When you think of the District of Columbia, fashion may not be the first thing that comes to mind. DC is the political capital of the world after all, and one might think that the fashions here likely lean towards conservative. True, the political scene isn’t the place for trendy attire—although it can be classic and sophisticated, but there’s still life outside of the political scene here. Besides government, some of the largest industries are accommodations and food service; professional, scientific, and technical services; health care and social assistance, and yes—retail trade! The retail trade industry is larger than the accommodations and food service industry, and it’s slowly catching up to the health care and social assistance industry. This means, aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers can expect plenty of opportunities in the retail industry here—in all sectors.
In addition to employment opportunities for designers and merchandisers, the District of Columbia has an active fashion scene and an impressive collection of shopping districts. DC Fashion Week is the largest exhibition of fashion apparel in the District of Columbia. Designers are from around the globe from New York to New Zealand to Belgium. Around town, other fashion events occur frequently, from eco-friendly fashion shows to model search/design competitions. To find out where DC’s eclectic mix of fashionistas shop, look no further than Capitol Hill/Barracks Row, Downtown, Chevy Chase & friendship Heights, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle/U Street/Shaw, Georgetown, and the up and coming Atlas District.
If you decide that DC is the best place to start a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, you might consider training here too. DC is home to (or near) several schools that offer fashion design and fashion merchandising programs.
Career Opportunities & Employers in :
Although figures for fashion designers and fashion merchandisers have not been reported, based on the hundreds of retail venues, textile companies, design studios, and production facilities in DC, there are possibly hundreds of designers and merchandisers working here. Some are salaried while others are self-employed. They work in textile design for product development, technical production in textiles, administration sales in textiles, apparel design, and pattern making. Many fashion designers also work in retail.
DC fashion merchandisers may have more opportunities that fashion designers thanks to an active retail industry. A large number of merchandisers work in retail as buyers, merchandisers, sales associates, store managers, area sales managers, account managers, display directors, visual merchandisers, and in promotions. Auxiliary positions include fashion show coordinator, costumer, mystery shopper, personal shopper, fashion director, and photo fashion stylist.
For the most retail employment opportunities, try the popular shopping districts mentioned earlier. Textile companies, design studios, or production facilities can be found just about anywhere in DC.
Fashion Schools & Programs:
Whether you’re interested in working on your own line or you would like to work for a top fashion designer, you’ll need a degree. A degree can help you develop the technical and creative skills needed to make it in the industry. A handful of fashion designers managed to make it big without a degree, but they are the exception—not the rule. Most employers prefer a two- or four-year degree from an accredited college and clients will always be curious about where you trained. Fortunately, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary institutions. Many of these schools award degrees in both fashion design and fashion merchandising.
In DC, Howard University is a top choice for fashion students. Howard offers a degree in fashion design and fashion merchandising. The University of The District of Columbia offers an associate degree in fashion merchandising and The Art Institute of Washington in Arlington, Virginia offers a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion & Retail Management and a diploma in fashion retailing. Both programs cover design and merchandising, and the school is located less than four miles from downtown DC.
If you are interested in a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, enroll in a fashion design or fashion merchandising degree program at any of the colleges listed above or one that you find on your own. If you are interested in starting your own fashion business, consider combining your fashion degree with a business or marketing degree. Most traditional universities offer marketing and business degrees, while most art and design schools do not. You can take business courses at another school while completing your fashion program or you can wait until you have completed your degree to enroll in a full-time business or marketing degree program.
For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industries, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Bls.gov.
Employment and Salary Trends for :
As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported recent employment and salary figures for District of Columbia fashion designers or fashion merchandisers in any state. However, retail fashion merchandisers often work with window and store displays. Around 190 window merchandisers (visual merchandisers) work in District of Columbia today, up from only 40 in 2006.
Overall employment in the fashion industry is expected to grow by one percent for the 2008-2018 decade. Sewing and cutting jobs may decline as established designers and brands choose manufacturing companies overseas. However, employment of fashion designers is stable because many firms prefer to keep design work in house.
As of May 2008, the mean annual wage for fashion designers overall was $61,160. The lowest paid fashion designers earned an average annual salary of $32,150 and the highest paid fashion designers earned $124,780 per year. Because many fashion designers are self-employed, salaries may vary greatly. A top fashion designer can earn several hundred thousand up to several million or more a year.
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