How to become a fashion designer: Gemma's story

When I was around five years old I started to sew and was really into fabrics, clothing and style. By the time I was at high school I knew I enjoyed fashion. I did work experience for one week at Burberry aged 15, which confirmed my passion for clothes, but I still wasn’t sure what area I wanted to work in, whether as a designer, stylist or photographer.

At school I’d say I was academically average, but I was creative. For my GCSE options I chose Spanish, History and Drama. Then for college I took A-levels in Fashion and Textiles as well as History and Psychology.

a young woman pins a sewing pattern to a piece of bright coloured fabric

Be open to take risks. Be open to feedback. Don't be afraid to be a trendsetter.

I took some short courses at the London College of Fashion and started to gain a deeper understanding of different kinds of fashion. I had my first experience of tailoring and hated it! I had to make a pocket and it took about two hours. Then I learnt I could also do design and branding work.

I took time off studying in my gap year. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but when I look back on it now it was time well spent, taking some time to reflect. Now, I get to collaborate with friends, arrange photo shoots and work with other creative people who make prints. At the launch event for my own brand G.Z.E.M. I had 10 models showing variations of the trousers and bomber jackets in an Afro-vintage style I designed. I also make and sell skirts to get extra funding, and plan to go to university to take my fashion label and skills to the next level.

It wasn’t always a smooth ride. At 17, during my A-levels, I had heart surgery. It makes you reflect on everything and for me it made my ambition grow. So my advice to other people is to be yourself. Start finding out what you enjoy and stick to it. No course or experience is a waste of time.

a young woman views photos of a fashion model, wearing the clothes she has designed on a laptop
a young woman poses for the camera wearing a bomber jacket she has designed

Gemma's career path

Gemma's career path

What to expect if you want to be a fashion designer

  • Salary: Variable ranging from £20,000 to £80,000
  • Working hours: Variable
  • Entry requirements: Usually a higher educational qualification like a foundation degree, Higher National Diploma (HND) or degree

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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