Walk through any city in Virginia and you’ll notice styles ranging from hip to 80s to that “strolling the college campus” look. In some areas, such as Vienna, you’ll find that upscale and sophisticated is the only way to go. This means, top designers such as Gucci, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton are not hard to find.
The shopping scene in Virginia reflects this mix of styles, with its fair share of large department stores, outlet malls, boutiques, resale shops, and shopping villages. You can find a place to shop just about anywhere in the state, but some of the best places for fashion finds are Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, Richmond, Alexandria, Hampton, Vienna, McLean, and Newport News—home of the famous Newport News catalog.
Career Opportunities & Employers in Virginia:
To make it as a fashion designer in Virginia, you must be versatile and willing to work as an assistant, in textiles or production until you get your big break. Believe it or not, this is a great way to earn a paycheck and make contacts in the industry while gaining valuable experience. Just a few of the jobs available to fashion designers are textile artist, hand weaver, knit stylist, fabric technician, piece goods buyer, sample maker, and grader. You can find positions such as these in the cities listed above, and many others throughout the state.
Fashion merchandisers have more job opportunities thanks to the retail industry. Fashion merchandiser’s work as visual merchandisers, buyers, managers, sales representatives, merchandisers, display directors, fashion show coordinators, personal shoppers, and fashion directors. Fashion merchandising jobs can be found in retail shops in both large and small cities in Virginia and corporate offices across the state.
Virginia Fashion Schools & Programs:
Most employers prefer a two- or four-year degree from an accredited college, whether you’re planning a career in apparel manufacturing, merchandising, or design. Fortunately, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Several are located in the state of Virginia. These schools typically award degrees in both fashion design and fashion merchandising. Some of the most popular schools for aspiring fashion designers are:
- The Art Institute of Washington - Arlington
- The Art Institute of Washington - Northern Virginia
- The Art Institute of Virginia Beach
- Marymount University, Arlington
- Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
- Radford University, Radford
- Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg
If you’re interested in a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, enroll in a fashion design or fashion merchandising degree program. If your plan is to start your own business, consider combining your fashion design or fashion merchandising degree with a business or marketing degree. Keep in mind that most universities offer marketing and business degrees, while most art and design colleges 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 Virginia:
Virginia fashion designers work in apparel design, textile design, technical production, and pattern making. There are 40 salaried fashion designers in Virginia, down from 50 in 2006. Although the number of salaried designers declined slightly over the years, 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.
Virginia fashion designers earn around $43,570 per year. In 2006, they earned $54,150. 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 are more than 1,300 merchandise displayers in Virginia, up from 1,140 in 2006.
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