You are on page 1of 12

A great way to present fabric swatches, by Katharina Domokosch.

2. Prepare to be flexible, and take things in and out. Because different jobs and courses will
have different requirements, make sure to be prepared to adapt your portfolio according to the
position you are applying for (just like you do with a resume, right?) So if you have five great projects,
maybe you only bring three to one interview, and four to another, because there were elements that
werent relevant to one particular school or job. This also means you need a portfolio where you can
remove content. Very important, see below.

A line up of the whole collection, by Katharina Domokosch. This is a great way to end a fashion design project,
as it allows the viewer to see the collection as a whole.

3. Buy a good portfolio. And have a great digital version. A good portfolio is an indispensable
tool for a fashion person. I suggest A4 or letter size (bigger makes you look student-y, although some
schools will require this, see point 1. ) Choose something neutral (ie. black. No logos, no weird colours,
no cheap binding, please.) Make sure it is very high quality and has sleeves where you can easily
change the content, and how many pages are in the portfolio. Your portfolio will last you for years,
which is why you want it to be neutral. Even though you might be obsessed with pink bows and lace
now, you dont want your portfolio to be pink and lacy, as you may end up being a menswear designer
in five years. Expect to spend well into the three digits for a good portfolio and sleeves, but count this
as an investment.
I once saw Louise Wilson (course director on the MA at St. Martins) refuse an application because the
portfolio looked disgusting. She didnt even open it. But, I wont deny she has a good point. What
kind of person are you if you go to a job interview in a sweatsuit? The same type of person who puts
their prized work into the portfolio equivalent of a sweatsuit.
And dont forget, a good digital version of your portfolio is also very important since we live in the
digital age. This needs to be slightly different than your hardcopy, as some things cant be represented
the same in both formats (ex. videos or fabric swatches.) I make my students do a small 4MB
maximum mini version of their digital portfolio, to send out as a taster. Then they need a larger
version, which can be sent out on request (dont ever send a 100MB file to someone unless they have
requested it.) Make sure to have flexibility with your pages in case you need to do a 20MB version, or
you want to remove pages.

A lovely research and fabric page by Cat Patterson.

4. Know your strengths. This is a life lesson for everyone, and applies to all careers, applications,
and aspects of life. If you arent good at something, try and avoid including it in your portfolio. For
example, if you suck at illustrating, dont put any in your portfolio (this is very possible. On the MA at
St. Martins, the course director thought everyones illustrations were shit her words and only
one of us was allowed to include proper fashion illustrations in our portfolio. The rest of us managed
to make beautiful portfolios without them, proof that it is possible.) If it is presentation skills, have a
graphic designer friend help you with layouts. If you cant spell, make sure your written work is
proofread. No one is perfect, so dont try to be and dont try and do everything yourself. Remember,
you are only as good as your worst illustration/design/layout/essay, so make sure there are no weak
links.

Great use of white space in this design development spread by Cat Patterson.

5. No unprofessional photoshoots. I was just saying to some students the other day, who are
planning photoshoots for their styling class, that it is ESSENTIAL that they get professional models.
Nowadays, with Instagram and photo editing software, a good model is even more important than a
good photographer. This is one of the reasons why I organize our fashion design graduates
photoshoots, because most local schools make the students do them on their own, and they end up
with poor photos because they dont have a pro team. As you can see here, a pro team makes a huge
difference. And spare me the argument about wanting to use real women as models, that is a load of
bollocks. If you want a model that isnt a size four, then hire one who is bigger. Or hire an actress, but
it must be someone that is comfortable in front of a camera. Dont get your mate to model instead.
Read more on this here.

It is great to see research and the designs that followed. By Fernanda Fujiwara.

6. Edit. When people look at portfolios, they are usually in some type of recruitment process and will
be exposed to a lot of work. Which is why you need to make your short and SWEET. Dont bore people
to death. Dont start with the OK stuff and save the best for last (the interviewer may not even bother
to get through the first half.) And dont include anything mediocre. Editing seems to be something
that is FAR more challenging than creating content (I am guilty of this, look at the size of this blog
post) and so take the time to edit your portfolio carefully so that it isnt too long and doesnt get
boring. In the case of applications for courses that require written content, be sure to edit down your
projects and use clear titles, introductions, bullet points, nice diagrams, and subtitles so that the
interviewer doesnt need to read your 4,000 word market research project, they can skim it and get an
idea of what youve done. I am not going to get into specifics of page numbers here, as sometimes a 20
page portfolio will bore me to death, while a 100 page one will be riveting and exciting the whole way
through. It depends. And remember point 2, you will probably have a lot of work you want to show,
just dont include all of it for every submission. Edit and choose according the job/school/course you
are applying to.

