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Kansas Fashion Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Career Options, & Training Programs for Fashion Designers and Merchandisers

Written by FS StaffSeptember 22, 2011


If the number of independent retail shops and large shopping malls are any indication of what the fashion scene is like in Kansas, aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers will find plenty of opportunities to work and learn here! Some of the best shopping malls in the Midwest can be found in major cities such as Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City, Topeka, and Olathe. Just a few include Country Club Plaza in Kansas City (more than 170 shops), Oak Park Mall, also in Kansas City (187 specialty shops and department stores), and Bradley Fair in Wichita (more than 50 shops).

The state’s malls are great places to work before, during, and after you receive your degree. Working in retail offers a chance to check out the latest trends, see what’s hot and what’s not, and to take notes on running a business. This experience invaluable, especially if you decide to start your own line or shop. In addition to retail, fashion merchandisers can find work as buyers, visual merchandisers, fashion show coordinators, and display directors, to name a few.

Fashion professionals may find positions in the major cities listed above as well as other smaller cities such as Shawnee, Manhattan, Lenexa, and Salina. 

Employment and Salary Trends for Kansas Fashion Designers and Fashion Merchandisers  

As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported recent employment and salary figures for Kansas designers or fashion merchandisers in any state. However, fashion merchandisers working in retail often work with window and store displays. Around 500 window merchandisers (visual merchandisers) work in Kansas today, down from 700 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 millions per hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year.

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Career Opportunities in Kansas

As mentioned earlier, Kansas fashion designers and fashion merchandisers will have no problems finding work in retail. Other jobs for fashion designers may be found in technical production, sample design, pattern making, and more. Some Kansas designers are independent contractors, and others manage their own boutiques, studios or brands. Many entry-level designers may also work for seasoned designers or merchant wholesalers.

Fashion merchandisers work in management (wholesale and retail industries), buying (retail), merchandising (retail), promotions, and auxiliary positions such as mystery shopper, stylist, or fashion coordinator. Many also work in visual merchandising for retail stores or fashion houses. Fashion design and merchandising graduates can find work in just about any major city, but try the major cities listed above first to see what they have to offer.

Kansas Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Training Programs

Hitting the jackpot in fashion design takes hard work, talent, and luck. Making it big is possible, but you’ll need a degree to get your foot in the door for most salaried positions. Most employers prefer a two- or four-year degree from an accredited college. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, so you’ll find plenty of programs to choose from. Some of the top Kansas schools for fashion are:

  • Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City
  • University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan
  • Johnson County Community College, Overland Park

If you’re ready to dive into a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, the first step is to 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