Do you need to study fashion to pursue a career in fashion

“Not having studied fashion stops analysis paralysis and allows me to be a bit freer.”

I know I’m not the only one who grew up watching The Devil Wears Prada, longing to be part of the fashion industry. Whether it’s styling and designing or writing and editing, there’s more than one way to get your foot in the door.

But as you painstakingly edit your resume in the hopes of becoming the next Andy Sachs, what should you have listed under the heading ‘education’? The obvious option to study would be a Bachelor of Fashion, but is it necessary?

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I’m living my dream of writing for Fashion Journal, but I by no means have studied fashion. With this in mind, I asked some of my favorite Australian fashion people for their take on whether you need to study fashion to pursue a career in it.

Karinda Mutabazi, stylist

I don’t think that you need to study fashion, but it did help me that I studied performance. It helped me to understand the way that I do styling, which is to get into the mind of the person or artist I’m working with. I like to understand who the person is and what makes them tick. And so, I think that a background in performance did help me.

But fashion as a study, I don’t know whether you can teach that. I think for my job, it’s something that you either have an eye for or you don’t. You can go to school or not, but it’s probably just as useful to be assisting people and learning on the job. One useful part of studying fashion would be the structure and learning to be accountable to deadlines. But for the practical side, learning on the job is better.


Emma Cutri, creative director and designer of Sister Studios

I would say absolutely not. I feel like I didn’t learn anything at fashion school, to be honest. You do learn the basics and it’s great to meet like-minded people and teachers with insight. But I think industry experience and small business experience are just as relevant. I learned everything on the job, from asking and calling people.

From my time in retail working with small designers, that’s where I learned everything. I would say to get some industry experience. Even working in retail gives you great industry experience. Then you’re getting to know a brand that you love and perhaps working your way up in their head office. I think these days everything you can learn on the job. There’s so much advice online now.


Kacy Heywood, creative director and designer of Ka He

I think [studying fashion] can be beneficial. Although it depends. It depends on who you are, your personality, your drive and motivation and what aspects of the industry you want to be involved with. Studying gives you a lot of resources. When you go to university you have the lecturer’s knowledge as well as mentors who you can bounce ideas off that you don’t otherwise have. It also strengthens your own aesthetics and abilities.

If you don’t study [fashion] you don’t have any of that around you. So, then you are going on a solo journey to establish your grounding as a designer. Through my solo journey, I’ve solidified my confidence and skills, because I’ve had no one else to lean back on. It’s taken me eight years compared to [the] four years [it would have taken] I had studied fashion. I would say communicate to get internships or go work for someone and get experience. You don’t need to have a teacher to point you in the right direction.


Virginia Martin, creative director and designer of BĂșl

I don’t necessarily think so. Because I think you need skills, but you can learn them other ways than studying. So, I only did one year of fashion study because I wanted to learn just the basics. And then I wanted to go out and do internships and learn that way, on the job. I self-taught a lot when I was younger, and my mom taught me to sew, so I already had a lot of knowledge of making clothes. There are a lot of other things in the fashion business that you can’t necessarily learn in school.

So, I think it depends. If you want to work for yourself then it’s important to learn skills and understand what it takes. It’s a little bit harder that way because you’ve got to take all the risks yourself and learn on your own time. But if you wanted to work for somebody else, a lot of companies will want somebody with experience or with some sort of schooling. I know for myself, because that wasn’t important to me, that when we do hire interns, it’s more about what they can do and what they want out of it, rather than having a degree.


Karina Barker, founder of Re/lax Remade

I did a course in pattern making, but I didn’t study fashion. I would never think of myself as someone working in the fashion industry. I feel like I’m just running my own business outside of that landscape and I’m flattered when people inside the fashion industry recognize what I do. And I think that in a way it’s a real blessing that I don’t know the inner workings of the fashion industry. I’m not trying to fit in.

So, I think that breeds freedom. I’m just running my own race and not trying to fit in with any expectations. Not having studied fashion stops analysis paralysis and allows me to be a bit freer. It’s been positive not to study it because, for me, it’s given me a bit more confidence and a bit more freedom. Having said that, I wish that I had studied fashion so I could have bones to my skills.


For more advice on breaking into the fashion industry, try this.

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