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

Written by FS StaffOctober 14, 2011

The Phoenix Fashion Scene

Phoenix is just as much a part of the fashion scene as it’s close neighbors, California and Nevada, but it’s more approachable. For starters, the city hosts the biggest fashion event in the state—Phoenix Fashion Week. During the 3-day event, fashion industry professionals and spectators alike attend 35 designer runway shows, trunk sales, statewide retail events, fashion workshops & parties. Fashion Week is solid proof that the Phoenix fashion scene is growing at a rapid pace and all are welcome to become a part of it. Since 2008, attendance has increased by a whopping 300 percent. This means, opportunities for fashion designers and fashion merchandisers have grown as well.

Aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers can find work in everything from design to retail to technical production. Design studios, low-key production facilities, and shopping venues are plentiful here, but look no further than the city’s major shopping districts for opportunities in retail and design. Some of the most popular shopping districts are Biltmore—with the upscale Biltmore Fashion Park at the center of it all, and the 110-acre Desert Ridge Marketplace—home to more than 100 specialty retailers and eateries. Production facilities can be found just about anywhere in the city and the surrounding areas.

Phoenix Fashion Week and world-class shopping are just a few things Phoenix has to offer aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers. A number of training programs are also accessible if you want to study here while immersing in the city’s fresh fashion scene.

Phoenix Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Schools and Programs

The state of Arizona is home to 78 colleges and universities. Some are art and design colleges, while others are traditional colleges that may offer degrees in art and design. Several popular colleges offer degrees in fashion and/or fashion merchandising. They are:

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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Collins College offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design & Merchandising. The program prepares students to work in apparel design, visual merchandising, textile design, trend analysis, retail store management, fashion illustration, and more.

Phoenix College offers associate and certificate programs. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Design or a certificate in apparel construction, costuming, fashion design (levels I and II), fashion illustration, or pattern design (levels I and II).

The Art Institute of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Marketing and a diploma in fashion retailing. An evening & weekend option is available for students that may work full-time or have other obligations during the day.

Phoenix Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Employers

Phoenix fashion designers and fashion merchandisers work in retail, technical production, textile design, apparel design, buying, management, marketing, and more. They may work as clothing designers, design assistants, accessories designers, footwear designers, visual merchandisers, fashion consultants, children’s fashion designers, pattern makers, costume designers, tailors, and hand sewers. Many fashion designers also teach, so Phoenix’s academic institutions and design centers are an excellent source of job opportunities for aspiring instructors.

Many Phoenix fashion designers work for established designers and brands, department stores, and textile manufacturers. Some are self-employed. Fashion designers and merchandisers can find employment throughout the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area.

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Careers at a Glance

As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported employment and salary figures for Phoenix fashion designers. Based on the city’s growing fashion scene, it’s safe to assume that it has a sizable population of salaried and self-employed fashion designers. Across the nation, 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.

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 successful self-employed designer or store owner can earn six to seven figures per year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer employment and salary figures for fashion merchandisers, but a significant part of the job involves creating window displays and managing the overall look and feel of stores. There are nearly 2,000 merchandise displayers in the state of Arizona. More than 1,300 live in Phoenix. 

For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industry, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at