A Fashion Design degree today is just another credential that goes on your resume so you can boast to all your friends, family and peers. However, in the fashion industry, most employers do not really care whether you have a degree or a diploma, and I will tell you why. The majority of employers are only interested in skilled workers, such as pattern makers, sewers, cutters, graders, spreaders, plotters, etc. Over the years, I have met hundreds of garment manufacturers, owners, executive directors, buyers, and production supervisors in Southeast Asia and North America, and they all seem to agree on one thing: they would rather hire a skilled and experienced worker over someone who has a fashion degree, any day. Your fashion degree credentials may look great on a piece of paper, but, at the end of the day, employers will still want to test your technical skills and experience, on the spot with no preparation or advance notice, to see how well you handle pressure and stress. Their reasoning is quite simple. They prefer to work with someone who has real technical skills and experience because they do not want to invest a lot of time and money to train a new worker, nor do they want you to make mistakes at their expense, either. Furthermore, many of the garment factory owners already know that their employees are not loyal to the company they work for, and they know that their workers could ‘jump ship’ at any time, if another employer offers them a higher compensation package and bonuses.

When you visit any garment factory in Southeast Asia, the one thing you will see and notice the most is that all of the job positions are posted on the outside of the garment factory’s main front gate, with all of the job descriptions, compensation, requirements, schedule and total hours of work involved. There was no mention of any fashion degree or diploma being required in any of the job postings that I have seen during my many visits to these garment manufacturers.

Even in Canada, I have heard stories, from experienced sewers and garment factory owners, where an employer had to choose between a fashion graduate with a bachelor degree and a Chinese skilled worker with no high school diploma or university degree for the same position. The employer gave both qualified individuals the same test for three hours in the sample and production room. Surprisingly, at the end of the test, the employer chose to hire the Chinese skilled worker, even though her English skills were not as good. The employer chose her for the position over the fashion graduate because the Chinese skilled worker had stronger technical skills and more experience in pattern drafting and sewing than the fashion graduate. The fashion graduate, who spoke perfect English and had a bachelor fashion degree, failed miserably in both areas of the sewing and pattern drafting components of the test.

This is a great reminder for all fashion graduates out there, whether you have a degree or a diploma, that, if you cannot draft, grade, French drape, cut, sew or alter and finish a complete garment in three hours, you will most certainly have an extremely challenging time obtaining employment in the fashion industry. By now, you will probably have figured out that your fashion institution did not provide you with sufficient technical training nor prepared you well for the fashion industry. Finally, you may or may not be aware of this fact, but employers outside of Canada, or when you leave your country to work in another country, may not recognize your fashion degree/diploma, especially if your potential future employer has never heard of or been to your city or country. Therefore, if you do not have the real technical skills and experience to back-up your fashion design degree/diploma, you literally have no chance to obtain employment in the fashion industry. If you have a bachelor degree or a diploma, it does not set you far apart from any of your competitors, BUT the only thing that will set you far apart from and place you above everyone else will always be your technical skills and experience.

At Vancouver Sewing Classes (VSC), when you enroll in our long Fashion Design program, we will train you extremely well to work efficiently, utilizing industry tricks of the trade, and give you technical skills to design, draft, drape, grade, cut, sew and finish a garment in three hours, so that you are always well prepared for any future employment and business opportunities.

– Chris Falcon is a Canadian designer and fashion educator with over 30 years of experience in the garment design and manufacturing business.