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Fashion Designer

Fashion designers and product developers create new styles of clothing and accessories such as jewellery, belts, shoes, gloves and hats.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education 1 year post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Couturier, Designer, Haute Couture Designer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Fashion Designers (5243.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers (F143) 
  • 2011 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
  • 2016 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
Interest Codes
The Fashion Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Fashion Designers

Interest in synthesizing information to create designs for clothing, textiles and accessories


Interest in precision working with equipment to prepare patterns for manufacture of garments and accessories; and in recording garment specifications on sketches, fitting partially completed garments on customers and models, and marking alterations necessary to achieve correct fit


Interest in speaking with customers to advise them on fabrics, styles, colours, current fashion trends and suitability of designs

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Oct 12, 2016

In creating new designs, fashion designers follow a fairly standard process to plan, design and construct a garment. In general, they:

  • research fabric and styling trends
  • identify the needs and preferences of their target market (customers)
  • choose fabric swatches and make rough sketches
  • transfer directly to a flat pattern or drape the fabric over a dressmaking form
  • produce a flat pattern on paper to make a sample garment from a test fabric (muslin)
  • cut the cotton muslin to the shape of the pattern
  • make alterations on the sample and pattern after it is tried on by live models
  • create a final sample from the actual fabric.

A number of samples may have to be made before a design is satisfactory. If the garment is being produced for the wholesale or retail market:

  • a technical specification sheet is created with seam allowances, notions, fabric swatches and special instructions
  • the pattern is cut and graded to standardized sizes
  • the product is either manufactured in-house or contracted out to be cut, sewn and finished.

Designers supervise all phases and details of pattern preparation: cutting, fitting and garment production. They choose the fabric and trim as well.

Marketing their goods is a big part of a designer's business. This often includes:

  • determining price points for styles
  • duplicating their collections for agents and sales representatives who travel to other garment centres
  • promoting their collections through fashion shows, trade shows and personal appearances
  • travelling frequently to attend trade shows to buy materials.

Designers often develop a full line of co-ordinating garments and accessories that work together as a lifestyle brand with common colour scheme, fabric and similar styling in different styled looks. As well, many recognized designers market their goods in their own boutiques or through online or mail order catalogues.

Fashion designers must keep up to date with fashion trends so their clothes are fashion forward. Designers also produce classic fashion lines that are timeless and seasonless. Fashion designers also keep up to date on other trends that influence design. For example, environmental trends that encourage the use of sustainable fabrics, fabrics made from recycled materials or organic plants, as well as reduced environmental impact in production.

Typically designers create original goods which are not imitations or copies of everyone else's look. Designers and product developers who work for manufacturers may do less original work and adapt other designers' ideas for the mass market.

Haute Couture is a very specialized area of fashion design that caters to individual clients. These are original designs, usually one-of-a-kind, representing the top end of the fashion industry both in style and price. Couturiers produce a much smaller volume of clothing, usually only one sample of each design.

Working Conditions
Updated Oct 12, 2016

Most fashion designers work long, irregular hours. Overtime often is required before big shows and during season rushes. Work rooms may be crowded. Designers must meet tight deadlines while maintaining a high level of quality and paying careful attention to detail.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 12, 2016

Fashion designers need the following characteristics:

  • imagination and creative talent
  • a good sense of colour
  • an identifiable personal style
  • excellent time management skills and a capacity for hard work and long hours
  • excellent organization and multi-tasking skills
  • good communication skills both written (sketching ideas) and verbal
  • perseverance and the ability to sell ideas to others
  • the ability to handle criticism
  • the ability to work well with a wide variety of people
  • willingness to do the reading and research required to keep informed about new materials, trims and manufacturers' practices
  • understanding of basic human body shape and how to manipulate fabrics and materials to fit.

They should enjoy:

  • synthesizing information and developing innovative designs
  • doing methodical, precise work when preparing patterns and fitting garments
  • advising customers.
Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 12, 2016

Fashion designers require an in-depth, working knowledge of textiles, technical clothing construction, the history of fashion design, sketching, draping, pattern-making, sewing and seaming, finishes and fitting. Experience in dealing with consumers at the retail level and computer skills are definite assets.

Designers also need an understanding of how to develop and sell a business plan to financial backers, and the skills required to operate a small business (for example, organization, accounting, marketing).

Training programs vary considerably in content, length, entrance requirements, cost and reputation in the clothing industry. Prospective students should discuss training options with practising fashion designers before enrolling in a training program.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design

LaSalle College International Vancouver

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Oct 12, 2016

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 12, 2016

The fashion design industry is centred primarily in major urban centres and is very competitive.

New designers must develop their own lines and promote their services by entering shows or organizing their own shows. Some designers cater to small specialty stores or particular product lines such as uniforms, safety and protective apparel, or leisure wear. Designers may hire an agent at a fashion market where several fashion designers are represented together. This often leads to greater exposure.

Beginning designers with manufacturing companies usually rotate through jobs such as assistant to the pattern maker, draper, sample maker, grader and dressmaker. With experience they might become design assistants. Many designers work as in-house designers for specialty stores or they freelance (produce individual designs for clients).

Self-employed fashion designers may work out of their own home or studio and handle the production and distribution of the products themselves without the aid of a manufacturing or distribution facility. Setting up an independent fashion design business requires considerable capital investment and extensive promotion activities to reach consumers and establish brand recognition.

Fashion designers may use their skills full time in accessory design, fashion consulting or designing uniforms for large corporations. They also may work part time as fashion illustrators, photographers' stylists, fashion writers, fashion show commentators or costume designers.

Fashion designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 12, 2016

Some fashion designers may be paid commission on a per garment basis rather than an hourly wage.

Fashion designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers occupational group earned on average from $17.89 to $25.47 an hour. The overall average was $21.04 an hour. More recent data is not available.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 12, 2016

Apparel Human Resources Council (AHRC) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 09, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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