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Fashion Product Development: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a fashion product developer. Research the education requirements, professional tools and experience necessary to start a career in fashion product development. View article »

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  • 0:00 Be a Fashion Product Developer
  • 0:28 Career Requirements
  • 1:19 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:07 Step 2: Gain Entry…
  • 2:51 Step 3: Earn a Promotion
  • 3:28 Step 4: Career Advancement

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Video Transcript

Be a Fashion Product Developer

Fashion product developers generally function as marketing managers within the apparel industry. They analyze proposed fashion lines and determine which will be commercially viable in the current industry climate. This career is primarily business-focused, but professionals must also have a solid understanding of fashion in order to make sound marketing decisions in the field.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; undergraduate degrees preferred
Degree Field Fashion merchandising or fashion design
Experience Experience required for positions beyond the entry-level; portfolio of work is important
Key Skills Artistic ability and creativity; detail-oriented; strong communication skills
Salary $128,750 (2015 average for marketing managers in all industries)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fashion product developers should have a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising management or a related industry. Undergraduate training may include courses in business, advertising, economics, finance, mathematics, statistics, computer science, fashion, and design. Experience in marketing or advertising is required for advanced positions. Key skills for those working in this field include analysis, communication, decision-making, and organization. As of 2015, the mean annual salary for marketing managers in all industries was $128,750. Let's take a closer look at the steps to becoming a fashion product developer.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most employers require marketing managers, including fashion product developers, to have a bachelor's degree. One degree that may prepare students for a career in this field is a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising Management, which combines business-focused courses with theoretical fashion design courses that explore textile use and the history of fashion trends. An increasingly common area of undergraduate study is computer science, which can compare business students to implement online commercial enterprises in the future. Some bachelor's programs also include a marketing internship, which can provide relevant training in the field.

Step 2: Gain Entry Level Experience

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most marketing managers, including fashion product developers, have previous experience in an entry-level advertising or marketing job. For instance, students may work as sales representatives or public relations specialists for clothing companies. They may also find work as buyers or purchasing agents for retail apparel outlets. By working in one of these positions, aspiring product developers get a feel for the fashion industry so that they are prepared to make major business decisions about product lines and marketing strategies in the future.

Step 3: Earn a Promotion

Advance to a position as a fashion product developer. Depending on where they work, individuals who are already employed in the field may seek an upper-level product management position within the company they are already working for. Alternatively, they can apply for product development jobs with other clothing brands or retail sales companies, rather than implementing the product development plans of others as they would at the entry level. These professionals will be making the calls on which apparel lines to bring to market and how to ensure commercial success.

Step 4: Career Advancement

Having reached an upper level decision-making position within the apparel industry, professionals have several options for career advancement. For instance, gaining management experience and leading the company to success can serve as a resume builder that could make an applicant more competitive for a product development job at a top selling clothing brand or apparel company. Another way to improve job prospects and earning potential is to complete an MBA in Fashion Management or Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management, both of which include more advanced coursework in business and fashion. An MBA can improve job skills and enhance the resumes of experienced professionals who are applying for more high-powered positions.

Hopeful fashion product developers should earn a bachelor's degree, gain entry-level experience, get promoted to a fashion product developer position, then seek out advancement opportunities.

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