How to become a fashion designer: Part II

Before you venture into the fashion biz, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with industry terms and fashion seasons.

Here are some fashion terms you may find useful in planning your fashion career:|

Haute Couture: This fashion term is French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" and refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions. While the term is very loosely used, it’s actually a "protected name" in France, so it can only be officially used by designers that meet certain well-defined standards.

Lookbook: A lookbook is used by designers and retailers to show the range of a collection. You can use these to send to buyers, editors, journalists or on your website for the viewing public.

Off-the-rack: This refers to apparel made in standard sizes and available from in-stock merchandise. Also referred to as “ready-made” and “ready-to-wear”.

Fashion Seasons

Just as the weather changes, so do fashion seasons. We’ve all walked into a store in early March and seen summer tops and wondered what they hey? The reason is that the fashion seasons change before the grass turns green or the first snow falls. Knowing the fashion seasons is critical if you’re going to become a fashion designer. You’ll also want to work with a fashion forecaster to predict the trends, so that when you present your collections to buyers—or to the public directly—they’ll buy it!

Trend forecasts are based on the fashion seasons, taking into account color and fabric variations for different times of year. For example, earth tones are generally more popular in the fall, jeweled colors for the holidays, pastels and floral prints for spring and white and bright colors for summer. Of course, there are always surprises! But for the most part, designers and manufacturers include some of these standard colors in there collection planning.

If you’re working on your first line, plan to work six months before any given selling season. Successful designers produce four or five seasonal lines a year. Targeting delivery a month ahead gives consumers a continual supply of fresh merchandise each season.

Fall markets take place between February and April. The fall selling season is the biggest season of the year, so it lasts longer than the other seasons, which usually only last two months with some overlapping. “Fall II” starts in mid-April and goes through mid-June.

Holiday is June-July; with the occasional show in August.

Resort/Cruise is August through early September. Spring fashion is from October to November, with some shows in early December. Summer is shown in December-January with a late show in February.

Since the buying shows happen in well in advance of upcoming seasons, you better have good insight into what buyers are looking for. For example, if you wait until February to show your spring collection, many buyers will already have placed their orders in the fall. They’ll be looking for some summer, but mostly fall and winter samples for the following year. Even if they like what you’re showing, they may have already exhausted the budget. Also, you will need to have your product ready in time for the promised ship dates.

Stay tuned for more on How to Become a Fashion Designer

::A.Covington for The Divas Dreams blog

How to become a fashion designer: Part I

Main11 Becoming a fashion designer

It seems like everyone is jumping on the designer bandwagon these days. And why not? The fashion industry is sexy — fashion shows, parties, celebrities, recognition, and even fame go along with a career in fashion.

Now herein lies the question: do you go to design school or go straight to starting a business? Not all fashion designers go the traditional route to design school, instead drawing on an entrepreneurial spirit, some “designers” turn their head for business into a thriving fashion enterprise.

Ralph Lauren is an example of a fashion designer who bypassed the sewing machine and headed straight for the marketplace. Which path you take depends on your personal motivation. If you love sewing and pattern making, the traditional route is going to bring the most satisfaction. If you love the fashion world but don’t have the patience for needle and thread, a career in the fast-paced and exciting fashion biz is still possible … read on.

So you want to go out on your own, what’s first?

You’ve always admired fashion designers and their ability to design trendy, unique and wearable fashions season after season, as if by magic. But it’s not magic; it’s a business. And to succeed in business, nobody is an island (meaning that everyone needs a little help to accomplish his or her dreams). And it’s not all glitz and glamour. Being a fashion designer means you have to actually run a business.

Before you print up those business cards, ask yourself if you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves and tackle the not-so fun aspects of fashion.

At first, running a fashion business could mean fulfilling orders yourself (i.e., packing boxes until the wee hours of the morning), steaming clothes repeatedly during fashion shows, and bookkeeping. You could spend only a small percentage of your time actually designing; instead you’re networking, schmoozing and negotiating with suppliers and vendors.

If you’re planning to take the direct-to-consumer path, you’ll have to create a website and maintain it (and most likely have to pay someone to do handle these tasks), get a merchant account to process credit card transactions and manage charge back cycles. If you’re not interested in learning what these things mean, then you may decide to work for a large fashion house to learn the ropes.

