Above: Visual Merchandising displays by EGAFD students (class of 2012)
Fashion design is not the only creative career path in the fashion industry. There are other functions supporting the core industry where graphic and imaginative thinking and artistic aptitude are also required.
Visual Merchandising/Presentation. Visual Merchandising is the art of displaying merchandise in a way that will make it appealing to the customer, and includes window displays, signs, interior displays, and special sales promotions, in-store as well as in catalogues and online.
Although visual merchandisers may work with e.g. museums or galleries to create visual concepts for events, the majority are employed in retail stores. They may also work on a freelance or consultancy basis.
A visual merchandiser must liaise closely with other departments such as buying, design and marketing in order to create display themes around appropriate merchandise. If head office based, he may also have to visit braches to coach in-store visual merchandising or sales teams to interpret the guidelines.
Visual merchandisers need to be creative and imaginative, with a good sense of design, colour and style. As design work is frequently computer-aided, it is advisable to possess competent IT-skills.
Styling. A Fashion Stylist is someone who selects the clothing and accessories for published editorial features, print or television advertising campaigns, music videos, concert performances, and any public appearances made by celebrities, models or other public figures. Items are normally borrowed from boutiques or directly from fashion designers, and returned afterwards. The stylist frequently works as part of a team, cooperating with the fashion designer, photographer or director, hair stylist and makeup artist.
Stylists work for individuals, fashion houses and clothing brands, or freelance, and in many different fields. Editorial styling for magazines and publications, wardrobe styling for films, television or stage productions, live performance styling of musicians and performers for concerts, corporate styling of company executives or annual reports, runway styling for fashion parades, and personal shopping (selecting clothes for a client) are a few of the options.
Fashion Performing Arts. This entails what is generally known as costume design. Costume designers create the look of each character in a stage, television or film production by designing the clothes and accessories the actors will wear, and work closely with the director, set and lighting designers, as well as the actors. Normally the costume designer studies the script to form an idea of what a character should look like, and, taking into account the physique of the actor chosen to play the role, makes detailed sketches to present to the director.
A residential designer works for a specific theatre, dance or opera company for an extended series of productions, while a freelance designer is hired for a specific production.
Fashion Photography. Fashion photography aims to showcase clothing and other fashion products in unique, creative and artistic images that will attract consumers. Fashion photographers may be employed by fashion magazines, catalogues, advertising agencies or fashion houses, or self-employed, and usually work to a brief set by the employer or client.
A professional photographer must have knowledge of all technical elements of photography, including lighting, sharpness and composition, and if working in fashion, also an awareness of fashion and photographic trends. He will co-operate closely with designers, models, stylists, and make-up artists.
Fashion photographers need good interpersonal skills, as they need to make models feel confidant and at ease in order to obtain the best pictures.
Fashion Journalism. This refers to fashion features in magazines and newspapers, as well as books about fashion, fashion related reports on television and online fashion magazines, websites, and blogs.
A fashion writer may work for a magazine, a newspaper, a trade journal, a website, a public relations firm or a television show, do in-house writing for a fashion designer, or work as freelancer. He or she could be required to attend fashion shows all over the world and to conduct interviews with designers and models. Fashion critics review current designs and fashion trends after attending shows. The trends they promote will filter through magazines and onto the high street, making some fashion writers powerful figures.
A fashion journalist must be knowledgeable about all aspects of fashion, and be able to write interestingly and well. The ability to maintain industry contacts is also invaluable.
Public Relations. In the world of fashion, the role of the public relations representative is to promote the client company and its product by creating awareness among influential journalist and bloggers. This can be done through the release of judiciously chosen items of information to the media, or organizing specific events to keep the client’s name in the public eye. He also provides feedback about brands and products to the client.
A PR representative handles requests for information and interviews and is responsible for maintaining a favourable public image. He will interact with the media if questions or crises arise from external sources.
Essential skills are extensive fashion knowledge, the ability to write good press copy, and strong organizational capabilities.
To conclude: The fashion industry is enormous and varied, and provides a niche for every aptitude. If you wish to work in fashion, there is a career option that is right for you.