team. Freelance designers work for themselves, selling their designs to fashion houses, directly to shops, or to clothing manufacturers. The garments bear the buyer's label. Some fashion designers set up their own labels, under which their designs are marketed. Some fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market. Large designer brands which have a 'name' as their brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Justice, or Juicy are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a designer director.
Designing a garmentFashion designers work in different ways. Some sketch their ideas on paper, while others drape fabric on a dress form. When a designer is completely satisfied with the fit of the toile (or muslin), he or she will consult a professional pattern maker who then makes the finished, working version of the pattern out of card or via a computerized system. The pattern maker's job is very precise and painstaking. The fit of the finished garment depends on their accuracy. Finally, a sample garment is made up and tested on a model to make sure it is an operational outfit. Myriam Chalek, owner and founder of Creative Business House explains that most of the time fashion designers only have a fashion concept; the technicality and construction is not thought through during the visual conception and sketching process. Hence, the fashion designer needs to meet with a pattern maker and sample maker to figure out if the sketch on paper can be brought to life according its vision.
HistoryCharles Frederick Worth who was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created. Before the former draper set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Worth's success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 could be considered as fashion design.
It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images were shown to clients, which was much cheaper than producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked their design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.
Types of fashionThe garments produced by clothing manufacturers fall into three main categories, although these may be split up into additional, more specific categories:
Haute coutureUntil the 1950s, fashion clothing was predominately designed and manufactured on a made-to-measure or haute couture basis (French for high-sewing), with each garment being created for a specific client. A couture garment is made to order for an individual customer, and is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Look and fit take priority over the cost of materials and the time it takes to make.
Ready-to-wear (pret-a-porter)Ready-to-wear clothes are a cross between haute couture and mass market. They are not made for individual customers, but great care is taken in the choice and cut of the fabric. Clothes are made in small quantities to guarantee exclusivity, so they are rather expensive. Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashion houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week. This takes place on a city-wide basis and occurs twice a year. The main seasons of Fashion Week include, spring/summer, fall/winter, resort, swim and bridal.
Mass marketCurrently the fashion industry relies more on mass market sales. The mass market caters for a wide range of customers, producing ready-to-wear garments using trends set by the famous names in fashion. They often wait around a season to make sure a style is going to catch on before producing their own versions of the original look. In order to save money and time, they use cheaper fabrics and simpler production techniques which can easily be done by machine. The end product can therefore be sold much more cheaply.
There is a type of design called "kutch" design originated from the German word "kitschig" meaning "ugly" or "not aesthetically pleasing." Kitsch can also refer to "wearing or displaying something that is therefore no longer in fashion." Often, high-waisted trousers, associated with the 1980s, are considered a "kitsch" fashion statement.
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
Fashion educationJean-Paul Gaultier, began as assistants to other, already established fashion designers.
There are a number of well known specialized art schools and design schools worldwide that offer degrees in fashion design and fashion design technology. Some colleges also offer Masters of Fashion courses. Though it is not a requirement to have a Masters level degree, it is recommended by those already working in the industry to study at this level.
The most notable design schools in the world include:
- IFA Paris
- the Fashion Federation PARIS
- Parsons Paris
- UNArte in Bucharest, Romania.
- New Bulgarian University
- Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California
- Academy of Couture Art in Los Angeles, California
- Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, Illinois
- Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, New York
- Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, California
- O'More College of Design in Franklin, Tennessee
- Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, California
- Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, New York
- Philadelphia University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Pratt Institute in New York City, New York
- Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois
- Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia
- Woodbury University in Burbank, California
- Bahir Dar University, Technology for Textile, Garment and Fashion Design(IoTEX)
There are many universities that offer fashion design throughout the United States, usually within the context of a general liberal arts degree. The major concentration incorporating fashion design may have alternative names like Apparel and Textiles or Apparel and Textile Design, and may be housed in departments such as Art and Art History, or Family and Consumer Studies. Some schools, such as Parsons, offer a major in Fashion Management, combining fashion education with business courses.
The only Ivy League University having a Fashion Design undergraduate program is Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a program offered by the department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Cornell also offers a PhD program in apparel design.
An updated list of fashion design masters and PhD programs can be found at ITAA.org. The programs are intended to address the needs of academia, industry, and research by considering apparel design as an applied science that embraces design, technology, physical sciences, the humanities, and social sciences in order to meet the human needs for clothing.
