Welcome to The Fashion Careers Clinic Blog!

Our blog aims to answer your questions on searching for a role in fashion/textiles/accessory design, marketing, promotion and PR. The Fashion Careers Clinic is a specialist careers advice service based in London. For more information on what we can do to assist you in your fashion job search, please visit our main site: www.fashioncareersclinic.com

If there is a subject you would like us to cover on this blog which is related to fashion job searching, please email: steph@fashioncareersclinic.com with your query, and we'll do our best to answer it here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


In our last portfolio article we discussed ways to get inspired, how to decide on which design sector to focus on, and how to choose your theme. This week we will be looking at how to take that next step in creating that all important portfolio.

So, what to include? Your portfolio should be made up of a series of different projects, all with a very definite beginning, middle and end. The beginning is what is called the Mood Board. The middle is Design Development, and the end is the Final Design Boards. Below we will summarize what is needed for each section.


You should now have an idea of your theme and inspiration, and should have gathered many images, photos, tearsheets from magazines, original sketches, fabric swatches, trims, colour swatches and trend information into a scrap book or research book. Even if you haven’t put all of this into a scrap / research book, you should by now have a pile of images which inspire you. You should carefully select only the images / information you feel ‘sells’ the theme or mood you are trying to get across, to put on your mood board. The ideal board should include a title and which season you are aiming for, eg Spring / Summer 2010, your colour palette (this can be displayed in traditional colour block format, or each colour could be displayed as a shape or word, depending on what fits with your theme), fabric and trim swatches, some trend information (such as catwalk images) relating to your season, and general images you find inspirational (try to include some original sketches or your own photos, not just found images from magazines). If you are particularly interested in designing product with graphics and print, you should of course include some ideas for textiles on this board too.

A good mood board should make your theme very apparent as soon as the viewer sees it. Also think about the type of company your product would suit, as this will affect the presentation of the page. For instance, if you are designing in the style of Calvin Klein, your mood page would be quite pared down, uniform, lots of neutrals. While if your style is more towards Roberto Cavalli or Dolce & Gabbana, your page would be much more decorated, have lots of colour, lots of trims and bling! Some designers who are creating speculative projects like this often add the logo of the company they have in mind, to make the project seem more real. This is often useful to get your audience in the right mind set, and they are then able to visualize your ideas within that particular brand’s store.

As this page is the first one anyone will see, it must have the ‘wow’ factor, and make the viewer want to find out more….


These pages are the middle of the ‘story’, and follow on from the mood board. You should have between 4 – 8 pages in this section, showing your design ideas, loose sketches, and doodles. Any less than this won’t be enough to get your ideas across, and any more runs the risk of boring your audience. At this stage, your designs don’t have to be perfect or presented on figures – this part is to show the viewer your exploration of various design ideas. For instance, you could draw a long sleeved top with a zip down the front, then your next sketch would be the same style but with a ruffle down the front too – the next from that might be a variaton, with short sleeves. It’s all about showing the development process, brain storming ideas, and showing how your mind works, and how your got from point A to point B. If you have an interesting seam detail, embroidery or embellishment, you might want to draw this up in detail on the page alongside the flat sketches, or focus in on details you feel are important.

Show lots of ideas on the same page, instead of one or two on a page. You might want to group different types of garment on the same page – eg a page of dresses, a page of pants and so on…

Also add elements from your mood board (you could photocopy sections of this) to add to these pages, to provide a link between all of the pages, and pull together the whole package of work as a cohesive story. Think about what else tells the story – feel free to add in more trims, fabrics, prints, etc alongside the sketches.

By the end of this section, you should have many different designs to choose from to select as your final garment ideas.


Your final boards should show which designs you have selected as your ultimate capsule collection for this project. Go back through all of your ideas from the design development and think about which ones sum up your theme the best. Ask youself: Which pieces would sell well? Which ones sit alongside eachother best? What has the ‘wow factor’? What is commercial?

Although each collection will be different depending on what type of product you are working on, and which sector, but you should also think about the balance of the collection. If you are designing a capsule collection of daywear for example, it wouldn’t work if you only showed dresses on the final design board. Think about each outfit and what you will include in the final line-up – eg, 2 dresses, 1 coat, 2 pants, 1 blouse, 1 top, etc.

Although you won’t be physically creating this collection, you should be thinking like a proper designer, and asking yourself all of these questions. Whoever you show your portfolio to, such as a college tutor or recruiter, will be asking you why you chose these pieces to include in the collection, so you should be able to justify your decisions well.

The number of outfits you show is up to you, but as a general guideline, approximately 5 full figure illustrations is enough, spread across 2 pages.

So on one page you would have 3 figures, and on the second you would have 2 figures. These figure illustrations should show your garments in as much detail as possible and be in full colour. Experiment with different ways of figure illustration – there are so many ways to do it, including hand drawing with fineliner pens, Pantone pens (chunky colour markers with a huge variety of colours), paint, colored pencils, collage, or illustration on computer packages. At this stage of your career it’s probably fair to say that you will not be familiar with computer design packages (CAD) yet, but you will learn about these once you get to fashion school. Don’t worry if you aren’t a great illustrator – most people aren’t – but there are ways around this. For instance, if you have trouble drawing the face and hair, take a look at a couple of fashion magazines to see if there are any photographs of models who would suit your style. Photocopy these and place them onto your figure illustrations. You will have to play around with the sizing to get it looking in proportion, but the end results can be very good.
The same goes for creating realistic looking fabrics on your figures – if you find it hard to replicate them in a drawing (especially if the fabrics are printed) – photocopy your fabric, and minimize it until it is the right size to be placed onto your illustration (you will need to trace the shape of the garment onto the photocopied piece, and cut to size).

Always remember to keep your target consumer in mind when doing your figures – try to do the hair, makeup, shoes and accessories in the style your consumer would have. Going back to the examples we mentioned earlier, the Calvin Klein consumer would look very different to the Dolce & Gabbana customer, so try to get their style across when you illustrate. This can make the difference between a good final page and an excellent one – it isn’t just about the actual garments, it’s about how the page looks as a whole. Other elements you should include on your final page are the title and logo again, some pieces from your mood board, and also some black and white flat drawings. Flat drawings are exactly that – a garment sketch showing where the seams go, where the fastenings go and what type they are, and any other interesting detail. You don’t have to do a flat for every single garment shown on the figures, but focus on pieces which for instance have back details which aren’t shown on the figure drawings.

There is lots to think about and do here, but don’t be daunted by it - the key is to simply get the ball rolling, and make a start on the project. You will find that it gets easier, the more you practice, and your design style will begin to emerge once you have done a couple of projects. Good luck!

Stephanie Finnan

THE FASHION CAREERS CLINIC: www.fashioncareersclinic.com


  1. Hi finnan, The article is really good for those who doing their portfolios, But i didnt read your last article can i get this or is ther any other way to read that article....


  2. Hey, Great post, I am looking forward to your next tips.



GFW 2010

GFW 2010
River Island Poster

Blog Archive