People are eager for fashion designers, especially when you’re young, and talented. Stores and magazines discover new designers first, and sometimes even sponsor your line. This may be the most rewarding career you may ever have, yet it’s the most challenging. When people see fashion they see the fashion show on the television, and the glamorized magazine covers. They see designers working with celebrities on a huge yacht, and on the red carpet soon after. What they don’t see is the blood, sweat and tears that is put into creating a line, from the sketch, to the pattern draft to actually sewing your garments together. If you want to be a fashion designer to just be famous, forget about it, if you don’t have passion, perseverance, discipline and a great work ethic, you’re not going to get very far.
Starting out as a fashion designer is expensive. You see yourself handing out more money than you are receiving. Fabric, production, paper, thread, advertising, websites, employees all cost money, and in the beginning it’s all the money you worked hard for. You must determine if you can afford to start your own business and whether you are willing and able to work potentially for several years, struggling to pay for the simple things in life. You need to live, eat; breathe your business, any business not just a fashion related business.
Realize that its 90% business and 10% designing. You will have to manage people, service customers, mail look books, sourcing, chasing money, spending time in factories, and much more. Most beginner designers do everything by themselves, so don’t be alarmed when you realize you’re alone. When you work for yourself you need to realize no one is going to tug you out of bed every morning, meet your deadlines, or prioritize your time for you. You must create your own structure and set daily goals. You need to be tough and assertive; you cannot be timid or take it personally. You must remain hard, while keeping your designs emotional and sensitive.
You are on your own. Being independent means facing the daily stress of not having a steady income, benefits, or any guarantees. Despite how nice it sounds not to have a boss, working alone can be lonely. Independent designers spend hours by themselves and often feel isolated. Business can be shady, people will steal, copy, and not pay you. It’s part of the business. You will have to fight for yourself at times, but other times you need to make the best out of it.
The best advice is to work for someone else first, make mistakes under their guidance. Designers must work for other designers for a few years to learn the industry before heading out on their own. Donna Karan worked for Ann Klein; Marc Jacobs worked for Perry Ellis; Karl Lagerfeld worked at Balmain House of Patou.
Although you are anxious to get out on your own, if you fail, you’ll end up working for someone else anyway. Do it now and increase your chance of success.