Being an assistant to a fashion designer can be exciting but also stressful. Most fashion designers work a rigorous schedule according to the fashion seasons, shows and deadlines. A designer's assistant can help with any aspect of this schedule, ranging from finishing the details of design sketches and sewing the the finalized designs, to coordinating model fittings.
Education and Experience
Fashion design assistants need not have a bachelor's degree and may currently be students. They must have a keen sense of fashion and know what styles are on trend and always be on the lookout for what is upcoming. Keeping up with fashion magazines, stylists and runway shows is important. Their background can involve retail, fashion magazines or designing clothing on their own.
Advanced sewing skills and a strong sense of fashion are critical skills for an assistant to have. Ideally their sense of fashion will coincide with the looks the designer is creating. Once a finalized garment is going to production the assistant may be in charge of providing hand and computer rendered versions of the design and overseeing that they are completed correctly by the manufacturer, this may include receiving a garment sample or even visiting the production house. Strong communication skills are necessary, because they will likely be the primary liaison for the designer for scheduling and planning.
As a fashion designer's assistant your duties are similar to a regular personal assistant plus more. The position can vary depending on the needs of the designer but it is common to be finishing looks with sewing, cutting patterns to make sample garments, accessorizing and photographing them for the designer. An assistant may also be scheduling appointments, fittings, trunk shows, taking care of a design showroom or cleaning the items after a show. These duties can vary greatly depending on if the designer is a solo practice or a large fashion house with many assistants.
Materials and Designing
A fashion design assistant will likely be in charge of gathering the necessary materials for a design. This can range from material from a fabric warehouse to shipping ivory buttons. It is common for a designer to focus on a particular area such as sportswear, knitwear or formal dress. For actual design experience, an assistant will get an inside look at how a designer spends their day -- between design, promotion and other tasks.
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.