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Become an Accessory Designer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn about the education and career requirements for becoming an accessory designer. Explore the step-by-step process that can help you start a career in accessory design. View article »

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  • 0:00 Accessory Designers
  • 0:30 Career Information
  • 1:30 Step 1: Pursue Formal Training
  • 3:02 Step 2: Develop a Design Style
  • 3:50 Step 3: Find Entry-Level Work

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Video Transcript

Accessory Designers

Accessory designers, or specialized fashion designers, develop and create the many fashion accessories on the market today, including hats, scarves, jewelry and handbags. They make sketches, work with teams to develop prototypes, and oversee the production of final products. Accessory designers may work on a full-time or part-time basis. Some designers are self-employed, often working long hours to fulfill contracts.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; associate's or bachelor's degree available
Degree Field Fashion design, accessory design, fashion merchandising, or a related subject
Experience None
Key Skills Creativity; attention to detail; strong communication and decision-making skills; familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD) and graphics imaging software; construction techniques and pattern making skills; ability to work long hours to meet strict deadlines
Salary $63,670 (2015 median salary for all fashion designers)

While a formal education is not required to pursue a career in this field, many accessory designers complete associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs in accessory or fashion design, fashion merchandising or a related subject. Graduates will most likely qualify for an entry-level position without any prior experience. Key skills for accessory designers typically include creativity, attention to detail and familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD) and graphics imaging software. They should also have an understanding of construction and pattern making techniques and able to work long hours to meet strict deadlines. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reports that in May 2015, fashion designers in general earned a median annual salary of $63,670. From 2014-2024, fashion designers overall can expect a 3%, or slower than average, increase in job opportunities.

Step 1: Pursue Formal Training

While a formal education is not a requirement for becoming an accessory designer, associate's or bachelor's degree programs in relevant fields, such as fashion design or merchandising, can help aspiring professionals gain practical skills and knowledge of the fashion industry. Students enrolled in general fashion design programs learn about color theory, pattern drafting, garment construction, and textiles. They also study business and sketching and work with CAD software.

Programs that focus specifically on accessory design are also available, though less common. Students in these courses take belt, hat or shoe design; handbag techniques and leatherwork. They may also study package design for accessories and screen-printed scarves.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship. Students can find internship programs through their schools or by applying to different companies or designers. Opportunities vary in length and level of responsibility. In some cases, an internship is a program requirement that provide students with the opportunity to gain important hands-on experience in the field.
  • Compete and collaborate. Many programs offer opportunities for students outside of the classroom, such as industry-sponsored design competitions and group design projects that can help them sharpen collaboration and communication skills.
  • Go on field trips to production and design studios, which allows students to see first hand how accessory designs become finished products.

Step 2: Develop a Design Style

The success of a new designer is dependent upon his or her ability to create a unique and fashionable product. Aspiring accessory designers must have an individual style that sets them apart from the competition. Arriving at that style early on gives designers an edge. Achieving that goal can take many forms, from paying close attention to popular designs and trends of the fashion world to rendering new and creative drawings and prototypes of accessories.

Success Tip:

  • Build a portfolio. Aspiring designers need a collection of original work to show to potential employers. Having a portfolio allows designers to choose and share the pieces they think best define their style and showcase their talents. Some degree programs offer courses in portfolio development.

Step 3: Find Entry-Level Work

Aspiring accessory designers typically break into the field by securing entry-level positions. They may find work as pattern makers, sketching assistants or assistants to accessory designers. As they improve their skills and gain experience in the design industry, they can advance their careers and obtain positions as accessory designers in wholesale or manufacturing establishments, apparel companies or design firms.

Let's go over what we've just talked about. An associate's or a bachelor's degree program in accessory or fashion design or a closely related field isn't required but can help you pursue a career as an accessory designer. As of May 2015, fashion designers in general earned a median annual salary of $63,670.

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