Areas of Fashion Design
|Women's Day wear||Practical, comfortable, fashionable||Haute couture, ready-to wear, mass market|
|Women's Evening wear||Glamorous, sophisticated, suited for the occasion||Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Women's Lingerie||Glamorous, comfortable, washable||Haute Couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Men's Day wear||Casual, practical, comfortable||Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Men's Evening wear||Smart, elegant, formal, apt for the occasion||Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Kids' wear||Trendy or Classy, practical, washable, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Girls' Wear||Pretty, colorful, practical, washable, inexpensive||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Teenager Girl Wear||Colorful, comfortable, glamorous, pretty||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Jeanswear||Unisex, democratic, comfortable, practical, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Sportswear||Comfortable, practical, well-ventilated, washable, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Knitwear||Right weight and color for the season||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Outerwear||Stylish, warm, right weight and color for the season||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Bridal wear||Sumptuous, glamorous, classic||Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Accessories||Striking, fashionable||Haute couture, ready to-wear, mass market|
Star systemDesigners work within a hierarchical system.
"The designers are most stratified in the French system of fashion [...] Fashion ensures the functioning of a system of dominant and subordinate positions within a social order. Fashion is ideological in that it is also part of the process in which particular social groups, in this case elite designers, establish, sustain and reproduce positions of power and relations of dominance and subordination. The positions of dominance and subordination appear natural and legitimate, not only to those in positions of dominance, but also to those in subordinate positions. Fashion and the medium of fashion, that is clothing, offer means to make inequalities of socioeconomic status appear legitimate, and, therefore, acceptable."
A "mythical conception of a designer as a 'creative genius' disconnected from social conditions" is central for the working of the fashion system and for the reproduction of fashion as ideology. Creativity is socially constructed and not an innate given, i.e. many may be gifted but no one can become a famous designer without being legitimized by the fashion system and its gatekeepers.
The star system is as essential for the fashion industry as for any Culture industry. "Genre and the star system are attempts to produce something analogous to brand names in cultural industries. [...] Stars are indispensable because it is part of the ideology of creativity that creative works must have an identifiable author."
World fashion industryFashion today is a global industry, and most major countries have a fashion industry. Some countries are major manufacturing centers, notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Bangladesh, South Korea, Spain, Germany, Brazil and India. Five countries have established an international reputation in fashion: France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan. Lately, there have been great designers coming from Turkey and Spain as well. Pakistan, India and Romania are also known for having very talented fashion designers.
American fashion designThe majority of American fashion houses are based in New York, although there are also a significant number in Los Angeles, where a substantial percentage of high fashion clothing manufactured in the US is actually made. There are also burgeoning industries in Miami, Chicago, Dallas, and especially San Francisco. American fashion design is dominated by a clean-cut, urban, casual style; reflecting the athletic, health-conscious lifestyles of American city-dwellers. A designer who helped to set the trend in the United States for sport-influenced day wear throughout the 1940s and 50's was Claire McCardell. Many of her designs have been revived in recent decades.
British fashion designLondon has long been the capital of the UK fashion industry and has a wide range of foreign designs which have integrated with modern British styles. Typical British design is smart but innovative yet recently has become more and more unconventional, fusing traditional styles with modern techniques. Vintage styles play an important role in the British fashion and styling industry. Stylists regularly 'mix and match' the old with the new, which gives British style that unique, bohemian aesthetic that many of the other fashion capitals try to imitate. Irish fashion (both design and styling) is also heavily influenced by fashion trends from Britain. Famous British brands and designers include Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood.
French fashion designMost French fashion houses are in Paris, which is the capital of French fashion. Traditionally, French fashion is chic and stylish, defined by its sophistication, cut, and smart accessories. Although the Global Language Monitor placed it 3rd in the Media, after Milan and New York, French fashion is internationally acclaimed.
Italian fashion designMilan is Italy's capital of fashion. Most of the older Italian couturiers are in Rome. However, Milan and Florence are the Italian fashion capitals, and it is the exhibition venue for their collections. Italian fashion features casual elegance and luxurious fabrics.
Swiss fashion designMost of the Swiss fashion houses are in Zürich. The Swiss look is casual elegant and luxurious with a slight touch of quirkiness. Additionally, it has been greatly influenced by the dance club scene.
Japanese fashion designMost Japanese fashion houses are in Tokyo. The Japanese look is loose and unstructured (often resulting from complicated cutting), colours tend to the sombre and subtle, and richly textured fabrics. Famous Japanese designers are Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo, Issey Miyake (masterful drape and cut), and Comme des Garçons's Rei Kawakubo, who developed a new way of cutting (comparable to Madeleine Vionnet's innovation in the 1930s).
Soviet fashion designFashion in the Soviet Union largely followed general trends of the Western world. However, the state’s socialist ideology consistently moderated and influenced these trends. In addition, shortages of consumer goods meant that the general public did not have ready access to pre-made fashion.
