The state of Illinois is home to nearly 100 fashion designers, thousands of retailers, and so many shopping districts you’ll lose count. Illinois is also home to Chicago—the third largest city in the U.S. You can find designer fashions from A-Z here along with handpicked creations by lesser known designers from around the world. Visit any major city in Illinois and you’ll find a mix of styles from preppy to trendy to hip hop to uber sophisticated. No matter what the style may be in any given city, it’s never dated.
In addition to being a fashion-conscious state, Illinois is also home to a number of top fashion design programs that can lend a hand in helping you become the next big thing.
These programs can help you develop the technical and creative skills needed to make it as a fashion designer or fashion merchandiser whether you decide to start a career in Illinois, New York or California. You’ll need talent too, of course, but once you have it all, you can easily become part of an industry that promises growth, even during tough times.
Career Opportunities & Employers in Illinois:
Illinois fashion designers work in everything from consulting to manufacturing to design. Some may have their own line, while others may work for seasoned designers or even merchant wholesalers. Fashion merchandisers work in product development, production, marketing, and sales. Many also work in visual merchandising for retail stores or fashion houses. Fashion design and merchandising graduates can find work across the state from downtown Chicago to the surrounding metropolitan areas.
Illinois Fashion Schools & Programs:
Not every major fashion designer has a degree, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most employers prefer a two- or four-year degree from an accredited college. Fortunately, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design and some are located in the state of Illinois. These schools typically award degrees in both fashion design and fashion merchandising.
Aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers living in Illinois will have access to renowned schools such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. Other Illinois schools that offer fashion design and fashion merchandising programs are:
- Columbia College, Chicago
- Dominican University, River Forest
- Harper College, Palatine
- International Academy of Design & Technology (Chicago)
- The Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago
- The Illinois Institute of Art, Schaumburg
- Triton College, River Forest
If you’re interested in a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, enroll in a fashion design or fashion merchandising degree program. If you want start your own business, consider combining your degree with a business or marketing degree. Keep in mind that most 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 Illinois:
Most Illinois fashion designers live in Chicago. They earn an average of roughly $58,290 per year, up from $53,220 in 2004. They work in design, consulting, apparel manufacturing, and other related areas. As of May 2008, the mean annual wage for fashion designers nationwide 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. It’s not unusual for a top fashion designer to earn millions per year.
Employment and salary figures for fashion merchandisers have not been reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a significant part of the job involves working with window and store displays. There more than 2,000 merchandise displayers living in Illinois.
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 more and more designers and brands choose manufacturing companies overseas. However, employment of fashion designers is stable because many firms prefer to keep design work in house.
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