The list of all the careers you might pursue in apparel merchandising and textiles is exhaustive. You can do anything from working the retail side of the industry in sales and working as a buyer or store manager to creating designs or working on the line for a manufacturer. Follow your passions and take your career to whatever level suits your tastes in the clothing industry.
Attend the big fashion shows, meet with buyers and designers, and check out all the latest fashions as a purchasing manager for a boutique or retail store. You can get into the field with just a high school diploma and get on-the-job experience for the retailer while you finish your degree in business to move into the manager’s role. You’ll evaluate the quality of the apparel and textiles you’re buying and negotiate prices, place orders and monitor deliveries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, purchasing managers earned a median income of approximately $58,360.
Put your creativity to work as a clothing designer. You don’t need a degree to get started, although studies in textiles and fabrics and computer-aided design techniques will help you land a post. In 2010, the BLS reported fashion designers earned a median salary of $64,530. In the role, you’ll sketch designs of clothing, shoes and accessories; choose the materials for their creation; and oversee production. Produce samples to get investors, or join a team of designers in a fashion house that appreciates your tastes and talents.
Textile Factory Worker
If you’re just getting started in the industry, it wouldn’t hurt to cut your teeth on the manufacturing floor where you get to see how the actual products are made and shipped. You could learn how to operate sewing machines and add the finishing touches to designer garments. Sewing machine operators earned a median annual income of $19,320 in 2012, according to the BLS. Stay on the job for a few years and get promoted to supervisor, where you could earn closer to $39,580.
Newbies in retail might not make much more than the median income for retail workers in 2012, which was reported to be approximately $20,990 a year by the BLS. But, if you bring your knowledge and passion for high-end designer clothes to the market, you could increase your earnings substantially through commissions. Work as a private shopper for the wealthy or welcome them to your exclusive shop where your commissions soar with every sale. You don’t need to have a degree or formal training to get started in retail. Many young women start as early as high school and then bring that experience to the high-end shelves.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."