Fashioning designs beyond the classroom

Just because you go to fashion school doesn’t mean you have to design clothes when you graduate.

It’s common to assume that fashion majors strive to create their own clothing lines once they graduate, but when it comes to being a fashion student, there are more options than becoming a fashion designer.

Ryerson’s School of Fashion offers two options for students majoring in fashion: fashion design and fashion communications. Fashion design allows students to work in fields such as illustration, fashion manufacturing and technical design. Fashion communications, on the other hand, bring students into the branding, marketing and managing sides of the industry.

Paulette Kelly, Ryerson’s fashion design program director, says some of her past students have become something other than designers in the fashion industry. She recalls a few students in particular from the School of Fashion before it became a bachelor’s degree program. The students worked for the military in designing clothing for combat situations and updating military uniforms.

For Kelly, the most recent “interesting” job non-related to the fashion industry is from Aliza Rizvi, a 2012 graduate who works as a product designer for an automobile accessories company. Rizvi designs seat covers, steering wheel covers and interior accessories. She is also a creative designer for “innovative products,” and a technical designer creating mock products for potential clients. A technical designer is someone who works with a design team, generally in companies producing in large masses, to ensure a garment is good in a technical aspect before it is produced. Some of those things are checking its construction, its fashion sense and its fit.

“Sometimes what happens to people is they come out looking for a design job, like Rizvi…but she ended up finding something she really likes and she truly loves it,” says Kelly.

The potential careers for fashion design students can range from fashion design and manufacturing to home furnishing with interior design to curating in museums. Design majors can create costumes for theatre, film and video productions. They can also become jewelry or accessories designers, or design products for companies as product developers.

In fashion communications, students have moved on to become marketers or managing fashion shows and other events. Students can also take the route of public relations and fashion journalism, and even fashion photography. The illustration skills they have learned through the fashion programs can also apply towards a career in graphic design. Those wanting to stay within the industry can become stylists for editorial magazines or personal stylists for individuals.

The School of Fashion has also had students stray from the industry altogether. “We’ve had several students that finish this program and teach. They teach in the secondary school system, teaching fashion design and fashion arts,” says Kelly.

The Ryerson fashion programs require all students to complete an internship, allowing them to make connections and really see the industry.

Although students may look for jobs in a specific field, the skills learned from being a fashion major can apply to a wide range of careers that are not directly related to the fashion industry. “It can be that they end up somehow stumbling on to something else that they weren’t really looking for, (or) something else comes along,” says Kelly.

In the end, it depends on the student’s interest and the way they apply their skills. “If you like colours and putting fabrics together, something as far as automobile interiors and accessories and all that – there’s a relationship to them.”

* Illustration by Cleopatria Peterson