#101 – A Guide to Creating a Fashion Portfolio

Aspiring fashion designer and looking to study? If so, you need to be equipped with a fashion portfolio complete with all the necessities to wow your prospective design school.  Amanda Haxton of Designer Direction let’s us in on how to bring together a fashion portfolio that shines.

So you want to study fashion? Ten years ago fashion kids trained on the job, but to get a job in the modern industry a diploma, degree, or qualification is a major asset. Competition is hot, especially for degree courses in the country’s major cities, so a quality portfolio is essential if you want to gain a place or an interview.

First things first, you need to decide where you want to apply
Just like a shoe you need to find an institute that fits, every institute is different. Even if you have your heart set on a particular course it is advisable to apply for at least one back up. It’s important to research the course or university you are applying for. If you are applying for several you should plan to tailor your portfolio for each institute. For example some schools require a foundation year before you specialise so a broader artistic portfolio will be needed. Other courses are more technically based so examples of sewing and pattern making will be as important as sketches and design.

Hair on Fire - Hanna LeeBefore you put your portfolio together
It sounds terribly cliché but don’t leave this to the last minute, gather work for six months to a year leading up to your application. Institutions differ in portfolio requirements, but an average of 12 pages of work is a good aim. Gather twice as much work and analyse which examples are the best. Work from several school subjects is acceptable, Textiles, Design, Graphics, Art Photography or any other creative subject.

Unfortunately the current school art system results in hundreds of students with similar work. Myself and fellow Designer Direction writer Hannah Mcardle went to our fashion interview with near identical paintings, and believe me – we weren’t alone. Therefore I advise you to apply with as much extra curricular work as possible to distinguish yourself. If you are an art or textiles student you may want to take this work to you school tutors and seek their advice.

What sort of work could go in a fashion portfolio?

* Fashion illustration
* Designs and sketches
* Paintings and drawings
* Photos of sculptures or 3D art
* Graphics working drawings
* Photography
* Computer aided design
* Photographs of garments you have designed

Full Figure Gouache Portfolio Example Front - Jason Tapuai-KukaFull Figure Gouache Back Portfolio Example - Jason Tapuai-KukaAbyss Bliss Miromoda - Melody & Jason

The big cut
Lay your work out on a large table and analyse which pieces are the best, your decisions should be based on quality and range.

1. You may be asked to explain your work in an interview, so don’t be tempted to put in pointless work for the sake of filling space, make sure you feel comfortable talking about any work you include.

2. If you have entered any competitions or won any awards then this work should also be included.

3. A combination of hand done and computer-generated work will show versatility, as will photographs of finished garments as well as sketches.

4. Don’t disregard drafts or rough sketches, It’s important to show a working process. Scanned pages from sketchbooks can be just as interesting as finished paintings.

Portfolio Example - Amanda Haxton

Presenting your portfolio
Presentation is key, it’s just as important as the work itself. Keep in mind you are selling yourself so have pride in your work.

1. Decide how you are going to present your work, again researching different institutes will help, some may expect work in a A4 size format, others in A3.

2. Next, decide whether you will present in a computer layout or hand done, either is acceptable but make sure your portfolio is consistent, don’t layout one page on the computer and another with glue and scissors. If you decide to layout on the computer scan or photograph your hand done work in high quality.

3. Fashion forecasting magazines like Collezioni and Textile View can be a great source of layout inspiration. Consider using fabric swatches alongside sketches, or a series of different viewpoints of photographed pictures.

4. A standard black clear file is perfectly acceptable for portfolios, a file with removable pages means you can easily tailor your portfolio for different institutes. If you choose to make your own folder keep it simple and classic, avoid glitter or any decoration that’s too fussy, I like to cover my collection folders in a fabric that matches the work inside, its simple, and ties the whole thing together.

Portfolio Example Sketch - Amanda Haxton5. Use high quality card as your portfolio may be passed through many hands and the last thing you want is rips or dog-eared corners.

6. Hand done work in charcoal, pastels, or pencil should be sprayed with sealer to avoid smudging.

7. The top portfolio tip from my AUT fashion tutors was ‘be wary of coloured paper’. Black or white is best as it doesn’t distract from your work – that said – black sucks colour and should be used carefully, done right it can make work look fantastic, but look carefully at your colours and decide what background you think will suit it best.

And there you have it.  Now you are armed with everything you need to create an amazing fashion portfolio, to help you secure a spot at your future design school.

Image Credits: Hanna Lee, Jason Tapuai-Kuka, Amanda Haxton

One Response to “#101 – A Guide to Creating a Fashion Portfolio”
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  1. […] Extra cherries on top Investigate and see if your school offers a student exchange programme with other universities around the world. Most exchange programmes are for one semester to one year in the second year of study. I studied abroad at Ryerson University in Toronto and it was an amazing experience! I learned so many new things and brought back truckloads of inspiration for my final year collection, made friends for life and also gained wealth of experience.The application & pulling together your portfolio All schools will require a portfolio of work as part of the application process – this is your chance to sell yourself! Show off! Make sure you stick to the guidelines they give you and show all of your different skills and experience in the design field. A well rounded approach is a good one – although your enrolling in a fashion programme if you have done art/merchandising/graphic design/digital design projects include them. Above all make sure your portfolio is clear and easy to read with a cohesive format that shows your character and design handwriting. For inspiration and handy tips on pulling together your portfolio, check out Amandas #101 Guide on creating a fashion portfolio here. […]

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