Paris, Milan, New York — the job of a fashion designer conjures up images of international models on big-city catwalks, glitz and glamor, fame and fortune. When a new red carpet starts rolling in your career path direction, will your fashion designer resume be ready?
While fancy events and big names are truly a part of the profession, there’s so much more that goes into being a fashion designer. As with many creative callings, it takes years of hard work and dedication to move up the food chain from assistant to associate to head of the fashion house.
Whatever your career level, you’ll need a stylish and functional resume to complement your portfolio, or body of design work. While your portfolio shows off your previous creations, your resume is essential for communicating your education, experience and skills.
There’s no way around it — fashion is a competitive industry. A resume that spotlights your strongest qualities and how they relate to your prospective employer is a must. In such a creative field, how do you create a resume that captures your talent and grit?
Resume.io offers advice and inspiration to help you confidently set yourself apart from other qualified applicants with help and advice from Resume.io. We’ve developed more than 300 occupation-specific resume guides and resume samples to help you make the next career move that’s right for you.
This resume writing guide, along with the corresponding fashion designer resume sample, will show you how to:
- Understand the fashion industry and its hiring processes
- Create a resume that meets the specific needs of the brands you’re applying to
- Choose the best format for structuring your fashion designer resume
- Showcase all your achievements in each resume section: summary, work history, education and skills
- Reflect your eye for design with a resume look that sacrifices nothing in the way of creativity or vital information.
What does a fashion designer do?
Understanding the hiring process in today’s fashion industry
If you’ve ever seen The Devil Wears Prada, then you’re familiar with the cold, ruthless reputation often attributed to the fashion industry and related jobs. While it’s true that the industry can be fiercely competitive, there are also many different options when it comes to potential workplaces for a designer.
While brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada are highly-recognizable names, designers work in all levels of the fashion industry from one-of-a-kind pieces of haute couture to the more predictable world of fast fashion, or apparel with mass appeal. Designers work directly for brands, but many also work in export houses. These companies work with international buyers and often design, prototype and manufacture the clothing in one location. Export houses offer designers a unique experience to balance creativity and client needs while working in close proximity to the rest of the production process. Some designers work in the film and television industry creating costumes and choosing outfits for actors. Other designers choose to work in freelance roles and take on contracts that best suit their skills and interests.
In the United States, most fashion designers and related professions are concentrated in New York and California, where job competition can be fierce. About 185,000 people work in fashion-related jobs in New York City with combined wages of 11 billion dollars. Designers willing to relocate to lesser-known locations may be able to find quicker employment.
Understanding the distinctions between these different workplaces is essential to crafting a successful resume. An everyday apparel brand will have different needs than an export house or high end fashion label. It’s important to research the company you intend to work for and ask yourself certain questions. Consider:
- What type of garments, shoes or accessories does the company primarily produce?
- Is the company’s target customer male or female? Younger or older? Wealthy or of modest means?
- What do I already know about the type of apparel this company would like me to design?
- Is there any relevant news or announcements from the brand that may indicate needs or changes in the company?
While you may not have all the answers from the job description, the more information you can gather about the company’s needs, the more you can tailor your resume to meet them, especially in the profile summary and experience sections.
The job market
The need for a strong fashion designer resume is reflected by strong competition in the job market.
The fashion industry is a small one —– figuratively and literally. In 2019, there were are about 286,3000 jobs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While a small industry lends itself to connections and networking, it can also make the field much more competitive. Every spring there are often many more graduates of fashion design programs than there are open positions. The Bureau predicts that this job competition will remain high, as the fashion-related workforce is expected to decrease by 4% with the loss of 1,300 jobs between 2019 and 2029.
The shift to production of apparel overseas in countries with lower overhead costs has decreased the need for fashion designers in the U.S. and elsewhere. By contrast, retailers are selling more runaway-inspired looks that require talented designers to create them. These two divergent trends effectively balance each other out to some extent.
While women’s clothing remains the top-selling category of apparel in the United States, sportswear has seen a recent boom and was valued at 265 billion dollars in 2019 and projected to grow by 80 percent before 2025, according to a report by Statista.