But if you have the endurance and enough friends with skills or services you can trade for, you could go out on your own and succeed. Today is the age of entrepreneurship, why shouldn’t you get a piece of the pie?

The fashion biz: a reality check

Exciting industries are rife with competition—some that will fade away and others that will give you a run for your money. You have to compete against the big names out there and trendy emerging designers fresh out of the best design schools or veterans of big fashion houses—not to mention all the celebrities popping up with their own labels.

Running your own fashion biz may require you to reach out to suppliers and potential customers all over the world, which means you better be organized. Are you prepared to coordinate the procurement of raw materials like fabric, trim and hardware, so that your manufacturer gets what they need at the right time to deliver a finished product on deadline?

Think of yourself as a businessperson first and a fashion designer second. If your fashion business fails, you’re the one that suffers. Always keep the business aspect in the forefront of your mind. Some people find this prospect exhilarating, while others can’t think of anything more horrifying. Still interested in starting your own fashion business?

I’m not a designer, can I still work in the fashion industry?

Yes … and no. If you have the design vision, you can pay people to take your idea and turnRalph_lauren_at_cfda_awards_2 it into a tangible pattern or design. This is sort of like what a creative director does. If this fits your situation, then you’d better have the business chops to get your business off the ground and you’d better have a solid Core Value Proposition.

What this means is that you must have a strong business proposal and offer a product that’s valuable and in demand. That doesn’t mean you have to sell high-end couture clothing to rich people. Clothiers H&M and Zara focus on fast ready-to-wear fashion at affordable pricepoints.

There is more than one path to becoming a fashion designer. You can learn to sew and go to design school to learn the ins-and-outs of the business. But not everyone learns to draw patterns and stitch together garments. The keys to succeeding in the fashion business are creativity, a good business sense and determination.

Stay tuned for more advice on becoming a fashion designer.

::A.Covington for Divas Dreams

The B List

This week's B List includes a fashion website that features hot new designers you won't find anywhere else, a stellar fashion blog, a killer clutch and a collection of comfy and stylish tops. Tune in next week to find out who makes the B List!


Mariemariecowlneckdress What it is: The leading online shop for emerging fashion designers. Founder Jill Licata shares her New York fashion savvy with women who want to stay ahead of the fashion trends.

Why we love it: For those of us who want to “wear it first”, this site is awesome. They have a unique shopping experience too. When you get to the site, you’ll find three illustrated fashionistas hosting your shopping experience: Lela (flirty feminine), Jackie (minimal chic), and Ravin (bohemian edge). Each has her own distinct shopping personality to help you find the look that expresses your individual style. You can take their online quiz and find outfits created specifically for your tastes. They style looks online the same way you enjoy them in your favorite boutique window in their Outfits section (so you can visualize what something will look like before you buy it). We also love their jewelry and handbags.


What it is: Blog for fashion writer turned fashion blogger Kristopher Dukes. At the raw age of 20 Miss Dukes wrote for WWD and Today, she pens for Fashion Wire Daily and has her own blog,

Why we love it: She’s not afraid to tell you what she hates along with what she loves, plus she dishes up the dirt on giveaways and deals on handbags, shoes and fashion, and articles that help us look fabulous—all with smart, and a little flippant, commentary.

3. Brian Atwood Mattie Envelope Clutch

Brian_atwood What it is: Brian Atwood structured patent leather clutch with sturdy golden metal corners, available exclusively at Saks.

Why we love it: It’s simply stated but opulent at the same time. I love the simplicity of the bag and the elegance of the topstitching and gold corners.

4. Romeo + Juliet Couture

Rc_print What it is: A collection of stylish and feminine fashion staples that’s extra wearable and practical for everything.Rcsolidjpg

Why we love it: Because the clothes are stylish and comfortable. I hate it when I see a top that looks great on the hanger (or in a photo) but when I put it on I look like I’m wearing a potato sack. Romeo + Juliet Couture has feminine tops that come in trendy prints or “safe” solids. But they all are comfortable and pair with denim and leggings.

Closing the Gap: New designers breathe life to iconic brand

On April 17 the Gap introduced a new limited edition collection for women, designed exclusively for the Gap by Doo-Ri, Rodarte and Thakoon-three emerging design labels. The collection, simply called Gap Design Editions, is part of Gap's recently announced partnership with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (CVFF), an initiative established to support and encourage new American design talent.

