Now that you’ve graduated and enjoyed your summer break you might be thinking about getting your foot on the career ladder and earning some money (those student loans won’t pay themselves!)
I thought it’d be good to talk through the design, production and technical sector and shed some light on the subject for new graduates who are looking for employment within the industry.
This sector is a little cloak and dagger and often a bit of a mystery, as a result, there are graduates and even second-jobbers missing out on lucrative careers across business-critical areas. Imagine a fashion industry without the people to interpret what companies want to see on the shop floor, to design it, to ensure it is financially or technically viable…we’d have a lot of stores standing empty!
Entry into the Design department inevitably follows a degree in fashion design and must be accompanied by a strong portfolio. Large retailers usually have a design team for each category of clothing – casual, formal, soft separates – and your portfolio must look like a real showpiece that displays your talents in all areas rather than a retrospective of what you have designed over the last decade!
The Production department is primarily responsible for ensuring the order is on track. Entry level opportunities in this area start as a Production Assistant and you’ll be responsible for entering the initial order and monitoring its journey through the manufacturing process or ‘critical path’ (a diary of key dates within the production process including when you want the product in-store right back to when the fabric is developed).
As a Production Assistant, you’ll report to a Production Coordinator who will oversee and monitor all orders. A Production Manager tends to source worldwide and manages the order placement (where product should be made) and by which factory. This person is responsible for the negotiations too, from make prices through to delivery dates.
The Technical side to any business is the most diverse and therefore offers the greatest range of roles. The pattern room literally translates the design from sketch to the template all future production will be based on, so attention to detail is vital.
Entry level positions include Sample Cutters, Junior Pattern Cutters and Pattern Room Assistants.
Following the chain of command upwards, a Creative Pattern Cutter, in addition to creating the first pattern, will usually do the initial fits and comments before handing over to a Garment Technologist while Graders generate the patterns for production on specific computer systems.
It’s not uncommon for larger pattern rooms to also have Pattern Room Coordinators who ensure that the samples are produced according to the requirements of the customer/designer, distribute and chase the work along ensuring deadlines are being met.
A Garment Technologist takes the garment from its prototype stage through to the final fitted sample. As well as advising on production feasibility, this role also assesses factories to ensure that they comply with company standards and liaises with designers to develop ideas and concepts; keeping in mind the fit of the garment as well as the cost. This role often requires travel and can take you anywhere depending on the location of the factories. Ideally, graduates will have at least a years’ industrial placement with a reputable manufacturer or retailer as a Technologist as well as a degree based in fashion design or clothing technology to enter this area.
A Product Technologist is a similar role but the bulk of their responsibility tends to be in the pre-sampling stage where they advise on feasibility and risk. Can you imagine the Health and Safety issues surrounding the production of a toy? These people run extensive risk analysis and put each product through rigorous testing. Product Technologists tend to earn more than people in traditional fashion roles but this due to the fact that the product areas are less glamorous and, as each area is so specific, there are fewer people qualified to do the job.
A Fabric Technologist will ensure that all fabrics are thoroughly tested as well as developing and sourcing new fabrics. This role forms a critical part in companies such as Nike and Marks & Spencer where fabric development is one of the key areas of design. Although the entry-level salary for a technologist is low, typically around £18,000 salaries tend to rise a lot faster. This division is widely valued and crucial prior to the manufacture of any product or item of clothing as every piece of merchandise has to be assessed by a technologist before it goes into production.
This is a little taster of the types of careers avaialbe within Design, Technical and Production and hopefully conveys how broad this field really is.
Good people are always going to be in-demand, especially where job roles are specialised, so if you’re an emerging graduate with a CV and a dream of working in the fashion industry, maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for within Design, Production or Technical.