I became a fashion designer but I don’t have a fashion degree and I never went to a fashion school.
Here is my story.
- What does a Fashion designer or a Fashion stylist do?
- Fashion designers vs Fashion Stylists: what are the differences?
- Fight the Imposter Syndrome
- Hard work and perseverance pay
- What matters is what you want
- Not going to a fashion school : the perks
- Builing our way up… together
What does a Fashion designer or a Fashion stylist do?
When you think about Fashion jobs, things like “The Devil wears Prada” or “Sex in the city” pop in, right ? Or you might be thinking about all the extravagant runways that happen during the Fashion weeks.
There is a bit of truth there. But let’s start from the beginning.
According to the Thesaurus, a fashion designer is someone who designs clothing. It can also be called a clothes designer or a couturier.
A simple definition while it encompasses many different types of jobs. As a matter of fact, you can be an in-house fashion designer employed by luxury or international clothing brands. Or you can also be a freelance stylist, working on various missions for different clients. Finally, you can also build your own brand.
What will differ is the type of clothes you would draw, the constraints you may have and the influence you will have on what will be released.
When you work for a well-established clothing brand, you need to follow the brand’s artistic guidelines. Whereas, when you create your own brand, you need to bring your own vision to the world.
It all depends what kind of paths and successes you want for yourself.
Fashion designers vs Fashion Stylists: what are the differences?
Most of the time, a fashion designer and a fashion stylist means the same thing. The difference is very vague but there is one depending on the context.
Strictly speaking, a fashion designer is someone whose job is to imagine, design and draw sketches of the clothes that will be produced. If that persons works for a brand or has his or own brand, you can imagine that his or speciality is creating clothes.
On the other hand, a fashion stylist can also be a person who assembles an outfit for a shooting or a celebrity. So, if the person works for a photographer, a magazine, a fashion department store, a star or an individual, you could think that his or her job is maintly to pick and match outfits.
Fight the Imposter Syndrome
I honestly had Imposter syndrome for a long time. Really.
I have never attended fashion school nor have I really worked in the fashion industry. All I did, related to fashion in my career, was 1 year at DIM, a pantyhose company, assisting the trade marketing department.
In addition to that, while people often compliments me on how I look, how they like how I’m dressed or how I did my make up, I felt that I’m far from the fashion icons you see on tv or social media. I grew up in Reunion island so my fashion knowledge was not very developped contrary to someone who was born in a big capital city. Cartier, Paul Smith, Zara, Benetton … I learned about these brands when I arrived in France.
My point is when you don’t have a fashion degree, it’s very easy to fall into imposter syndrome. Because the first thing that people ask when you say that you are in fashion is : “Oh, great. Did you go to a fashion school?”
But you know what? You CAN be a fashion designer or a fashion stylist EVEN IF you don’t have a fashion degree. It is not easy but I believe it is possible.
Hard work and perseverance pay
Or at least, that’s what I always believed.
After I launched my first collection, many people, that are in the industry, told me how well-made my clothes were. I partnered with skilled craftmen so I thought: “for sure, they made it.”
Hearing them say that didn’t ease my imposter syndrome.
However, one of my friend told me that her stylist acquaintance saw my clothes and told her that everything was on point, even the smallest details.
I’ve also worked with many fashion professionals who told me that if I didn’t say that I didn’t attend fashion classes, they wouldn’t have guessed.
As a matter of fact, ever since I started creating my brand, I’ve been educating myself. I litterally took every books on fashion design, fashion patterns, fashion history I could find in the library. I was always good at drawing so sketching was no big deal for me.
However, I had to learn (And I am still learning) about fabrics, patterns, and fashion techniques. I also confront myself every time I can to seasoned Fashion designers and people working in the industry. Working with people that are way better than you helps you bridge the gap a little faster.
Sewing is not my strongest skill. So, I took some classes and from time to time I follow a tutorial to sew my own clothes or accessories.
Finally, I learned a lot by testing, putting myself at risk and out of my comfort zone.
What matters is what you want
It’s okay if you didn’t go to fashion school. Schools are one way to go where you want. But that’s not the only one.
In fact, there are many successful designers who didn’t study fashion at all in school.
For example, Miucci Prada, founder of the luxury brand Prada, studied political science (and mime). The famous Christian Dior went to a school specialized in politics. Coco Chanel learned the sewing trade from the nuns who ran Aubazine Abbey in France.
One of the top Japanese designers, Yohji Yamamato, was set to be an attorney and started studying llaw in college.
Ralph Lauren attended Baruch College in Manhattan, where he studied Business for two years. And did you know that Rene Lacoste was also a self-taught stylist?
You definitely have to learn a lot of things if you didn’t go to a fashion school. There is no shortcuts. You need to educate yourself and develop your fashion skills. But you are your best investment and if you really want to succeed in fashion, don’t let anything stop you.
Not going to a fashion school : the perks
If you didn’t go to a fashion school, it means you did something else. And that’s a good thing.
Because to succeed in fashion, you need a lot of different skills. A successful fashion business is not only about putting out good designs for the world.
There are already many great clothes that exist (even in the fast fashion world). A lot of skillful stylists come up with very intricate and thoughtful designs everyday. Yet, not all of them get to be successful: why is that?
Succeeding in fashion also require you to master stock management, supply chain, logistics, finances, client services, marketing and communication. If you know some of these, then it’s an asset for your business.
If you used to be a vendor for instance, then you might have very good social and negotiating skills that can be useful for purchasing great fabrics for a low price or convincing a potential client to buy your product.
Moreover, if you worked in another field, then maybe you have in your network, connections that can help you manage all these other sides of the fashion business. Or maybe, you know how to make a team work together or you have some management experience. All these are assets that will help you in your new career path.
Builing our way up… together
Changing paths is difficult. There are many things to learn and hurdles to overcome.
However, I believe that when you keep trying and when you are really passionate about something, you will find away to make things happen.
There is a place for everybody who wants it very badly and have the heart in the right place. And, I believe that we can pull each other up.
As for me, I am no expert and I still have a long way before I get where I want.
But I know I will keep working and trying hard towards becoming a True Fashion Master. Will you join me in my journey ? Let us grow together.