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Fashion Designer

Kaihoahoa Kākahu

Alternative titles for this job

Fashion designers design clothing and accessories.


Junior fashion designers usually earn

$48K-$50K per year

Experienced fashion designers usually earn

$50K-$160K per year

Source: NZ Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a fashion designer are poor for those wanting to enter the role, but average for those with experience.


Pay for fashion designers varies depending on skills and experience.

  • Junior fashion designers with up to three years' experience usually earn between $48,000 and $50,000 a year.
  • Intermediate fashion designers with four to six years' experience can earn between $50,000 and $75,000.
  • Senior fashion designers with more than seven years' experience or designers who work with large companies can earn between $75,000 and $160,000.

Self-employed fashion designers may earn less than this.

Source: New Zealand Fashion Tech 2017; Competenz, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Fashion designers may do all or some of the following:

  • create or update fashion designs
  • prepare drawings of the designs
  • adapt patterns to a new style or create new patterns
  • select and buy fabrics or have fabrics developed
  • estimate how much the work will cost
  • inspect the quality of garments
  • plan clothing production methods
  • market garments.

Skills and knowledge

Clothing designers need to have knowledge of:

  • current clothing styles and trends
  • the history of fashion
  • design and drawing techniques
  • fabric types, colours and fabric care
  • sewing and tailoring techniques
  • garment construction and pattern-making techniques
  • different body shapes
  • computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Working conditions

Fashion designers:

  • may work long and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends
  • work in offices, workshops, factories or clothing shops
  • may travel to different factory sites and to local or overseas fashion shows.

What's the job really like?

Fashion designer

Danni-Rose Barnes-Anderson talks about life as a fashion designer – 2.23 mins

Hi, I'm Danni-Rose.
The main goal of it [fashion design] is obviously to make garments that are loved by my customers
because we want to make them happy. I do the designs, I do the sampling,
pattern-making. I have an employee Tash who's great.
She helps me with everything as well.
But basically from the start to the finish,
everything's done here. Come through the curtains.
And this is where all of the magic happens. . So I've got my desk,
a sewing machine here, another sewing machine,
an overlocker, cutting table. It's not as pretty as the front area,
but it's definitely where, you know,
everything goes down. So what I'm doing now is I'm just getting a "made-to-
order" garment ready.
So what I usually do is I have the customer's details and their measurements
and everything like that so I can make sure it's the perfect fit,
lay the fabric out and start cutting. And you'll see as I'm cutting,
I'm usually measuring it and just making sure that the bust is going to be right,
that the length is right and everything like that,
so that when they receive the garment, it is the perfect fit.
So now that the dress all been cut,
I'm just going to start sewing it. It's just all the smaller things that you do,
putting in extra time that make the garments look and feel higher-end as well.
It's just putting in those extra few minutes of detail to
get a better product at the end. So then after I've got the orders ready,
I'll package them and I'll send them off.
Look at what other admin needs to be done.
We'll touch up some patterns. Every day looks really different, to be honest.
Sometimes I'm sewing all day, other times I'm doing admin all day. You know,
everything does vary day to day,
which is what I love most about the job as well. The true passion behind it
actually comes from creating a more affordable,
sustainable fashion brand as well.
What I'm doing with Danni-Rose is making sure that we are putting efforts into
being sustainable from the start to the finish. And the fabric that I choose,
we use linens and cottons. We stick to natural fibres.
When the garment has been cut, there's usually some excess fabrics.
We do things like we make scrunchies with it, vegetable bags. We really are
making sure that we are minimising our waste that goes out into the environment.
So my advice to people would definitely just be like, just to start now,
you know,
and that's the great thing about having social media and the internet as well.
You don't have to have a physical store for someone to come in.
There's also a lot of information online as well, you know,
chatting to people, joining Facebook groups.
You can have a small amount of fabric and a small amount of customers and just
let it organically grow.

Entry requirements

To be employed as a fashion designer you usually need to have a New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5).

You may need a New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) and work experience to enrol for the diploma.

You may be able to learn through an apprenticeship in apparel.

Secondary education

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication (graphics), digital technologies, maths, processing technologies, and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.

Personal requirements

Fashion designers need to be:

  • creative and imaginative
  • motivated and dedicated
  • organised
  • confident
  • adaptable
  • able to work well under pressure
  • accurate, with an eye for detail.

Useful experience

Useful experience for fashion designers includes:

  • sewing, fabric cutting or patternmaking experience
  • experience as a garment technician
  • fashion buying experience
  • clothing factory or workroom experience
  • draughting or computer-aided design (CAD).

Physical requirements

Fashion designers need to have normal colour vision and good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses). 

Find out more about training

0800 526 1800 -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Networking gives fashion designers a greater chance of finding work

Chances of fashion graduates finding work as designers are poor as competition for vacancies is strong. This is because there are more fashion graduates than jobs available. Most new positions aren't advertised, so its better to network with people in the industry and approach employers yourself.

Opportunities are better for experienced fashion designers, as fashion companies often have trouble finding skilled staff.

According to the Census, 934 fashion designers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Fashion designers work their way up

Fashion designers often get into the industry by starting off as garment technicians or design assistants.

Another good way to get experience in the industry is through internships, which can lead to fashion design jobs.

Types of employers varied

Fashion designers may work for:

  • small fashion houses
  • large clothing manufacturers
  • fashion retailers
  • fashion buyers.

Many fashion designers are self-employed.


  • Edmunds, S, 'New Zealand Designers Carve Out Niche to Take on Fast Fashion', 16 April 2017, (
  • Marshall-Smith, V, academic director, NZ Institute of Fashion Technology Ltd, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, November 2017.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Tailors and Patternmakers', accessed October 2017, (
  • New Zealand Apparel, 'Is NZ-Made Dead?', 2 August 2017, (
  • NZ Fashion Tech, 'Changing Times', accessed October 2017, (
  • NZ Fashion Tech, 'Gaining Employment', accessed October 2017, (
  • NZ Fashion Tech, 'Industry Opportunities', accessed October 2017, (
  • Ryan, H, 'Fashion Industry's Moment to Shine', 26 August 2017, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Fashion designers may progress to set up their own design business or become design room managers or product developers. Product developers design a whole fashion range for a retailer or clothing manufacturer, or can design items such as paint ranges or car upholstery.

Fashion designers may specialise in a number of roles including:

CAD Operator
CAD (Computer Aided Design) operators or computer-aided designers create clothing using CAD software.
Costume Designer
Costume designers create clothing to be used in theatre, film and television productions.
Textile Designer
Textile designers use traditional and modern textile manufacturing and decoration processes to create textiles for clothing and furnishings.

Last updated 27 March 2024