The New Economic Policy (1920s)The New Economic Policy’s authorization of private business allowed Western fashion to enter the Soviet Union. However, Bolshevik ideology opposed Western fashion consumption as an intrinsically capitalist practice. Western fashion emphasized both economic status and gender differences under a system that sought to deemphasize both.
In the early 1920s, Party-sanctioned magazines like Rabotnitsa (“The Working Woman”) and Krest’yanka (“The Peasant Woman”) offered limited yet confused discourse on fashion. Covers displayed women in plain work clothes, yet the magazines often contained advertisements for private companies selling stylish attire. By 1927, however, the magazines’ message was consistent: women should be judged on their capability for work, not their appearance. Fashion, as a beauty aid, was therefore bourgeois and detrimental to socialist society.
In its place, the state commissioned projects to engineer a new Soviet type of dress, which drew on traditional clothing, constructivist forms, and technological facility. Constructivists like Varvara Stepanova and Aleksandr Rodchenko agreed that fashion driven by the market was inherently harmful. They employed the simple geometry of cubism to design clothing that was functional, easily mass-produced, and sometimes unisex. Due to lack of adequate material and machinery, however, this prozodezhda, or “production clothing”, did not appeal to the proletariat audience for which it was intended. Designs were only available to the most privileged members of the intelligentsia, who ultimately preferred Western fashion to the highly experimental prozodezhda.
Stalin Era (1930s-1950s)During the Stalin era, anti-fashion sentiments dissipated. Party-sanctioned magazines now promoted fashion and beauty as necessary parts of a Soviet woman’s life. Rabotnitsa included fashion advice in almost every issue and regularly reported on new fashion houses opening across the Soviet Union. Krest’yanka even organized traveling shows to bring fashion to the countryside. The promoted aesthetics were highly varied, ranging from urban polish to ornate decoration.
This new interest in fashion was connected to Joseph Stalin’s assertion that “life has become better and more cheerful”. Persistent images of plain women and quaint peasants were thought to propagate the capitalist view that socialism engenders poverty. Fashionable and beautiful clothes were a signal of culture and quality of life equal (or superior) to that under capitalism. Stakhanovites, as foremost examples of successful workers, were expected to adhere to particularly high standards of appearance. They were often photographed wearing fine clothing even as they went to the factory.
In reality, the touted fashions were beyond most citizens’ means. Soviet industry was unable to produce fashionable clothing in significant quantity, and what did exist was not available for general sale. During World War II, the Soviet fashion industry went on hiatus. If the average Soviet citizen desired a particularly stylish item of clothing, they were usually forced to commission a private tailor. Day-to-day fashion was often self-produced, and magazines consistently advised women to take a do-it-yourself approach to their appearance.
Khrushchev Era (1950s-1960s)The Khrushchev Thaw brought a greater representation of Western fashion to domestic media. Journalists were sent abroad to report on the latest international fashion trends. However, state-owned fashion institutions and magazines moderated these trends for Soviet audiences. Fashion “crazes” were rejected in favor of classic, long-running styles. In addition, moderation and modesty were stressed. Coco Chanel’s signature style, for example, was particularly admired as a symbol of timelessness and simple sophistication. An article in the New York Times from 1959 slammed Soviet fashions as unremarkable, “clumsy copies” of outdated Western forms. Availability of these styles, however, was on the rise. Shops like the newly reopened GUM department store now carried the new fashions, albeit at high prices.
The state’s new approach towards fashion was carefully calculated. The promotion of exorbitant fashion that occurred in the Stalin era, and the contrast to actual availability, had led to public resentment. In the Khrushchev era, the state-owned clothing industry was still unable to produce mass amounts of fashionable clothing. However, simplified fashions, rejection of excess, and high prices gave the industry a measure of control over consumer demand. By the early 1960s, the middle class’s standards of appearance had risen such that Moscow street fashion was nearly indistinguishable from that in a Western city.
At the same time, counterculture fashion movements grew among elite youths. The stilyagi, or “style hunters”, originally based their look on media portrayals of Western (especially American) fashions. Men wore items such as Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, narrow slacks, and pointed shoes, while female stilyagi wore miniskirts and maintained a childlike demeanor. These styles were labeled as “excessive”, and Komsomol groups would sometimes raid stilyagi hideouts and cut off their hair and pant legs.
Brezhnev Era (1970s-1980s)By the end of the 1960s, Soviet fashion institutions, like the centralized fashion bureau ODMO (All-Union House of Prototypes), were embracing increasingly novel Western trends. At the same time, there was still a need to establish distinctively Soviet fashions. “Space fashion,” for example, fit directly into state ideology by glorifying a triumph of Soviet science.