More great illustrations and research by Fernanda Fujiwara.

7. Excellent presentation. If I had a dollar every time a student handed in good work poorly
presented, and got a crappy mark as a result, well, Id have many dollars. This is fashion, is is ALL
ABOUT presentation! So how can you ignore it? You cant. Layouts need to be SPECTACULAR. Maybe
I need to do a separate post on layout tips, because I see more fails than I do successes. Go back to the
sweatshirt analogy. Or the part about only being as good as your worst element. So think great
graphics, a well-considered font, high quality imagery, consistency, white space, good quality paper,
and a presentation style that is relevant to your work and yourself. This is a great time to get your
graphic designer friends to help out.

A nice way to present research, and a good use of white space, also by Fernanda Fujiwara.

8. Show your process. Most people like to see the process in which a person goes through to get to
their final result, as that is the main part of the role in most fashion jobs. So with design portfolios,
make sure to show research, development, experimentation, fittings, and more. This can be as part of
a project (all my students need to show these elements when they hand in a design project) or it can be
in a sketchbook.

It is nice to see research and development side by side, on this portfolio spread by Chichi Luo.

9. Research and development! See above. But I wanted to have a separate point for this because
research is one of the most important elements in a fashion design portfolio and is usually what
separates a St. Martins student from a student from crappy fashion school in the middle of nowhere.
Our projects and portfolios were probably 50-90% research and development, with a resolution or
conclusion at the end. We did research for months before we started designing, and thats often what
happens in industry. I dont let my students even pick up a pencil until theyve collected a crap load of
research. So if you are wondering what makes St. Martins and all those other English schools so good,
it is usually the importance they place on research skills.

Great examples of showing development on the stand, which is a great alternative to sketches. By Chichi Luo.

10. Dont limit your content to fashion. If you are great in other things, then make sure they get
a mention. Schools and companies arent accepting/hiring you based on your work, they are also
making an investment in you as a person. And so if you are good at other things, then that will always
be a plus.
P.S. One last very important tip: if you are applying to schools, check out the graduate portfolios from
the recent grads. That will give you an idea of where the course is supposed to take you, and
demonstrating that you have the ability to get there will only help you. Most schools do public
portfolio shows, or put work online. In fact, all of these images came from Showtime, which has the
graduate portfolios of the University of the Arts grads (includes St. Martins and London College of
Fashion), a great resource to see what some of the top London fashion school grads are doing. Ive
shown work from students at London College of Fashion.

1. Look around
It is easy to create clothes, its hard to make clothes that are current and the modern person would
like to wear them.
Usually the trends analysis are expensive, but if you cant afford them there is plenty of free
information on the internet- take your time to look around.

2. Find an inspiration
Now that youre familiar with the silhouettes, fabrics and colors that will be wanted its time to find a
source of inspiration. This could be anything from a quote you like to an entire Era like Baroque,
Renaissance or Art Deco. Could be a movie or a book that made you feel special or an abstract
theme such as Freedom, Autumn Shades The Secret Door.
The mark here is to pick a topic that really moves you and provokes pictures in your mind. Something
that talks about YOU as a designer and describes the way you see the world and the new fashion.

