Career Dive: Fashion Design


Illustration by Grace Edgeworth

Kala Bennett’s day never starts the same way. As a fashion designer, she does more than drown in vibrant fabrics and seemingly endless rolls of measuring tape. Some days she’s responding to emails and meeting clients, other days she’s working on custom gowns and spending the entire day designing collections with a level of focus I could never achieve. Whatever her day entails, Bennett wakes up every morning energized to do her job.

First, let’s talk about how Bennett came to be working from her home office and running her own fashion design business. In college, Bennett double-majored in fashion and entrepreneurship, which set her up for a few internships, and later, a corporate 9 to 5 job at JCPenney. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but she hated her corporate job. Bennett was driving home from work one evening when she decided to throw caution to the wind and start her own business as a fashion designer.

Starting out, Bennett found that the most difficult aspect of her industry was not being able to design to the level of creativity she had imagined. Of course, she was still working in a field that drew on out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s not like she could design anything she wanted and expect it to be sold. However, she did mention that some clients wanted her to design clothes that come from her personal preferences, which gave me war flashbacks to when I was working at a coffee shop and a customer asked me to make them my preferred drink and I froze. If you’re someone who trusts your own opinions enough when making something for a client, unlike me, then fashion design is something to look into.

When she is working on custom designs, Bennett finds the job both rewarding and complicated. When a client comes to her with an idea in mind, she gets to design the collection, print tech packs, contact manufacturers and locate sourcing for fabrics and other materials. She basically gets to hold her clients’ hands through the entire process of producing clothing collections, but she also has the daunting job of telling a client when their visions for designs are, well, hideous.

Another aspect of her job, which I found pretty surprising, was how far her work could take her from home. Most times, Bennett works from her home office, but she has been flown to countries like Cambodia and Turkey to put together clothing collections and set up production. The job does not entail much traveling, but it is also one of those careers where you’ll never know where it could take you.

If meeting with people and working with your hands to create pieces of clothing that could be featured on runways, or could simply brighten someone’s day, seems appealing to you, you should pursue fashion design. Seriously, I don’t know what else you could do with those specific passions. For those of you who are afraid to pursue fashion design, Bennett recommends that you “try out something little, like [sewing] a skirt or [designing] a mini collection and [seeing] if you really do love it. If you get excited to even think about drawing or [sewing], that’s how you know that [fashion design] is something that [you’d] like to do.”