Working as a High-street Fashion Designer, Garment Technologist by Collette Costello – Surviving a Career in Fashion Series

The big dream for many people starting out in their career in fashion is to work as a fashion designer, I too had that dream and worked for companies in the industry, along with working for my myself.  Feel free to check out my CV “Collette Costello” on Linkedin.

Getting a Job, Career as a Fashion Designer or Garment Technologist!

I started my career as a fashion designer/ garment technologist by working for a small company called JR International based in Manchester, I took a job designing their in-house collection and working on contracts for companies including Peacocks, TU clothing, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Bon Marche; as a twenty odd year old designer the clothes were not always to my taste however being a designer you need to be flexible.

My Top Tips for Working as a High-street Fashion Designer.

  • On trend colours and style is everything, check out colour predictions from Premier Vision and look at styles selling in designer high-end shops lik
  • Think about your customer, target audience when designing, crop tops are great for young women’s fashion more mature ladies may want something different.
  • High-street designing is not a time to go all out expressing your creativity, understand the brand you are working for, design around their look, what their customers normally buy.
  • Remember detail is everything, use Pantone Colours to make such you have the correct shade of blue as this can make all the difference to a collection selling.

Most fashion companies now buy mainly wholesale now, however a few will offer a small range of their own designs and I saw today adverts on Linkedin by Pretty Little Thing and Lasula for Manchester Fashion Designers.  Regetta I have seen advertise many times for Garment Technologist roles.  For tip on how to apply for and surviving fashion interviews check out my other blog post as part of the “Surviving a Career in Fashion” series.

The great thing is Manchester is now full of forward thinking on-line fashion companies that you can apply to for jobs as mentioned on my blog “Manchester Fashion Companies”, good luck with your career and I always happy to answer any questions you may have.  If you live outside Manchester, check out my blog post “Finding Jobs in Fashion”.

Fashion Designers Job Specification:

  • Salary: Fashion Designers get paid anything from £17,000 for a junior to £25,000 for a mid level.
  • Skills: Able to research colour predictions/ trends.  Put together mood-boards/ style boards.  Design garments, embellishments in Photo-shop/ Illustrator.
  • Qualifications: Some jobs will take Level 3 BTEC Fashion & Textiles, some want Fashion/ Textile degrees.

Garment Technologist Job Specification:

  • Salary: Garment Technicians get paid much better up to £28,000 for junior and £35,000 for a senior.
  • Skills: Understand how garments are put together, know names of garment parts, fastenings and knowledge of textiles, material properties.  Garment grading, able to correctly measure garments.
  • Qualifications:  Most jobs will want a degree in Garment Construction, Fashion or Textiles Technology.

My Experience of working as a High-street Fashion Designer, Garment Technologist

My job as a High-street Fashion Designer was combined with the role of a Garment Technologist and below is a guide to my day to day duties.  If you like the sounds of the jobs maybe a career as a High-street Fashion Designer, Garment Technologist is for you.


Image: Premier Vision Colour Prediction Trade show

A Year in the Life of a High-street Fashion Designer, Garment Technologist

Every six months the fashion collection for the season the following year was designed and the cycle repeated again after six months.

One/ Two Months – Choose the colours for the Autumn/ Winter season for the following year, we would look at colour predictions by Premier Vision, more often we would choose safe colours like black, brown, white, pink and blue as they would always sell.  The colours would be sent to a factory in china for lab-dips, we would send Pantone colour codes so they could get an exact match.  The factories would send back small samples of test lab-dip colours for us to approve, if they needed to be dark or lighter we would let them know and the sample would be resent.

Three/ Four Months – Designing the garment styles would begin, usually we just changed a design from the past season slightly, added an extra embroidery or changed a sleeve shape.  Very often we would see what other shops were selling and again make a few changes to the designs.  I designed using Photo-shop and Illustrator, the designs were then sent to the factories in China for sampling.  A garment spec sheet would be completed, showing everything from the fabric composition we wanted, the exact measurements of the garment even down to the size of the hem and we would include fastenings, buttons, applique designs to be included, even washing instructions.

Five/ Six Months – The sample garment would come back along with sample fastenings, embroideries and applique’s.  Everything was about cost and what was available in China, as things like buttons were not made especially and a beautiful embroidery design would be made more basic to save money.  Again if we were really not happy with a button for example or the garment measurements we would not approve it and ask for another to be sent, I spent a lot of time e-mailing factories in China and India discussing samples.  Once everything was approved we would get sent a final garment graded in each size to double check and the owner would then deal with how many they wanted to order from the factory. Every stage of the sampling we would record on something called a critical path, just like a big spreadsheet, check list to make sure we had not missed anything.

Selling to Trade

At the end all the final samples would be show at a big trade fair called Moda at Birmingham NEC where trade customer ordered, as minimum orders per size usually start at 1,000 items, some big orders must have been placed.  Then the cycle would all start again over the next six month for the Spring/ Summer season.

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