How to become a fashion designer

Build a career in the dynamic, ever-evolving world of fashion design, creating unique styles and keeping the world inspired.

If you've ever dreamt of seeing your designs on the runway, or if you're passionate about creating unique and innovative clothing, then a career as a fashion designer might be the right choice for you. But what does it take to become a fashion designer in Australia?

"To be a successful fashion designer, it's important to keep yourself informed about current trends and events," advises Dr. Denise Sprynskyj, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles at RMIT. “Make sure you’re aware of the fashion scene locally, nationally, and globally, including important issues and recent developments. Think of the social and cultural role that fashion design can play."

Three RMIT fashion students work together to make a shoe.

How to become a fashion designer

While no industry accreditation or formal qualification is required to work as a fashion designer in Australia, earning a relevant qualification will equip you with the important skills and experience to work in the fashion industry and beyond. 

Apply to a fashion design course

Choose a specialist area

At RMIT you will be able to explore different areas of design and design methods, refine your practice, and apply your skills to garments, artefacts, and more. You will be able to specialise in textile design, enterprise or sustainable innovation, allowing you to customise your studies according to your interests and career goals.

Textile design will equip you with the skills to create and innovate within the realm of textiles. Your studies will cover diverse and contemporary practice, including commercial, contemporary and global textile design industry, related fields and emerging markets. 

Choosing enterprise as your specialisation will provide you with a solid foundation in the business side of fashion. You will learn about the environmental, ethical, corporate and consumer dimensions of the fashion and textiles industry through the lens of product management, marketing and retail. You will also gain an understanding of the dynamics of the industry, including consumer buying patterns, and how to design, develop, source, communicate and sell fashion products.

If you are passionate about the environment and social responsibility, a specialisation in sustainable innovation will allow you to explore how to create fashion that is not only stylish but also sustainable and ethical. You will gain practical, theoretical and technical skills to develop solutions, products and systems, using user-centred approaches at the intersection of design, technology, science, and art. 

Build a portfolio and network

“You make connections through studying. Your peers in the industry will be the people you’re studying alongside right now, and this means you need to be brave. Don't hesitate to approach people, compliment their work, and propose collaborations. It might feel intimidating at first, but it opens doors,” says Dr. Sprynskyj.

Industry practitioners and academics with strong links to the design sector will guide your study journey. Plus, you’ll collaborate with industry and community partners on projects, placements, virtual studios and case studies, allowing you to build networks with other students and those already within the fashion industry. 

“Approach fashion industry events with an open mind, as you never know who you might meet that you may be able to work with,” advises Dr. Sprynskyj. “And don’t burn bridges. The Australian fashion industry is big and small at the same time. Make lasting and positive connections, because these will help you sustain your career.”

RMIT fashion courses will enable you to build a strong portfolio of work with a stellar record of students and graduates winning major fashion design awards and scholarships and receiving the invitation to participate in national and international showcase events.  

“Nobody wants to see what's already out there. What people are really interested in is a designer’s ability to develop an idea and demonstrate their design process, showing the depth of their creative research,” Dr. Sprynskyj explains.

Gain professional experience

Fashion courses at RMIT follow a project-led model with industry collaborations and placements so that you can gain real-world experience in a hands-on studio. These experiences not only enhance your practical skills but also provide valuable networking opportunities. By the time you graduate, you'll have a solid foundation of professional experience to kickstart your career in fashion design. 

A person wearing blue latex gloves cuts fabric following a clothing pattern.

Apply for jobs

Upon completion of select fashion courses at RMIT you will be eligible to become a member of the Design Institute of Australia and the Australian Fashion Council. 

“We have an expanded viewpoint on the fashion design discipline at RMIT and we crossover into other disciplines. So, while we’ve had students go in the traditional direction of working for larger fashion companies or starting their own, we’re also seeing a lot of the fashion graduates move into digital positions. Graduates have found work in the gaming and film industry, which you wouldn’t have seen ten years ago,” says Dr. Sprynskyj. 

Studying a fashion course at RMIT opens many pathways and careers within the fashion industry, such as:

  • Fashion, accessories, costume, material or colour designer
  • Fashion strategist 
  • Digital content creator
  • Product developer 
  • Creative pattern-maker
  • Brand strategist 
  • Creative director
  • Communications manager 
  • Stylist
  • Fashion events producer. 

Graduates of Master of Fashion (Entrepreneurship) at RMIT have found work at fashion companies including: 

  • Forever New 
  • Myer 
  • Australian Fashion Council (AFC)
  • Australian Defence Apparel Pty Ltd 
  • Zimmerman
  • Ethical Clothing Australia 
  • Otto & Spike
  • Edited 
  • David Jones
  • Cos. 

You may also consider starting your own business or choose to pursue further study.

What does a fashion designer do?

A fashion designer is a creative professional who designs clothing and accessories. They shape the way we dress, influencing individual style and broader fashion trends. Their work involves a blend of artistic flair and technical skills. From sketching initial design concepts to selecting fabrics, developing prototypes, and overseeing production, a fashion designer's role is multifaceted. They need to have a keen eye for colour, texture, and pattern, and a deep understanding of garment construction and tailoring techniques. Additionally, they must stay abreast of fashion trends, consumer preferences, and industry developments. It's a role that requires creativity, attention to detail, and a passion for fashion.

As Dr. Sprynskyj puts it, “You've got to be able to take on a lot of a lot of different roles. It's a big area and you must be agile. However, your responsibilities will depend on the size of the company you work for or if you're self-employed with a small team. It's important to be able to assign tasks to others, stay highly organised, and hit deadlines consistently.” 

Tasks and duties of a fashion designer

There are typically two main types of fashion designers, in-house fashion designers and independent fashion designers.

In-house fashion designers work as part of a design team for clothing companies or design houses and their daily tasks and duties may include:

  • Working on projects or client briefs that guide their design process
  • Identifying fashion trends, which may relate to specific colours, styles, or materials
  • These trends are used to create concept boards, which visually represent the design's direction and keep the client updated
  • Designers may also create fabric samples, illustrations, and mini prototypes to provide a clearer vision of the final design
  • Budgeting is an important part of the process, with designers estimating material and production costs in line with the brief's guidelines
  • The design team collaborates with other departments, such as merchandise, marketing, and finance, to gain approval for their designs.

An independent fashion designer has largely the same duties as an in-house fashion designer, but they are also responsible for marketing their designs as well. These extra duties may include: 

  • Social media management
  • Creating product marketing strategies
  • Managing their own brand for sale online or in-store.

How much do fashion designers earn?

The median weekly earnings for a fashion designer in Australia is $1,500* per week and the median hourly earnings are $40 per hour*.

Learn more about your fashion study options

Whether you're a Year 12 student weighing up your options, thinking about switching careers or a professional looking to expand your skills, RMIT is ranked #1 in Australia and #18 globally for Art and Design^ and has a range of vocational, undergraduate, and postgraduate courses for domestic and international students that give you access to award winning specialist facilities to help develop your identity as a designer.

*Source: 2023
^Source: QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.