Fashion Design : The Uses of a Fashion Design Portfolio

  Fashion design portfolios have different end uses depending on the market for particular talents and skills. Different end uses lead to different expectations on the part of the person or people
reviewing a portfolio.

  Your student portfolio, where you assemble your work for different courses, will be different from your exit portfolio from college. As you enter each stage of advancement in your career, you will update your portfolio. It will become an ongoing process.
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  Different end uses for portfolios include the following :
  • Placement into college or graduate school.
  • National or international design competitions.
  • Exit interview from college.
  • Interview with a job placement counselor.
  • Interview with a head hunter.
  • Assistant design internship (paying or nonpaying) while in college or after graduation.
  • Entry-level position in the industry: assistant designer or assistant tech designer.
  • Entry-level position in the industry as a first patternmaker or an assistant draper: sometimes a designer will interview for a position as a first pattern maker or assistant draper as an option to building a career in patternmaking or draping instead of design or as a foot in the door to become an assistant designer.
  • Presentation for the next levels of design after your first job: associate designer, associate tech designer, tech designer, designer, head designer, design director, creative director.
  • Interview with a specific company—designing a collection just for the interview.
  • Follow-up interview with presentation board.
Different Expectations

  During your college years, keep all of your final fashion plates in acetate portfolio sleeves. Keep a temporary portfolio with the pages inserted in the portfolio case. Review your work periodically, and have the case ready to go for an internship or related opportunity. Itoya-brand cases are fine for very temporary or short-term use.

  Also keep your design competition collections in your portfolio, along with any credentials or awards and press releases regarding the nature of the competition.

 When you are on a first interview, whether for your first full-time position or later in your career, you may be asked to come back for a second or third interview with a completed board presentation of a collection that the interviewer asks you to design for the company or design firm.

Common Expectations

  As you review this evolution, try to understand the complexities within the industry that put nincreasing demand on the designer’s portfolio to be more than a library of fashion plates. A story needs to be told, and you are charged with creating the narrative, illustrations, plot, character development, beginning, and end—all the while luring the viewer into your design statement and your design world.

  Over the last few years, dramatic industry changes have stretched the role of the designer, requiring a multitude of demanding skills. In addition to telling your design story, your portfolio must show your instructors—and, later, potential employers—your capabilities as a designer, including the following:

  • Forecasting and displaying mood, texture, and color statements to buyers.
  • Ability to design for multiple seasons and quick-turn merchandise.
  • Understanding of retail distribution.
  • Hand-rendering as well as computer-aided skills (CAD systems, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator programs).
  • Ability to execute flat drawings with exacting spec calculations.
  • Production and factory communication.
Typical Portfolio Contents

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Archival page protectors
   To protect the pages of your portfolio, use only polypropylene or acetate sleeves. This material is an archival-quality plastic that can preserve all artwork for a lifetime and prevent damage, with the exception of a flood or fire. Clear plastic sleeves that are not designated as archival will allow permanent damage to your artwork by fading, yellowing, and/or “lifting” your illustrations off of the page.

  Archival page protectors are sold as refills that fit all multi-ring portfolio cases and are made of archival-grade polypropylene for transparency and chemical stability. The binders shown here are also available with three open sides. The fashion plate is inserted from the top, bottom, or binder side. This style is recommended, as the page lies more smoothly and is less disruptive to the viewer. Each page comes with an acid-free black paper insert, and it should be marked as meeting requirements for archival storage. (Courtesy of


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