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5 steps: How to Make a Fashion Portfolio

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

How To Create a fashion portfolio

Whether you're a student or a job applicant everyone who hopes to be a professional designer must have a killer portfolio that can outshine the competition. But, there is a secret that not many people understand...Having beautiful designs, colors and fabrics are NOT the most important parts to making a great portfolio. Sorry to burst your bubble but in the real world you will only spend about 10% of your time (per year) creating new designs.

The majority of your time will be spent on tweaking your designs in order to get them production ready or making technical sketches and technical files. Therefore, your portfolio should reflect that you understand what it REALLY means to be a professional designer. You will need to highlight that you know how to create designs within a specific brand identity, that you can communicate your ideas clearly and professionally, and that you understand how a garment is put together down to the last technical detail.

Just like you need to start your day on the right foot with a healthy and hearty breakfast, you also NEED to start your portfolio on the right foot with RESEARCH. It's the foundation for your entire portfolio, so you need to give it serious thought. Your research will dictate the mood, general color combinations and theme of your entire collection within your portfolio. It's also a great way to focus all of your design ideas.

fashion trend board

For fashion designers our gift of creation can also be our curse... Too much of it without a direction would lead to chaotic nonsense, and chaotic nonsense does not a professional portfolio make. Whenever you seem stuck or losing control of your collection try to refer back to your original research, and design within these parameters. 

In the professional world we look at several different areas of the industry to gather our inspiration for our collections. Then we sometimes compile a booklet of our favorite finds and create a theme around it. For example, I added an image above which is from a trend booklet I created for an outerwear client I worked with in the past. It shows one of the main trends I had noticed from many different brands, and we had a very many military inspired pieces throughout our collection due to this research. Here are a few of the finalized designs:

fashion CAD sketches of coats

There are so many other areas where you can search for trend and research inspirations. Here are some examples:

I think that has an amazing registry of all the latest and greatest runway collections, with professional insight on each season. They have a wealth of knowledge on their website and its is all free. Gotta love it!

Two words "Great Gatsby"...This movie really made waves throughout our culture. we saw dark lips, beautiful updo's, long flapper-esque dresses and even art deco interiors. So keep a look out for the next big trend that might be a hit.

Premiere Vision, Tex World, Salon de la lingerie are just to name a few.

Street bloggers are on the ground looking at how real people are wearing what designers have created. By seeing what people buy and how they wear it, you can create better outfits that are geared to sell quickly.

There is so much to gain when looking at what is trending in the art world. The colors, the movement, and the messages all contribute to our culture. What will you find to inspire your collections

Can the interior prints, fabrics and colors be translated into fashion? The answer is yes, if it is done keep a sharp eye of any strong trends you might see, or simply look to interior design for general inspiration.

When the cat eye eyeliner look started, we saw an upswing of 50's inspired fashions. What can the makeup trends tell us about where the fashion might go? Maybe if make up becomes more natural then perhaps the fashion will become more minimalistic as well.

There are also trend forecasting companies that do all the leg work of determining fashion trends for upcoming collections. They are extremely helpful if you don't want to spend too much time doing all the trend research yourself. However to buy their trend books can cost a pretty penny. If you still have access to your university library then they should have some trend books to look at for free.

One of the main reasons I love looking through trend forecasting books is because they are

such great inspiration for how to create a portfolio. Everything is perfection from their technical flats, to their fashion figures and even their overall layout (See example above).

When your professors told you to think of a customer and create a mood board for that customer, it feels pretty unimportant. And to be honest for class it kind of is, because you aren't designing for a customer...YET! However it becomes exceedingly important once you're in the industry, because if you don't know your customer then you won't have a customer. If you can figure out who your customer is (what music they listen to, what their hobbies are, where they live, what their age is, what other stores they shop at etc.) then, and only then can you attempt to sell to them. Knowing your customer inside and out will help you to ultimately make a sale, which let's face it, is the whole point of this screwy but fabulous thing we do.

Fashion customer page mood board

It isn't necessary to create a customer research page in your portfolio, but if you would like to add it then feel free. It could help to demonstrate that you know what it takes to cater to a specific clientelle. If you don't add a customer research page to your portfolio, you should at least be able to answer any questions about your customer when asked in an interview. So, you better know your customer like the back of your Prada sunglasses!

This is where you assemble a collection of colors and images that best illustrates the narrative of your portfolio. Search on Google, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to find the best quality images for what you are looking for. Search for images that will go well with your overall design aesthetic, colors and customer.