How to write a fashion designer resume
Only the best fashion designer resumes will land on the hiring manager’s desk. You want to be in that pile. But how?
To have the best chance of being considered for one of these competitive positions, start by:
- Understanding how the fashion industry hires
- Tailoring the style, tone and message of your resume to the person you are communicating with, based on the company and industry knowledge you have acquired through research
- Incorporating keywords from the job description into key sections of your resume.
The very first step in writing your fashion designer resume is determining how to structure it, and knowing what sections to include. Your CV should contain the following elements:
- The resume summary (also known as the profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The education section
Acing the ATS
Many fashion brands hire designers through inside recommendations and contacts. That means you may be handing over a paper resume or emailing one directly to your prospective boss. However, in publicly advertised positions, medium and large companies may use an applicant tracking system (ATS). These computer programs scan resumes for essential keywords — often used in the job description, which are usually your best source of keyword requirement analysis — and rank them against the applicant pool.
Choosing the best resume format for a fashion designer
The best format for structuring a fashion designer resume depends on your career path. Past experience is one consideration, but so is your design for what comes next. It usually comes down to choosing the right resume focus for now and the future. Should you emphasize where you’ve worked and the people who were part of the scene — your employers, mentors, colleagues and clients? Focus instead on the projects and launches of winning looks and lines that have shaped your success stories? Or the specialized skills, talents and passions that make your brand the one to watch for?
The most commonly used chronological resume format works well for job seekers in almost any occupation. In that resume section, progressive job experience and accomplishments are organized by employer / workplace in reverse order from most recent to earliest dates. It would be a good fit for fashion designers whose creative and/or business journey has followed a linear employment pattern.
Alternative resume formats may be better suited to job candidates who are new to the workforce or changing careers, or those with a more varied occupational background. Self-employed professionals working on a freelance or contract basis might opt for a project-based functional resume format. Other functional resumes emphasize specialized technical skills or modes of artistic expression, rather than work history. Fashion designers who have worked independently or in specific niche markets might consider adopting the functional resume, or even a hybrid (combination) document that reflects their background and goals.
Resume summary example: The whole ensemble
Sometimes you need to see all the pieces together to bring them to life. Your fashion designer resume summary, also known as the profile, is exactly the place to build such a creative outfit — a bit of experience, paired with education and a few skills to draw the hiring manager in.
Note that this is the only section of your resume that is completely freeform. It’s not a bullet-point or chronological list. If you have a knack for a bit of laconic, creative writing, use that to your advantage. Even if you don’t, infuse some soul and personality into your summary while also stating the important professional facts.
Again, it’s essential that your summary matches the tone of the company you hope to work for. A fun summery kids brand will require a different approach than the world’s top menswear company.
You will also want to include a taste of your most impressive qualifications and achievements here, making sure the hiring manager has a good idea of your career level and niches.
Imaginative and forward-minded fashion designer with 6 years experience primarily in swimsuits, lingerie and loungewear. Active in all parts of the design process from conception to textiles and tech packs. Excellent collaboration and hand sketching skills.
Employment history sample: Designed for success
Your past work experience helps a potential employer build a picture of what you know and where you learned it. There are a few key ways you can show an employer that you’re truly the right fit for their company. You should list your previous experiences in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent position first and working backwards until you have several relevant examples.
If you’re just starting out in the fashion industry, it may be tempting to include retail positions and other tangentially related jobs. However, in this competitive industry it is important to include only your most relevant work experiences, including internships, and exclude any volunteer work or summer jobs.
Aim to include three to five bullet points under each significant job experience (older or less important jobs can have two or three, or even one brief sentence). One way to divide those bullet points is by dedicating the first two or three to your job duties at the company, paying special attention to the roles that best align with the new position you are seeking. You can use the rest of your bullet points to mention any relevant awards, achievements or results for each past position.
A brand would rather hire one designer with more skills than pay two to do the same job. Make yourself more desirable in your resume's work history section by highlighting the way you multitasked or handled multiple parts of a design, saving the company time and money in the process.
