Are you a creative individual who has an innate sense of style and your own vision? If so, you could launch your own apparel collection from the comfort of your home.
Read on to see what industry expert Lisa Springsteel Dupré has to say about becoming a fashion designer and how her business, Launch Your Collection, can help you get started.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
My entrepreneurial journey happened organically over a long period of time. Shortly after graduation from Florida State University (Go ‘Noles!), I moved to New York to pursue my fashion career.
I had a degree in fashion merchandising, and while I held a merchandising job early in my career, I went on to hold jobs in fashion design, global fabric and trim sourcing, product development, production, sales, promoting, and marketing, as well as public relations.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this experience was laying the foundation for what would become the entrepreneurial stage in my career: becoming the founder of ‘Launch Your Collection,’ a one-stop apparel launch company for emerging, established, and celebrity fashion brands.
Do you have any special training?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Merchandising, as well as several specialty certification courses from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. I also was required to pass the not-so-easy-to-master 100 Hue Color Test before I began my ongoing consulting relationship with Limited Brands.
Is it possible for an individual to be successful as a designer if they don’t have a formal education?
I have always been driven, so I believe that anything is possible with a go-getter attitude, but I do not recommend it if you are trying to land a job with an atelier, designer, or apparel manufacturer. Landing a fashion design job is fiercely competitive, so it is best to have a BFA in Fashion Design from an accredited university, a solid fashion internship under your belt, as well as completion of a study abroad program or an apprenticeship. This is the ideal situation.
If finances or lack of time make that path difficult, an AAS (Associate of Applied Sciences) degree would be beneficial. If that is not possible, a combination of certification courses in a specialty (fashion design, pattern-making, technical design, CAD design, etc.) and a fashion design internship (even unpaid to learn and get experience) could help. If that is also not possible, online fashion design courses (some free, some for a fee) have become a popular trend and can go a long way with the right company.
Do the best you can to learn the process and understand how the business works. Fashion design interviews require a solid portfolio, which you build from school, internships, study abroad programs, and side projects. In my book, I dedicate an entire chapter to the education for a fashion designer, which shows just how integral of a part it plays in building a successful fashion design career.
The good news is that if you are interested in launching your own collection, you don’t need any formal education or training – just email us at [email protected], and we’ll get you #LaunchReady!
What sort of individual makes a good fashion designer?
Creative individuals who have an innate sense of style and form, including those with an artistic background, sketching ability, knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator, CAD (Computer-Aided Design), strong technical fabric knowledge, color sensibility, understanding of proportions, high taste level & in-depth knowledge of how the fashion design process works. Someone who is not afraid to stick to their own aesthetic and can own it through the course of their career with the ability to translate an idea from concept to finished product. Someone who can express their individual creativity has excellent technique and is a great overall visionary – one that is the least talked about: someone who can adjust to different and often difficult personalities.
In my book, I asked hiring managers from top apparel companies across the globe what skills they seek when hiring a fashion designer, and while their answers varied, the one consistent theme was the ability to have a vision and stick to it.
How can freelance fashion designers minimize income peaks and valleys?
It is super important to develop relationships with top freelance agencies in your area, but once you have proven yourself over time, it often leads to steady income at one company. It is good for freelance designers to have some steady income in place while they are pounding the pavement trying to book jobs. Usually, if you find synergy freelancing for a particular company that is happy with your performance, they will want you to stay indefinitely or will keep hiring you back as assignments become available.
What is a typical day in a fashion designer’s work like?
It will vary depending on the type of designer (fashion, technical, CAD, etc.), the company (all companies follow their own design process), and the product category. But typically, the design team will first develop a mood board or rig wall based on an inspirational theme for that season; this can include actual garments from a previous season, Pantone colors, fabrics, tear sheets, and anything that helps to bring the theme together. From there, the designer will sketch out concepts that work around the mood board of the season. Once concepts are finalized, the fabric research begins. Either the designer or the fabric team will complete this part. After that, patterns are developed, eventually muslins (if the product category necessitates it) & samples. Once a complete set of samples are approved, bulk production begins. Some designers work very closely through the sample development process; other larger companies have a technical design team take over to advise fit comments for sample approval.
Some designers will get involved with the role of line production, while other larger companies have production and quality control teams in place to handle it. At this time, designers will start to work on marketing and promoting the line, while others will stick to design tasks only. It is not unusual for a designer to be working on two or more collections at once, so the cycles will overlap throughout the seasons of the year.
Tell us more about your book, ‘Becoming a Fashion Designer.’
I truly feel honored to have been given a book deal by Wiley, one of the largest publishing houses in the world. The book deal came about in quite an unusual way because I didn’t use a literary agent, which rarely happens. I simply said, “I want my book to be published by Wiley,” and then I made it happen! I am pleased that Becoming a Fashion Designer was published worldwide in English in 2013, in Mandarin in 2015, and it will publish in Arabic in 2018! Exciting times ahead.
Who would benefit from reading your book?
Becoming a Fashion Designer is unique in that anyone can benefit from reading it. It discusses universal business guidelines and tips, such as personal branding and navigating politics in a workplace (a topic most authors don’t touch on). It was intended to be a one-stop resource for aspiring fashion designers, so it contains everything that is necessary to start a career in fashion design, whether you want to work for a designer, an apparel manufacturer, or launch your own collection.
What advice would you give to a new or aspiring fashion designer?
If you are launching your own collection, find an honest and experienced consultant to help you start your collection – do not attempt to do it yourself the first time around. I have several clients who, after losing a significant amount of time & money from attempting to do it themselves or from finding untrustworthy apparel launch consultants, came to me to get them back on their feet. If you are an aspiring fashion designer seeking work for a designer or apparel manufacturer, aside from being skilled, be sure to pay special attention to fitting into the corporate culture. This often plays a key role in helping you to retain your job over a long period of time.
What has been your biggest struggle working in the fashion industry?
Coming to the realization that fitting into the corporate culture is equally and sometimes more important than your actual performance.
Tell us more about your company, ‘Launch Your Collection.’
‘Launch Your Collection‘ is a one-stop apparel launch company for emerging, established, and celebrity fashion brands. My team and I creatively guide, educate, and manage each of our clients step-by-step through the pre-launch and post-launch process.
We are unique in that we have products, services, and packages for every single step in the launch process. From business planning, branding, custom logo, website and social media channel design, fabric sourcing, costing, and sample development to production, Custom Linesheet, Media Kit/Lookbook design & brand strategy.
We also develop sales and marketing plans and offer guidance for fashion week and emerging fashion designer contest submission. We offer access to our insider resources, including fabric vendors, samples, factories, top editors, and everything in between! For established fashion brands, we help them in their next phase of growth with a variety of services, including securing Sales Reps as well as preparing them for and introducing them to Venture Capitalists.
Thanks to Lisa Springsteel Dupré for sharing her story!