If you have a passion for fashion and are looking to create a unique niche for yourself in women's wear, technology can be your best selling "accessory." Here's how to get started in creating both a virtual and a hard-copy portfolio of your original design sketches with very little start-up capital.
Identify your portfolio's target audience. If you're fresh out of art college and hoping to break into the design field as someone else's employee, the people who will be reviewing your samples are likely to be fashion merchandisers, shop owners, tailors and stage/screen costume designers. On the other hand, maybe you plan to run a home-based business and do custom design work for a select number of private clients who want to have one-of-a-kind apparel in their wardrobes. Yet another scenario is one in which you don't plan to sew any of the actual outfits yourself but, instead, are looking to sell your original concepts to a major clothing manufacturer. If the latter is the case, be sure to register your designs with the U.S. Copyright Office before you start pitching them.
Select your best sketches that showcase either your versatility or your particular area of specialization (e.g., swimsuits, sportswear, evening gowns). Ideally, these sketches should show the apparel from different angles, as well as "zoom in" on unique features. (If you're looking for a shortcut, the latter can be easily accomplished with photo editing software that crops out the rest of the surrounding image and magnifies the detail.)
Scan each of these images and save them as JPEG files on your computer. If you have photo editing software, you may want to crop the images to different sizes, manipulate the colors and/or sharpen the focus. The new and improved images can then be used on both your fashion website and in the hard copy portfolio that you take to your interviews or show to new clients.
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Develop a fashion website that will include your sketches, a brief text description of each item and your biography. By including the website address on your resume, your prospective employers can take a look at your sketches in advance of the actual interview. If you plan to use the website to attract private clients, you will want to include a questionnaire where prospective clients can identify the types of outfits and fabrics they are interested in and get an idea of the fees that you charge for custom ensembles.
Get a business license and register your company name with the Secretary of State's Office. The website of the Small Business Administration can walk you through the steps of becoming a legitimate, tax-paying entity.
Establish yourself as an expert by writing fashion columns, blogs and reviewing fashion books. Attend fashion shows and write reviews for local newspapers.
Include a reference link to your website as part of your signature block on all outgoing email correspondence.
Use one of your JPEG images as the artwork for postcards mailed to prospective customers. Services such as Vista Print do a great job on postcards and promotional brochures and, for an added charge, will even mail these materials to selected zip codes for you.
Network as much as you can. Always carry business cards with you that will direct people to your virtual portfolio. If you are actually sewing some of the designs that exist in a sketch format, be sure to wear them wherever there's an appropriate occasion. When the compliments start to flow, whip out your business cards and direct them to your website for more information.
To learn more about the future outlook for fashion designers, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics website listed at the end of this article. For hard-copy portfolios, encase each display page in a protective plastic sleeve so that it can stand up to lots of handling and page-turning. Print the images for your hard copy portfolio on white cover stock or matte finish photo paper. If you want to include fabric swatches in your hard copy portfolio, buy a package of photo album insert pages that have adhesive mounting surfaces.
Whether you're putting your designs on a website or in a presentation folder, don't overwhelm the viewer with too much content or it will all start to look alike to them.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.