Nowadays, aspiring fashion designers can take one of two routes in their quest to give the likes of Michael Kors, Stella McCartney, and Jessica Simpson a run for their money – first, learn on their own by reading books, sewing their own patterns, and joining reality television shows; and second, learn via a formal education program, such as at TAFE.

Go to School and Master the Basics

You don’t know what you don’t know – this statement sums up the importance of formal fashion education. Keep in mind that the ignorance of the basics of fashion, such as materials technology, sewing patterns, and merchandising methods, caused by the lack of formal education can jeopardise a self-taught designer’s competitive edge.

Think of it this way, too: While you may have talent in fashion design, your formal education can strengthen it with technique, technology and tools – or art being reinforced by the science behind it.

Formal education also provides for the following benefits:

• You are provided with the right environment for learning and mastering the basics that renowned and respected designers have also mastered. You have the benefit of classroom critiques where your fellow students critique your work in constructive ways and your teachers provide guidance. You can then more easily identify your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

• You will be surrounded by passionate people whose knowledge, skills and insights into the rich traditions, modern directions, and philosophical underpinnings of fashion will serve as your inspiration. You can even have a mentor while you’re at it.

• You have the opportunity to explore fashion and beauty without being hampered by commercial constraints.

The only downside to a formal fashion education is the cost since many schools have high tuition fees. The trick here is choosing a reputable school that offers excellent fashion education at reasonable price. Besides, the knowledge and skills you will learn will be well worth the cost of tuition.

Learn in the Real World

Of course, many respected designers also learned the ropes by learning on the job, such as by sewing their own clothes, or joining companies in the fashion industry, or serving as assistants to established designers. Learning in the real world and, thus, skipping on the formal education is just as valid, too.

You can skip on the costs of tuition, the years of study, and the days of pressure as a student, among others, when you become a self-taught designer. You will also be able to learn with the real-life challenges that fashion designers deal with in their careers, in contrast with learning in a classroom where theory can trump practice.

But becoming a self-taught designer has its cons, too. Your knowledge and skills will be limited to what you have been taught by the “real world”, thus, boiling down to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages that aspiring fashion designers should consider before making their move. Regardless of their choice, nonetheless, the more important thing is to follow your dreams no matter the challenges that lie ahead.

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