It’s important to quantify your work highlights with numbers or facts. Maybe you sourced less expensive fabric, or you were able to reach several minimum order quantities (MOQs). Maybe you streamlined a process that led to a more efficient workflow or maybe you created a number of pieces that became the basis for entire collections. These numbers are a great way to prove just how valuable you could be to a new employer.
- Create high-end sleepwear designs using CAD and hand-sketching to be evaluated by product development team
- Choose fabrics and create drawings for production process on tight deadline ahead of spring collection
- Reduced fabric costs by 10 percent by sourcing higher-quality material from a different design house
- Streamlined workflow processes between Color and Fabric teams resulting in an average time savings of 1 week
Fashion designer education example: Enlightened creativity
For a fashion designer, your resume education section will likely be brief but mighty. Most designers graduate with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design, merchandising or a related industry . Higher education is generally not necessary, as most designers work their way up from assistantships to higher-level positions. There are about 360 accredited fashion design programs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of these programs also incorporate art and business courses to round out a designer’s skill set.
The university’s reputation in the design world will add value to your education section, but it doesn’t hurt to include your GPA, as long as it’s above a 3.0.
If your overall GPA isn’t quite high enough to include on your resume, you may list your major GPA. If that also won’t cut it, then just omit this information entirely.
2014 – 2018: Savannah College of Art and Design, BFA Fashion, Savannah, GA
Major GPA: 3.7
CV skills example: Passion for fashion
The skills section of your fashion designer resume doesn’t need to be long and winding, but it should cover some basic requirements for the fashion industry. Your abilities can be broken down into hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those requiring specialized knowledge or education (or they relate to specific practical tasks), probably from your degree or internships.
In the fashion industry, this will include hand sketching and computer programs like CAD and Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator. While hand drawing is still required in costume design and high fashion worlds, computer software is a must for all modern designers at every level.
Industry experts note that missing hard skills like CAD or Photoshop can make your resume much less desirable to big fashion brands. It’s worth investing in these skills through university or online courses if you want to give yourself a boost in the application pool. And if these skills are in the job description, you can be sure an ATS is looking for them as well.
Soft skills make you an excellent employee and coworker and should not be overlooked. Your organizational abilities or eye for details are great soft skills to include. Here’s a fashion designer resume sample for the skills section:
- Excellent organizational skills
- Eye for detail
- Dedication and follow-through
- Excellent communication skills
- Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
- Hand sketching
- Fabric and pattern design
- Tech pack drawing.
Resume layout and formatting: Your runway
You work in design — how hard could a resume layout be, right? It’s worth some extra time and thought to get your layout just right since it communicates your design abilities and your personal style. Plus, a disorganized layout will prevent the hiring manager at your dream company from even understanding the work you’ve put in thus far. Ouch!
While it might seem like bold colors and icons are a good idea, recruiters say in the ever-changing world of fashion it’s best to keep things simple. Stick with a classic, yet attractive design that lets your experience do the talking. Your portfolio can take care of the rest.
So where do you find this perfect balance of style and professionalism? With resume.io’s field-tested templates and customizable resume builder , you can get your resume show-ready in no time. For the fashion industry, we recommend those in our Creative or Modern categories. You’ll probably find yourself in a variety of situations when it comes to turning in your resume. Whether you’re doing it in person, by email or via an online application, you’ll want to be sure that the formatting you create is the formatting the hiring manager sees. The best way to rest assured is by downloading your resume as a PDF, which you can do in just a few clicks with resume.io’s builder tool.
Key takeaways for a fashion designer resume
- The fashion industry continues to be extremely competitive, with a shrinking job market projected over the next decade. That means a strong resume is essential to securing a new position.
- Use your experience section to highlight the most similar roles for the new position you seek. Don’t forget to quantify your achievements with numbers.
- Computer design programs are essential for the modern day fashion designer, so don’t forget to include those and other hard skills on your resume.
- A funky layout may seem tempting, but it’s best to stick with clean and professional designs.
Now it’s your turn to let your passion shine. If you need help crafting the perfect resume, try resume.io’s field-tested templates and custom resume builder tool to land your dream design job in no time.