Fashion Designer

What does a fashion designer do?

Fashion designers create clothes, accessories and shoes for consumers. There are three main sectors: haute couture designers work on expensive one-off creations, working directly with the client; ready-to-wear (or prêt-a-porter) designers work on garments, bearing the designer’s name, that are sold in small numbers but often at a high price; and, lastly, high street store designers work in a team to develop cheaper ranges for the mass market.

The responsibilities of a fashion designer may include:

  • working to design instructions
  • analysing or predicting trends in fabrics, colours and shapes; producing concept and mood boards
  • making sketches by hand or on the computer
  • developing basic shapes through patterns
  • estimating costs for materials and manufacture
  • sourcing suppliers; supervising the making up of sample clothing items
  • making in-house presentations.

Fashion designers often work closely with garment technologists and sample machinists. They also liaise with manufacturers (often based overseas) to make sure that designs are reproduced accurately.

Interview with a fashion designer

Sylvester Falata | FASHION DESIGNER | Falata Couture

Why fashion?
I was going to study law, but two weeks before varsity started a friend invited me to accompany them to design college. I fell in love with the place and changed my mind about studying law. My parents were not pleased, but later became supportive of my choices. Fashion design was a passion I didn’t know I had.

What formal training did you undergo?
I studied fashion technology at the North West School of Design for two years, but with two or three months left to go before I finished, I got a job with Anna Getaneh of African Mosaique. She mentored me and I worked on some of her collections. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, but I did go back later to finish my studies.

What makes a designer?
You definitely need energy, as you work long hours – but you need to look like you’ve had a good eight hours of sleep!

Experience versus formal training? I
would say experience is more important than formal training. I know a lot of people who have studied fashion but have no experience, which limits them as to what they can do. That’s why I seized the opportunity to gain experience before I’d even finished studying at college.

Describe a typical day on the beat
Between 5am and 7am, I plan my day, then usually have meetings, consultations and fittings with clients from about 8am. For the rest of the day there may be a photo shoot or a briefing session with the guys who work with me. It’s work, work, work all the way. After 8pm, I start slowing down.

What do you love the most about your job?
Working with different types of people and meeting amazing characters every day.

Which aspects are you the least keen on?
Working with unreliable people… and that’s sugarcoating it!

Share a couple of career highlights
When I dressed Lira at the South African Music Awards last year (yes, THAT green dress!), it really launched my career; debuting at SA Fashion Week, when I showcased a menswear collection that drew a great response. It was a dream of mine that I thought would take 20 or 30 years to fulfil. It was quite an emotional experience and eye-opener for someone who hails from a small town (Mmabatho), believe me.

What are your goals for the future?
In the short term, I’m working on opening my own store. In the long term, I’m looking at building my brand and presenting my stuff globally – hopefully at New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.

Any advice for someone starting out?
Be committed. It’s not a smooth ride and there are a lot of responsibilities – but slaving at it does eventually pay off.

Your job in three words
Exciting • Challenging • Stimulating

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

Formal education isn’t required to enter this field, but most fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree or diploma in fashion design or a related field. A course that teaches both design and technical skills will give the practical knowledge needed to work in this highly competitive industry. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite to the courses offered at universities and technikons. An internship is a valuable addition to having a qualification, as is gaining experience by working as an assistant to a fashion designer.

WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Visual Arts
• History
• Business Economics
• Home Economics

WHERE CAN I STUDY?

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Bachelor of Technology: Fashion
www.cput.ac.za

Damelin Education Group
Diploma: Fashion Design and Marketing
www.damelin.co.za

Durban University of Technology
Bachelor of Technology: Fashion
www.dut.ac.za

False Bay FET College
Certificate: Clothing Production
www.falsebaycollege.co.za

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Technology: Fashion Design
www.nmmu.ac.za

Tshwane North FET College
Certificate: Clothing Production
www.tnc4fet.co.za

Tshwane University of Technology
Bachelor of Technology: Fashion
www.tut.ac.za

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Technology: Fashion Design
www.uj.ac.za

Spero Villioti Elite Design Academy
Diploma: Fashion Design
www.sperovillioti.co.za

Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design
Diploma: Fashion Design
www.elizabethgalloway.co.za

Cape Town College of Fashion Design
Diploma: Fashion Design
www.ctfashioncollege.co.za

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

Textile Federation – www.texfed.co.za
South African Fashion Designer’s Association – www.whoswho.co.za

Sources:
www.careerplanning.about.com
www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
www.creativepool.com