Self Taught Vs Formally Trained – What Does it Take to Be a Designer?

What does it take to be considered a fashion designer? This is a question I ask myself as I sit back and take in all the beauty that the fashion world has to offer. I myself have a desire to design, and wonder which route to take. Must you attend a formal institution dedicated to a structured curriculum of teachings and techniques, like American Jewish designers Calvin Klein or Marc Jacobs?

Must you graduate at the top of your class with honours and be one of the few to have your collection featured at fashion shows like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week within months of your graduation? Or Can you be successful in the fashion world with the teachings of your parents or mentors and nothing more aside from your own creative juices, like the revolutionary Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel or the edgy Spanish Cristobal Balenciaga? Can hours upon hours of practise be enough to groom ones technical skills?

There is so much diversity in style available in the fashion world based on a multitude of different influences. Self taught and formally educated designers alike stand together at the top. But what each road has to offer in the way of advantages and disadvantages can help to either make or break your efforts of climbing to the top.

With formal education you have a network of people there to groom and support you as you grow into your skills, all the while pushing in the right direction and building a Blackberry full of contacts. The self taught designer are pictured as being locked up in a room on their own for hours, working endlessly to complete each piece. Which does not necessarily have to be true, although it can be for beginners. Obviously, with anything you do on your own, it’s going to take a substantial amount of work and diligence to rise to the top. But by looking at what a powerhouse the name Chanel has become, we know it can be done.

Is there more respect for designers who have “paid their due in the classroom”? Can a designer who has a “street” level influence find commercial success?

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