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Fashion Designer

Kaihoahoa Kākahu

Alternative titles for this job

Fashion designers design clothing and accessories.


Junior fashion designers usually earn

$42K-$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 $42,000 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?

Anjali Stewart

Anjali Stewart

Fashion Designer

Childhood friends now run a joint business

Twentysevennames is the brainchild of clothing designers Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting. Friends since primary school, they've managed to convert their interest in clothing and design into an effective business partnership. "It's a small company, so decisions, down to every button, are made collectively. We used to do everything together – we'd be working at the cutting table, or we'd even sit down to write an email together! Eventually we got to the point where we were like, 'This is too much!' Now it's easier because our roles are more defined.

"Rachel's now taken over the role of patternmaker and getting help for pattern making, while I look after the admin stuff, such as managing our tax and cash flow, and liaising with all our stockists and media. Otherwise, it gets too hard working on lots of jobs at once, as your roles get really blurred and things can fall by the wayside."

Challenges and rewards of working with a friend

Asked if it's ever difficult working with a close friend, Anjali's answer is clear. "It's both hard work and really rewarding – you feel like you have to make the other person proud. I guess it's great having someone to answer to that you value."

Entry requirements

To become a fashion designer you need to have a New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5), which you can study through a course provider or apprenticeship.

Some course providers may require you to have a New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) and work experience before you can study for the diploma.

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.

I think you need to be someone who is really hard-working, determined and prepared to put yourself and your ideas out there.

Anjali Stewart

Clothing Designer

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 -
Eastern Institute of Technology(EIT)
0800 22 55 348
Whitecliffe College of Art and Design
0800 800 300 -
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 18 October 2021