Atlanta resident Tamika Wilson has been surrounded by fashion her entire life. Wilson grew up in the modeling industry, having the opportunity to wear the latest designs and being exposed to the hottest trends.

“I also was a ballerina and my mom also loved fashion, so I was surrounded by it my entire life.”

Now, Wilson has taken that passion and turned it into a career by launching her own fashion line, called High Fashion, Inc.

With a passion for fashion, an eye for what looks good, and the proper training and education, anyone can have a career in the fashion industry.

Education Requirements

Many of the top fashion designers in the industry today have no formal training in fashion. Among the most successful designers in the industry– including Coco Chanel, Lilly Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Vera Wang and even Tommy Hilfiger – not one of them went to school to learn their trade. They used natural talent and, in some cases, the wealth of their families, to get started in the industry.

Wilson, herself, does not possess any kind of degree in fashion design and said it hasn't been necessary for her to be successful with her line.

“The only training I've had is in modeling,” she said. “I know what I like and I have an eye for things. My style is funky and offbeat and not what you would expect, so it makes me stand out in the fashion industry.”

But Wilson said that just because a formal education isn't required does not mean seeking one out is a bad idea. “Starting a line is not cheap and it’s not easy,” she said. “You need to know more than just what looks good.”

That is where formal training and education in fashion design comes into play.

There are many associate degree programs in fashion design that can take less than two years to complete. While each program is slightly different, most offer basic courses in apparel design, flat pattern designs,sewing techniques, fashion and art design, fashion design using computer/software programs and product management.

Bachelor degree programs also are offered by some institutions and will focus on the more advanced techniques being used in the industry, as well as business management skills and the opportunity to network with others in the industry to help make valuable connections.

As with other degree programs, fashion schools can receive accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.When considering a program, ask if it has accreditation from the association.If not, it may be best to seek out one which does to insure that quality courses and knowledgeable teaching staff are a part of the program.

In addition to schooling, another way to gain experience in the industry is through internships, or working as an assistant to a fashion designer who already is in the business. On-the-job experience can replace or enhance what is taught in fashion design schools, providing those who have the opportunity to serve in these roles with an advantage in the industry.

Future Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for this industry will remain mostly neutral for the next eight to 10 years.Some aspects of the industry – including high fashion design positions – are expected to show a decline in demand. However, specialized design services,which can include making clothing lines that are affordable and versatile, and made for everyday use, are expected to be in high demand.

The median annual income for a fashion designer was $64,530 as of 2010. The lowest 10 percent of earners in the industry make less than$32,000, with the highest end of the spectrum earning upwards of $130,000. 

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