3. Research
3.1 Find everything you can on your topic. If your inspiration was Merilyn Monroe for instance read
her biography, collect all the pictures you can find, watch her movies, find articles on her, interview
people who knew her. Dig everything about her personality.
Learn what kind of people like the message it holds. What is it that makes it attractive to them? Whats
their attitude, their habits, their story?
If you were inspired by Jazz music you would like to talk to a jazz musician or go to a place that plays
jazz music and just feel it! Ask politely these people why they dress like they do, what do they express
with their clothing? Get to know the world of your inspiration.
3.2 Think about whos your customer.
Who for you will be designing? Working women from 25-40 or young women who live to have fun
form 18 to 30? Think about the lifestyle of your customer does she have the finances to buy
expensive clothes, is the comfort important to her, does she like to be noticed or not?
Tip: Dont mistake your customer with your Inspiration. You might be inspired by Japan and make all
the western women dress in clothes inspired by the East. Hip-hop inspired gown, a swimsuit inspired
by Eskimos..why not?
3.3. Visit a fabrics store and look around. Search for fabrics that remind you of your inspiration and
get some samples. Try to think only about your theme and avoid ending up with a senseless ton of
samples. Remember your customer and the colors/fabrics trends that youve researches.
You dont want to make a collection out of something that was modern 2 seasons ago!

4. Write it down
Write down everything youve reached to so far. The text should be a short resume of your idea and
intention for the collection. A man should be able to read it in 2-4 minutes and really get what youre
about to present in your portfolio. After all the research youve done you could probably write a small
book on your topic, but very few people would have the time to read it. The key word here is EDIT.
Very brief description of what inspired you and why. Mention who you customer is, what season youre
designing for, the materials that youre about to use, the details that will be incorporated. A little bit
about the colors and silhouettes. All in about 1 sheet of paper or so.

5.Moodboard
This is the next thing that one would expect to find in your portfolio. After theyve read the resume of
the project they would want to see HOW EXACTLY. Collect and collage the reference pictures that
you think best represent your vision. You might want to incorporate color and textile samples, even
some hand drawn parts. Step away and make sure the final moodboard really shows the thoughts in
your head and the way you see the portfolio theme.

6. Fabrics
There should be fabrics and colors samples in your portfolio.
Select the 5-9 fabrics that you find best for your collection. Think about the comfort of your customer,
whether this textile is easy to work with, if it goes well with the rest of the fabrics and if its appropriate
for the season. Is this fabric going to allow you to create the volumes and effects youre looking for?
Reserve a sheet of your portfolio for fabrics and colors samples and make sure its presented in
a neatway. You dont want glue all around or textiles that are falling apart at the edges. Do your best
to make it look professional.

7. Flats
At this point you should feel very inspired already. So much time in preparation and now finally you
can think about the design. Many designers prefer to start off with the flats, since its easier and faster
to design and mix-match details on lineart drawing than on a full-color illustration.
If youre making a collection of 12 outfits you should have done at least 50 sketches and selected
the best 12 out of them. I know it sounds like a lot, but once you start doing it you wont be able to
hold back your ideas. This is thanks to all the initial preparation that youve done that is now giving
you directions, ideas and keeps you inspired.
Dont forget to look at your fabrics list and write down which fabric youre using.

8. Illustrations
As you see the actual fashion illustrations are one of the last things that you do when making a
fashion portfolio. The illustrations should really catch the eye of the viewer. He should be looking with
interests to see the next page. Use unexpected poses and figure compositions, draw different view
angles and use new art techniques. Dont be afraid to cut the figure in half or make even only a
headshot. The illustrations come to represent WHO your woman is to tell us about the mood of your

clothes, to make us want to BE that women.


When drawing the illustrations think about all the little things you would before a runway
accessories, the right makeup, shoes and attitude of the model are crucial.

9. Photos
Photos are optional supplement to the portfolio, but they are always a big plus. By having them you
will show the jury or employer that you not only have the ideas, but also the skills to bring to life your
designs. If you have produced the clothes it is very important to make professional looking photos. If
you know a photographer- ask him to help you or hire one.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to take pictures of the designs in your room, with
you/your best friend wearing them.
Dont ever add photos to your portfolio that Vogue or Marie Claire wouldnt be excited to publish!

10. Layout
This is the final step, but you should think of it from the very beginning. The cover of your portfolio,
the quality of the materials youve used, the format and colors are the first thing people will see.
You can buy a beautiful file and just put all the pages in or you can hand make the whole thing. Be
careful if you decide to and make it on your own you need to be very precise and skilled the final
product must look polished and well-made, not amateur.
If your theme allows it you can incorporate details from it into the cover the font, the texture, the size
and shape of the portfolio.
Many aspiring designers make the mistake to overdesign their layout and cover. Its awesome that
youre that creative, but remember that good taste is what the viewer is seeking for. Less is more!
Love,