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Fashion design is the process of designing and constructing clothing and accessories for everyday to high-end wear. For decades, fashion design has been a lucrative global industry. The United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan are among the countries that have garnered international reputations for their fashions.
In modern times, there are three commonly recognized categories of fashion design:
Fashion designers work within the fashion industry and are responsible for designing and creating haute couture, ready-to-wear, and mass-market apparel, accessories, footwear, and costumes. While top fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, and Vera Wang have made their marks on the fashion world over the years, Charles Frederick Worth is credited with being the first to tell his customers what they should wear in a time when customers typically dictated to seamsters how they wanted their clothing designed. He eventually established the House of Worth, marking the first time a designer of a house created his own clothing.
Fashion designers have a list of responsibilities that include keeping up with and anticipating trends that appeal to consumers, determining the best theme for a fashion collection, choosing fabrics and colors for garments and accessories, creating designs, and overseeing the final production. Designers are usually very skilled artistically and can draw sketches by hand or create designs using programs for computer-aided design (CAD). They might work alone or with a team of designers and take part in every aspect of the design process from prototyping to marketing. It’s also common for designers to take part in trade shows where they can gain access to fabric samples and showcase their ideas.
While working in fashion design does not require a specific level of education, many designers earn a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or fashion design. Courses in these types of degree programs teach students about fabrics, textiles, and how to use CAD technology. Programs can also prepare students to pursue jobs in fashion design by helping them develop quality portfolios. Before graduating from their programs, fashion design students often secure internships with fashion houses. This can help them gain experience in the field as well as valuable connections.
It’s common for fashion designers to work full-time for design houses or apparel, footwear, or accessory brands that create and distribute their own products. In this scenario, designers might receive their pay similarly to most other salaried employees. But some companies opt to forgo full-time designers and instead contract freelancers for short-term projects. Since these designers don’t have an employer offering a straightforward salary, they might feel a bit uncertain about how to bill for their services.
The most common billing formats for freelance fashion designers are the following:
One consideration to make when determining how to bill your clients is the type of project you’re working on. For instance, a tech pack will likely carry more value than a flat sketch. You’ll also want to think about how much value you think your project will provide your client and how long you believe your project will take. Finally, think about how much money you want to earn. All of these considerations can help you select a rate that honors the work and effort it takes to complete a quality project.
When invoicing for your fashion design work, you want your client to feel confident that they’ve been billed properly. They should also know how to pay you and how to contact you with questions or concerns.
If you’re not sure how to get started, use this fashion design invoice checklist to get on the right track:
You can always create your own invoice from scratch, but if you need help, consider using Indy’s invoice generator to make an invoice that has the professional look you desire. Adding clients, tracking time, and managing your invoices online has never been easier! If you’d like an invoice template, consider using Indy’s downloadable invoice templates. Choose your favorite and easily customize it before sending it to your client.
Pay for fashion design work can vary greatly, depending on your industry of preference and your level of experience. It is estimated that fashion designers earn a median annual wage of more than $75,000. Designers who work in the motion picture industry might earn upwards of $80,000 annually, while designers who work for wholesalers might earn about $71,000 per year. Fashion designers working in apparel manufacturing earn an estimated $75,000 per year.
Designers who bill by the hour are said to earn an average of $35 to $40 per hour. But what about designers who bill by the project? Let’s say you’re looking to bill a client for collection development, which includes but is not limited to researching the client’s style, trends in fabric, clothing comps, color trends, price points, and competition. On average, collection development for 10 styles might cost a minimum of $400 and upwards of $1,000.
You might have a client who wants you to create a 10-piece collection of idea sketches. These types of sketches can include fabric swatches and a development report among other items. If you’re billing by the project, you might charge any amount from $400 to more than $7,500 per collection.
If you have been trained to work with CAD technology and are skilled at transforming pencil sketches into CAD flats that include a front and back view, your price for 10 pieces might range from $400 to $800. Some freelance fashion designers work with overseas clients. In this case, you will need to produce tech flats, which include the CAD flat, trims, fabrics to use, sewing instructions, measurements, and color-ways. Since tech packs require greater effort, they are often billed from $100 to $500 for one style or between $1,000 and $5,000 for 10 styles.
Let’s say your client has hired a sewer but doesn’t have time to manage the process of sewing a sample, which could take several days. You might elect to take on this responsibility, for a fee, of course. Managing the sample sewing stage can require delivering linings, fabrics, trims, labels, and other important items to the sewer. You might even take responsibility for finding an experienced sewer to create the samples. The rate for taking on this responsibility might run from $100 to $500 depending on how extensive a role you claim.
The amount you bill for your fashion design work will likely differ from project to project. It will also reflect your level and years of experience, educational and technical background, portfolio, and ability to produce quality references. But whether you decide to charge by the hour or per project, you want to make sure that you value your time and effort. If you charge by the hour, consider adding a monetary cushion for yourself. This way, if you finish your projects sooner than expected, you won’t be paid less than your desired rate. And if you are paid per project, consider adding a monetary cushion in case it takes you longer than originally estimated for completion.
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