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Fashion Designer

Fashion designers and product developers create clothing and accessories. This can include jewellery, belts, shoes, gloves, uniforms, costumes, and hats. Using specialized equipment, they develop and construct patterns for garments in various industries.

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

Costume Designer, Couturier, Designer, Haute Couture Designer, Seamstress

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 Mar 31, 2020

In creating new designs, fashion designers follow a fairly standard process to plan, design, and construct a garment or costume. 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 or digitally to make a sample garment from a test fabric (such as muslin)
  • Cut the cotton muslin to the shape of the pattern
  • Make alterations on the sample and pattern after live models try it on
  • Create a final sample from the actual fabric

A designer may need to make several samples before a design is finalized. If the garment is being produced for wholesale or retail, the designer:

  • Creates a technical specification sheet with seam allowances, notions, fabric swatches, and special instructions
  • Cuts the pattern and grades it to standard sizes
  • Makes the product in house or contracts out the cutting, sewing, and finishing

Designers oversee all phases and details of pattern preparation: cutting, fitting, and garment production. They also choose fabric and trim.

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, social media, trade shows, and personal appearances
  • Travelling often to trade shows to buy materials
  • Expanding their exposure through online sales

Designers often develop a full line of co-ordinating garments and accessories. Such “lifestyle brands” have a common colour scheme, fabric, and similar styling with different looks. Many recognized designers market their goods in their own boutiques, online, or through mail-order catalogues.

Fashion designers must keep up with fashion trends so their clothes are fashion forward. Designers may also produce classic fashion lines for any time or season. Designers must also keep up on other trends that influence design. For example, environmental trends may encourage the use of sustainable fabrics. These fabrics may be made from recycled materials or organically grown plants. The production process may reduce environmental impact or produce zero waste.

Independent designers prefer to create original goods rather than imitations of someone else’s look. Designers and product developers who work for manufacturers may do less original work. They may adapt other designers’ ideas for mass markets.

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

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Most fashion designers work long, irregular hours. They often work overtime 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 Mar 31, 2020

Fashion designers need:

  • Imagination and creativity
  • An aptitude for innovation
  • An ability to transfer designs between 2-D and 3-D
  • A sense of colour
  • An identifiable personal style
  • Time-management skills and a capacity for hard work and long hours
  • Organizational, problem-solving, and multitasking skills
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to sketch or render ideas
  • Perseverance and the ability to sell ideas to others
  • The ability to handle criticism
  • The ability to work with a wide variety of people
  • An understanding of basic human body shape and how to manipulate fabrics and materials to fit

Many fashion designers must have the skills to manage their own business or client base.

Designers should enjoy synthesizing information and developing innovative designs. They should also enjoy doing methodical, precise work when preparing patterns and fitting garments. They should be comfortable advising customers.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

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. They need to keep up with advances in industrial sewing equipment and computerized drafting.

They must also be willing to do the research and reading required to stay informed about new materials, trims, and manufacturing practices. Computer skills and experience in dealing with retail consumers are definite assets.

Independent designers need to know how to develop and sell a business plan to financial backers. They also need small-business skills, such as organization, accounting, and marketing.

Training programs vary 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.

Artists Within Makeup Academy

Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2020

The fashion industry is centred primarily in major urban centres. It 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. Others produce specific clothing lines such as uniforms, safety and protective apparel, or leisure wear. Designers may hire an agent at a fashion market who represents several fashion designers together. This often leads to greater exposure.

Designers just starting out with manufacturing companies usually rotate through jobs. For example, they may start as assistant to the pattern maker. They may then move on to draper, sample maker, grader, and dressmaker. With experience they may become design assistants.

Many designers work as in-house designers for specialty stores. Others freelance (produce individual designs for clients). Costume designers may work in the theatre or film industries. For details on this occupation, see the Costume Designer occupational profile.

Self-employed fashion designers may work out of their own home or studio. They handle their own production and distribution, without the help of a manufacturing or distribution facility. Setting up an independent fashion design business requires a large 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 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 [pdf] in this occupation is 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 people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2020

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

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Apparel Human Resources Council (AHRC) website:

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

Updated Mar 31, 2020. 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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