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3 Skills You Didn’t Know You Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry

If you have dreams of becoming the next superstar fashion designer and the toast of New York City, turning your name into a global brand will require a little more than the artistic flair, overconfidence and forward-thinking style I’m sure you have in spades. If you don’t also understand a few fundamental business concepts, the chances that your new clothing concoctions with light up both the catwalk and your bank account will be slim to none. Here are three core skills you need to succeed in fashion that may surprise you.

How to Succeed in the Fashion Industry (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Financial planning and analysis
You are an artist at heart and don’t have time for math. I get it. But if you fail to apply even basic concepts of finance to the new fashion brand you are dying to get off the ground, how can you expect any of your ideas to be commercially viable? Put your virtual paintbrush down, close out of Photoshop and open up a blank Excel spreadsheet and plan out exactly how you are going to afford all of the logistical steps. If you are serious about running your own company, this is crucial.

Negotiation skills
You will need to build relationships with many different and diverse stakeholders in your quest to become America’s Next Top Designer. Not all of these stakeholders will have your interest at heart – many of them may even be direct competitors. How will you get them to cooperate? You will probably be buying material in bulk from suppliers in faraway places to run your shop or maybe you plan to outsource all of your manufacturing to a factory abroad. You will need savvy persuasion and negotiations skills to make sure you can keep as much of the upside on the new fall collections you have in mind.

Creative writing
Until you have the ability to hire your own marketing professional, you will be on your own in hyping your brand with the written word. Many aspiring designers ghostwrite their own “press releases” to give their work added heft and credibility as they do not have the resources or connections to get a real news outlet to cover them. Like any small business, marketing to and attracting customers is priority one and you have to approach your ambition with a similarly open mind to do everything yourself, at least in the beginning. A great design is nothing without an equally impressive tag line underneath it. Good luck!

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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