Careers and Education in Fashion

by W. Randy Hoffman
Careers and Education in Fashion

Lots of smart and influential people have considered fashion and clothing important. For example, Ben Franklin said, "Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others," and Mark Twain added to the Latin proverb "Clothes make the man" the dry observation that "Naked people have little or no influence on society."

However, one of the nicknames that insiders use for the fashion industry -- sometimes affectionately, sometimes derisively -- is "the rag trade," as if all that fashion were about was mixing and matching leftover scraps to sell to the unsuspecting public. The truth lies somewhere between these extremes, but closer to the first view.

At its worst, fashion can seem terribly artificial and self-involved (Right Said Fred's song "I'm Too Sexy" springs to mind), but at its best, fashion can be a vital, exciting enhancement to personal appeal and self-esteem.

So what opportunities exist in the fashion industry? Is it the sole province of top-flight designers and models of women's clothing? Hardly. David M. Schmida, executive director of the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives (IACDE), says, "Sometimes students call me because they want to be the next Donna Karan or something, which is great, but that's not our main focus. Our membership works mostly on the technical side of the design and production of fine menswear."

For every marquee fashion designer with their own label, there are hundreds of other people who create less heralded but no less important designs, or who move designs from an illustration on a screen or a one-off prototype to finished goods on the racks at a store or on the shelves at a boutique.

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