Oregon is home to more than 100 salaried fashion designers, possibly hundreds of independent designers, and more than 1,500 visual merchandisers. Visual merchandising is only one duty associated with fashion merchandising. In addition to a large population of merchandisers and designers, the state is home to hundreds of malls, boutiques, and upscale shopping venues. Just few popular malls include the upscale Pioneer Mall in downtown Portland (over 100 stores), the largest mall in Oregon, Lloyd Center pf Portland (200+ shops), and Washington Square—home to the state’s largest Nordstrom and more than 140 shops. Although attractive shopping malls can be found throughout the state, Portland is the retail giant of Oregon.
Portland, the largest city in the state, has its very own Fashion Week and other major cities such as Eugene, Salem, and Gresham also host regular fashion events. The state is also home to several schools that offer fashion design and fashion merchandising programs. These programs can help you develop the technical and creative skills needed to make it in the fashion industry in Portland or wherever you decide to start your career.
Career Opportunities & Employers in Oregon:
Oregon fashion designers work in apparel design, pattern making, sample design, retail, consulting, administrative sales, production, and more. They can be found working all over the state, especially if they work in retail, but a large number of designers still work in the state’s largest cities.
Fashion merchandisers may have more opportunities in the fashion industry thanks to the large number of retail shops, department stores, and malls in the state. They may find work as buyers, visual merchandisers, store managers, account managers, display directors, or fashion show coordinators, to name a few. Visit just about any city in Oregon, and you’ll find a number of malls, retail shops, and retail headquarters that may be looking for fashion merchandisers.
Oregon Fashion Schools & Programs:
Most employers prefer candidates with 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. These schools typically award degrees in fashion design, fashion merchandising, and sometimes, fashion management. Oregon schools that offer fashion degrees are:
- Oregon State University, Corvallis
- George Fox University, Newberg
- Lane Community College, Eugene
- The Art Institute of Portland
To begin training for a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, enroll in a fashion design, apparel design, fashion merchandising or apparel design & textiles degree program. If you are interested starting your own line, studio, or boutique, consider combining your fashion design or fashion merchandising degree with a business or marketing degree. Fortunately, most traditional colleges also offer degrees in business or marketing.
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 Oregon:
Oregon is home to around 150 salaried fashion designers. These designers earn an average of $65,620 per year. 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. A top fashion designer can earn several million dollars a year.
As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported employment and salary figures for fashion merchandisers, but a significant part of the job involves working with window and store displays. There are 1,730 merchandise displayers (visual merchandisers) living in Oregon today, up from 1,420 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 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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