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Building Your Fashion Design Portfolio

A fashion design portfolio is a very important tool for any designer. It contains samplings of the best work done by that designer. When put together properly, a fashion design portfolio can help jump start a career with lucrative job offers. However, a poorly put together portfolio can cost the designer jobs, so a portfolio should be built with thought and care.

The best way to build a great fashion design portfolio is to focus on the content. It should showcase the designer's creativity and unique style. Many things should be highlighted in the portfolio including sketching ability, knowledge of how to use color, textile understanding, design development, and problem solving skills.

Sketched illustrations should be in the portfolio so the potential client knows the designer can accurately sketch his or her ideas. The sketches should be large, colored final copies of the design, if the initial sketches are available and there is room in the portfolio, include those as well. This shows the development of the design from start to finish. Each collection should include fabric swatches that show of what the designs should be made. Small squares are preferred, but make sure they are large enough to show any texture or pattern that may be a part of the fabric.

Group the samples by collections. It is perfectly acceptable if there is only one collection in the portfolio. However, make sure everything is in the fashion design portfolio including mood boards and flats. Include any items that may have inspired the designs, such as photographs, paintings, or certain textures. Large, color photos of any completed designs should be included in the portfolio. Try to provide diverse examples of work such as daytime dress, skirts, jackets, coats, pants, and evening ensembles.

Many designers who are just starting out in a fashion career will have his or her work arranged in a binder, but when it can be afforded, a more professional, larger portfolio should be obtained for the work. Some designers are even going digital and either putting their portfolio on compact disc or online. This allows portfolios to easily be sent anywhere. Consider creating a web site to highlight the portfolio, making sure it looks professional. To do this you may need to hire a web designer, which may initially be costly, but can pay off in the long run. Images, sketches, photos, and swatches can be scanned or photograph to be included in a digital portfolio.

Here are some tips for creating a fashion design portfolio:

  • Make it interesting and enjoyable. Keeping the potential client's interest is imperative. The portfolio should open and end with an incredible piece to both set the tone and leave a lasting impression.
  • Keep it simple. An overly complicated, overly stuffed portfolio can be distracting.
  • Keep it up to date. Keep adding new work to keep up with current trends in fashion. Some designers use only designs that they have made within the last three years to keep things current.
  • Include only the best designs. Remember that three or four strong, attractive designs are better than eight or nine so-so designs.
  • Make the portfolio flow and be interesting from beginning to end. It can even be used to tell a story about the designer's growth and experience.
  • The standard formats used for portfolios are 8x10, 11x14,14x17, or 16x20.
  • Take extreme care with the portfolio as it will take work and money to collect the information in it.
  • Once the portfolio is ready, go through and review each piece in case the potential client asks any questions.

From looking at a portfolio, a potential client should know what they can expect from the designer. This is the designer's time to shine, so the portfolio should be built to emphasize skills, experience, and talent.

by Chad Morrison


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            Fashion Design (AS)
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
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            BA/Service Management - Mass-market Retail Enterprise Management
            • Online degrees offered include BA in Accounting, BA in Business Administration, MBA, and more.
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