Each designer created three unique interpretations of the classic white shirt -- an iconic item that helped to position Gap as the place to shop for stylish variations of the basics 35 years ago. The collection is available in flagship and top Gap adult stores in the US, Canada, UK and Japan and online in the US at Items range in price from $68 to $88.Doori

Designer Doo-Ri Chung, winner of the 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, attended Parsons School of Design. Before her days in the spotlight, Chung spent her days working out of the basement of her parents' New Jersey dry-cleaning store. Today, her celebrity following includes Eva Longoria and Chloe Sevigny. Doo-Ri's collection for Gap reflects her smart, clean design aesthetic, and includes a feminine shirt with a scarf drape at the neck ($68); a tailored camp shirt ($68); and a flowing, belted shirtdress ($88).

Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy are the creative team behind Rodarte. After deciding to pursue fashion while attending the University of California, Berkeley, they produced their first collection for fall 2005. Raised in Northern California, surrounded by redwood trees, the relationship they witnessed between trees and shadows has greatly influenced their work today. They've won an Ecco Domani award and were recognized as a runner-up in the 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Fashion icons like Cate Blanchett and Zooey Deschanel call themselves fans.

Reflecting Rodarte's trademark whimsy and self-proclaimed obsession with bows, their collection for Gap features a sleeveless blouse adorned with bows around the neckline ($78); a trapeze sleeveless top ($68); and a trapeze mini-dress with front pockets and bow detail ($88).Thakoon_3

Born in Thailand and raised in Omaha, Neb., Thakoon Panichgul's playful designs are charmed with sweet, offbeat details while embodying elements of classic American sportswear. He received his formal fashion education from Parsons School of Design, produced his first collection for fall 2004, and was runner-up in the 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Thakoon's pretty and witty design aesthetic has helped him develop a loyal celebrity fan base of fashion trendsetters including Rachel Bilson, Amanda Peet and Demi Moore.

Featuring a tie-neck blouse with puffed sleeves ($88), a belted shirtdress with puffed sleeves ($88), and a shirtdress with ruffle detail at the waist ($88),Thakoon's collection for Gap will help bring his style and sensibility to everyday consumers.

Okay, so the clothes are nice. But is that the point? I'm on the fence here. I've maintained that the Gap really needs to get back to what made them successful in the first place. They really need to start giving customers what they want and stop trying to reinvent themselves over and over again, emulating fast-fashion retailers like H&M and Target (just stop already!). On the other hand, why shouldn't they use what's left of their corporate clout to help gain exposure for emerging designers? I sort of like that they had the designers create variations of the basic white shirt instead of creating mock couture numbers that don't appeal to a mass audience. I mean, the Gap earned its stripes by providing the building blocks for classic and timeless wardrobes. So maybe they hit the jackpot with this move. It's about time, they've been playing different hands for far too long.

History of the Bathing Suit

Believe it or not, swimsuits have been around since the days of Ancient Rome, when public bathing was all the rage (hence the term bathing suit). What's interesting is that the suits women wore a millennia ago were shockingly similar to the suits women wear today. When the trend crossed the pond to America, conservative minds grabbed hold of the idea, turning functional lightweight swimsuits into bulky dresses made out of wool.

In 1946 the modern day bikini was born, at a time when women were beginning to flirt with new-found freedoms and civil rights. During the 60s, designers tapped into the wide-spread feelings of rebellion and discontent with social constraints.

Now that the free-love days are over and we're all burned out on overexposed models and actresses-nothing surprises us anymore. Girls are learning the value of leaving more to the imagination rather than letting it hang all out for the world to see. Okay, we know why. But you get the idea!

There are a lot of great ways to accessorize with one-piece suits. Along with the beach/pool essentials, silk scarves are a great way to keep the wind from tangling hair and fading hair color, and they happen to be this season's "it" accessory.

Hollywood role models have had a counter-effect in some circles of young people.

What's more, I think we're simply bored. We have decades of fashion trends to reflect on and re-invent in fun and creative ways. One-piece swimsuits are more flattering to some body types-they can elongate the torso and camouflage problem areas and scars from C-sections. If the Baywatch babes can look sexy in a one-piece, why can't the rest of us?

~A. Covington for Belisi Fashions