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What I wish I'd known when I first started out on my fabric design career path.

Words by Steph, Designer.

Dreaming of spending your days designing beautiful patterns filled with hand-drawn florals? Well, believe it or not, this is an actual (paying) job in the fashion industry. In all honesty, I had no idea that Fabric Design was even a real career path until after university when applying for jobs as a fashion graduate.

After a 4 year degree at UTS I found myself trying to find a role where I could blend together my love for fashion and illustration and a year and a half later, I’ve never looked back. Read on for an insight into what I wish I’d known before my journey started.

1. It's Not Personal

Art is such an individual practice and we are our own worst critics. But in this field, you need to grow a pretty thick skin. Ultimately everything we are creating is for a customer or target market - not for ourselves. I quickly had to learn that my work was being critiqued on its saleability not for how ‘pretty' I thought it might have been.

I’ve learned that this isn’t a negative thing though - it’s a satisfying creative challenge to design to other people’s tastes and requirements.

2. Time is Money

I wish I’d known how quickly the industry really worked in order to fully prepare myself for the tight deadlines and super-quick turnover times. I thought I'd spend a whole day on a design - hours of painting beautiful botanicals and mulling over hundreds of digital trend platforms to find exactly the right shade of purple.

Reality check - this was not the case at all. Firstly, purple doesn’t sell, and secondly, designers are expected to create three or more designs a day (from scratch!) to keep up with customer demand. It’s also far more valuable to an employer to have an employee who can design patterns for a range of styles and trends than be a one-trick pony.

To do this in the studio we have full access to their amazing moodboards curated by our Creative Director. We use them religiously to draw inspiration from. They guide our every print to ensure we continually hit on the future trends - and needs - of our clients. And you can use them too! Subscribe to our Trend Reports to save time and boost your productivity.

TOP TIP: Design for the moodboards you would normally shy away from and once you’ve done one - do another. The more you force yourself to design out of your comfort zone, the better off you’ll be.

3. You don't need to be a Photoshop wiz to be a Fabric Designer

When I first started looking for jobs in the fashion industry, I was incredibly intimidated by the prerequisite ‘Highly proficient Photoshop Skills’ listed on the job spec. I had played around with Photoshop during university but would anyone hire someone with that kind of experience?

When I eventually worked up the courage to just apply, I found that my unfinished sketches were piquing the interest of the interviewers over the amateur designs I had spent hours on. I wish I’d known the importance of the process. For an entry-level position, employers are far more interested in the way you illustrate and your personal handwriting than how many shortcuts you know on Photoshop.

That being said, you’ll massively boost your employability if you know how to use Adobe Photoshop alongside your drawing talents. Check out our incredible courses to give yourself a head start and get that job in the bag.

4. Do it right the first time

Fabric design is a niche industry with niche requirements when creating your artwork. I wish I had known the importance of drawing for Fabric Design and all the specifications involved. You could spend 2 hours illustrating a beautiful work of art to then realise you’ve used a too fine pen which will not print clearly on fabric. Knowing the correct pen width to use alongside a few clever Photoshop tricks will save you so much pain and time when you’re learning how to design patterns.

Read our post 5 Quick-fire Photoshop hacks to reignite your commercial pace to learn some of our favourite tricks that will speed up your design process.

5. We do it because we love it, and experience counts

Another thing I wish I’d known is the importance of building up experience whilst at university in the form of interning for fashion houses or print studios. Experience is one of the most valuable assets you can have when applying for jobs in the fashion industry, especially when it comes to negotiating pay.

Your pay usually reflects your experience, and like most creative roles your skills are your main salary-boosting bargaining chip. Whilst this was quite disheartening at first I used this as a push to learn as much as I could and train myself to design quickly and efficiently to be the best asset for any company.

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