What Can You Do With a Fashion Degree?
If you’ve got a fashion crush on Vivienne Westwood, a penchant for Alexander Wang handbags, or you just enjoy the feel of chiffon against your skin, you’re probably following fashion week as it arrives in Milan, New York, London and Paris with a mixture of awe and jealousy.
If that’s the case, you might also be considering undertaking a fashion degree. From photography to PR and design to merchandising, whichever area of the fashion industry you choose to specialize in, a fashion degree could be the key to a huge array of exciting career options.
Beware however; the fashion industry is notoriously fast-paced and competitive, so make sure to take advantage of all the opportunities you can during your degree, including fashion internships, retail experience and networking opportunities, to boost your graduate employability.
Read on for a selection of fashion careers you can pursue after graduating from a fashion degree, with further advice on how to boost your CV for fashion jobs.
Careers in fashion
Many of those who study fashion dream of pursuing a career in fashion design. As a fashion designer, your job is to design and produce your own garments and products. This is an area largely reserved for fashion design graduates of reputed fashion schools and universities.
When you start out as a fashion designer, it’s likely you will be working in an assistant capacity. As you develop your skills, you will gain more responsibility, including the opportunity to produce your own ideas and creations. Alternatively, if you have an entrepreneurial side and leadership skills, there’s also the option of starting your own fashion design business. This should not be taken on lightly, and many graduates choose to work within an established company to gain valuable hands-on experience, before flying solo. A postgraduate degree with a focus on the business side of the fashion industry could also help, such as the MA in Fashion Design Management offered at the UK’s London College of Fashion.
Careers in fashion design are diverse. You could be working within a team creating a high street/designer fashion line; as a pattern designer within a textiles company; or as a designer/assistant within a large or small fashion house. Careers in fashion design are likely to be most satisfying for graduates who are highly creative, love to draw and make things, and are inspired by fashion.
How to boost your graduate employability: Fashion internships (with a focus on design); a portfolio of work (often degree projects can be used); experience in other aspects of the fashion industry (e.g. retail, marketing, production, etc.); fashion industry contacts (start networking during your degree).
Fashion merchandising and fashion buying
Fashion merchandising and fashion buying are careers dependent on being aware of upcoming fashion trends before they hit the high street. While this may sound as simple as flicking through a copy of Vogue’s September issue, there’s plenty more to these roles!
If you pursue a fashion buying career, your job will be to source and purchase on-trend products that will appeal to your company’s clients and consumers. Fashion merchandising, on the other hand, is slightly more business-orientated, with your main tasks being to calculate how much a customer will spend and to ensure all the right products are found in the right stores at the right time.
Fashion buying and fashion merchandising are key job roles within the retail industry, with hiring organizations including department stores, retail chain stores, online retailers and smaller independent shops and boutiques. So, if you’re keen to forecast the latest trends and have an eye for what will sell, careers in fashion merchandising or fashion buying may well be for you.
How to boost your graduate employability: A fashion blog; sound knowledge of current high street/designer markets and trends; retail experience; numeracy skills; fashion internships (in buying, merchandising, design or marketing).
Fashion marketing and PR
Fashion trends come and go quicker than you can say ‘double denim’, meaning fashion marketing and public relations (PR) departments are constantly challenged to spread the word about the latest styles and style-setters. Taught as a separate specialization at many fashion schools and universities, fashion marketing involves creating advertising campaigns and strategies in order to sell your company’s products to a clients (including shops) and individual consumers.
You will be heavily involved in analyzing new trends and even determining whether a product is marketable. Fashion marketing and public relations officers should have strong communication skills, an eye for detail, solid knowledge of consumer habits and a sixth sense for upcoming trends.
How to boost your graduate employability: Retail experience; copywriting skills; consumer knowledge; great communication skills; experience working within a team; fashion internships (in marketing or design).
Fashion production and management
Fashion production is often thought of as the “front line” of the fashion industry, and much attention and expertise is needed to ensure quality and consistency in the overall product. After gaining experience in the area, management career possibilities will open up to you, allowing you to work your way up the production ladder until you have your own team. Alternatively, you could gain a postgraduate degree in management, specializing in a relevant area.
In recent years the innovational side of fashion production has grown considerably, with growing emphasis on sustainability and zero-wastage, making it one of the more challenging and rewarding fashion jobs due to its wide reach and relevance. Fashion-conscious eco-warriors with strong leadership skills are prime candidates for fashion jobs in production.
How to boost your graduate employability: Interest intextiles and production processes; leadership skills; experience in production/manufacturing; fashion internships (in production or design).
Fashion journalism and publishing
Fashion journalism is an incredibly popular career area for those who study fashion, spurred on by the boom in fashion blogging from the early days of the internet through to the current day. Whether you wish to be a blogger, news reporter or a magazine journalist, there are many routes to success.
Fashion journalists come in many shapes and settings; writing for trade publications, PR companies, e-commerce sites, news sites, fashion magazines and other print and online media. If this sounds of interest to you, your fashion degree must also be paired with strong writing skills and a solid portfolio of fashion writing. If you lack the writing experience but still wish to pursue fashion careers in publishing and journalism, you may consider undertaking a graduate degree in journalism, where you can often also specialize in fashion journalism, magazine journalism or celebrity journalism.
Linked to the field of fashion marketing, the advertising industry can also provide a range of careers for fashion graduates. Whether you’re advertising high street fashion, luxury fashion or related products, graduates can use the skills acquired during their fashion degree to better ‘sell’ the latest fashions to clients and consumers.
Fashion careers in advertising can be within print, film or digital media and can include roles in fashion copywriting, editorial, styling (for photo shoots etc.), multimedia marketing and managing public relations.
How to boost your graduate employability: Experience working within a team; copywriting skills; advertising/marketing internships.
A growing career sector escalated by the digital revolution, fashion technology is the perfect area of fashion for anyone interested in the wide range of transformative technologies involved – from virtual design-testing interfaces and algorithms that predict patterns in consumer choice, to new materials development and breakthroughs in the way clothes respond to our bodies and environment.
As a fast-growing area, fashion technology promises much scope for career development, with exciting and unlimited prospects. In response to existing and projected demand, an increasing number of fashion schools and universities now offer dedicated degrees in fashion technology, including the UK’s Heriot-Watt University, which offers a BSc in Fashion Technology.
So, if you’re interested in textile technology, innovative software design, new production technologies (such as laser cutting and 3D printing etc.) or even making wearable technology fashionable, careers in fashion technology could be for you.
How to boost your graduate employability: Technical proficiency; fashion internships (in production or design); demonstrable interest in new technologies.
Other common careers in fashion include: visual merchandising (clothing and beyond), retail management, event organization, sales, tailoring, pattern making, costume design, wardrobe management, personal shopping, fashion styling, photography, modelling and jewelry design.
For informal advice on how to pursue fashion jobs, careers and internships, see this guest blog post by Judy Hofeyr.
‘What Can You Do With a Fashion Degree?’ is part of our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series. We have also covered art, biology, business, communications, computer science, English, engineering, history, geography, law, marketing, mathematics, performing arts, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, chemistry, economics and physics.
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This article was originally published in February 2015 . It was last updated in September 2021