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Climbing the Career Ladder from Fashion Design Student

An Independent Fashion Label or an Internationally Recognised one? We give the pros and cons of each.
Written on 3/27/14

As a fashion designer, capitalising on professional opportunities can be just as challenging as finding them and the advantages of one employer over another may not be immediately clear. If you are thinking of a career in fashion design, consider what kind of company is right for you - do you look for your break at a small label with a personal touch, or opt for a bigger organisation with a global reach?

The Independent option

Small or medium sized fashion labels, by definition, will not be able to employ as many personnel as their larger competitors - and new designers may struggle to find opportunities with them. That said, there are significant benefits to taking a design position with an independent company - not least the potential for personal and professional development.

Employees of smaller labels often find themselves engaged in professional contexts which extend beyond their titled role. Since Independent label designers work intensively as part of a highly integrated process, the roles and responsibilities associated with specific positions often spill over into each other. Small label designers frequently find themselves working in associated roles, gaining valuable experience in areas like pattern cutting and garment preparation. Designers for smaller labels may also experience greater creative freedom than would be afforded in a larger company - and receive more personal feedback on the ideas and designs they produce. Positions in small companies can be used to gain valuable and transferrable skills - and establish designers as significant assets to other employers.

The International option

Larger fashion labels command huge distribution networks and offer prospective employees the chance to be part of internationally recognised professional families. The popularity of international labels means competition for places will be extremely high and it can be harder for hopeful designers to make their portfolios stand out from the crowd.  Working for a large fashion company can involve a lot of pressure, but the work also presents new employees with a vast amount of hands-on design experience.

Professional roles in a large, international fashion labels tend to be much more well-defined than in smaller organisations. Larger companies employ hundreds of buyers, merchandisers and support staff to ensure designers have the best work environment and the best materials. While designers may receive a much narrower professional experience working for a large company, the quality of that work is much more focussed on the design discipline - where creative ability and visualisation are highly valued assets. While designers may be required to operate within limitations set by their company, their work will be showcased on a large, possibly international, scale. The exposure provided by large companies offers not only a great degree of job satisfaction but also boosts designers' credentials for their future career prospects. 

Making the decision...

Any interest from employers is valuable and rewarding but rather than jumping straight onto the ladder, gaining an understanding of the possible paths your career will take can be a crucial preparatory step. Whichever route you choose, it is important to maintain a working knowledge of the prospects around you - so that, when the time comes, you can make an informed career decision with confidence.

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