Reality, however, differed from ODMO’s designs. Soviet industry could not keep up with the demand for fashionable goods, and supply in USSR shops was worse than in other socialist countries. The public was also dissatisfied with the available items. For example, Soviet women so disliked promoted designs involving Russian ethnic prints that the style ultimately became more popular in the West than in the Soviet Union itself.
The middle class increasingly fetishized Western fashion, as it was visible but not easily obtainable. American-made blue jeans were an especially desirable item. Secondhand stores were one source of Western fashion, as visitors from the West could import goods and sell them for high profits. The retail chain Beriozka also sold some Western clothing, but only to the privileged few who could pay in hard currency or foreign exchange certificates. Foreign exchange certificates and Western clothing were also available on the black market.
Gorbachev Era (1980s)Under perestroika, varied fashion became acceptable. In 1987, Gorbachev allowed a Russian edition of Burda Fashion magazine to be produced and distributed. The next year, Zhurnal Mod began a new run as the first “proper” fashion magazine in the Soviet Union. In content, it was virtually indistinguishable from a Western fashion magazine, although ODMO provided all the styles.
When the nineteenth party conference met in the summer of 1989, they passed a resolution to increase the production of consumer goods. Fashionable clothes were mentioned specifically in the proceedings. Despite advocates for fashion at the highest level of bureaucracy, real changes in production failed to take place. The Ministry of Light Industries set quotas for the creation of new products, but textile factories recycled older patterns and products instead.
Meanwhile, relaxation of censorship under glasnost made the middle class even more aware of their Western counterparts. They felt that they deserved fashionable clothing as a status symbol, but still could not easily obtain it.
Fashion design terms
- A fashion designer conceives garment combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture. While sewing and pattern-making skills are beneficial, they are not a pre-requisite of successful fashion design. Most fashion designers are formally trained or apprenticed.
- A technical designer works with the design team and the factories overseas to ensure correct garment construction, appropriate fabric choices and a good fit. The technical designer fits the garment samples on a fit model, and decides which fit and construction changes to make before mass-producing the garment.
- A pattern maker (or pattern cutter) drafts the shapes and sizes of a garment's pieces. This may be done manually with paper and measuring tools or by using a CAD computer software program. Another method is to drape fabric directly onto a dress form. The resulting pattern pieces can be constructed to produce the intended design of the garment and required size. Formal training is usually required for working as a pattern marker.
- A tailor makes custom designed garments made to the client's measure; especially suits (coat and trousers, jacket and skirt, et cetera). Tailors usually undergo an apprenticeship or other formal training.
- A textile designer designs fabric weaves and prints for clothes and furnishings. Most textile designers are formally trained as apprentices and in school.
- A stylist co-ordinates the clothes, jewelry, and accessories used in fashion photography and catwalk presentations. A stylist may also work with an individual client to design a coordinated wardrobe of garments. Many stylists are trained in fashion design, the history of fashion and historical costume, and have a high level of expertise in the current fashion market and future market trends. However, some simply have a strong aesthetic sense for pulling great looks together.
- A fashion buyer selects and buys the mix of clothing available in retail shops, department stores and chain stores. Most fashion buyers are trained in business and/or fashion studies.
- A seamstress sews ready-to-wear or mass-produced clothing by hand or with a sewing machine, either in a garment shop or as a sewing machine operator in a factory. She (or he) may not have the skills to make (design and cut) the garments, or to fit them on a model.
- A teacher of fashion design teaches the art and craft of fashion design in art or fashion school.
- A custom clothier makes custom-made garments to order, for a given customer.
- A dressmaker specializes in custom-made women's clothes: day, cocktail, and evening dresses, business clothes and suits, trousseaus, sports clothes, and lingerie.
- An illustrator draws and paints clothing designs for commercial use.
- A fashion forecaster predicts what colours, styles and shapes will be popular ("on-trend") before the garments are on sale in stores.
- A model wears and displays clothes at fashion shows and in photographs.
- A fit model aids the fashion designer by wearing and commenting on the fit of clothes during their design and pre-manufacture. Fit models need to be a particular size for this purpose.
- A fashion journalist writes fashion articles describing the garments presented or fashion trends, for magazines or newspapers.
- An alterations specialist (alterationist) adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, and sometimes re-styles them. NOTE: despite tailors altering garments to fit the client, not all alterationists are tailors.
- An Image Consultant, wardrobe consultant or fashion advisor recommends styles and colors that are flattering to the client.