If you studied fashion and textiles after completing school, you’ll know all about this fascinating subject. If not, we’ve put together everything you need to know about fashion and textile design, including all the courses available so that you can further your career in this fascinating and exciting industry.

Basically, fashion and fabric design is an extremely diverse discipline that involves the natural and social sciences, humanities and the arts. Once you take the time to master the necessary skills, it provides an opening into an extremely exciting and ever-developing industry that includes clothing and interiors.

What does designing textiles in fashion involve?

Designing textiles is a very complex subject, and people have been studying textiles and textile design for hundreds of years. To this day, designing textiles fashion that we wear or live with every day, tells the world something about us. 

The people who concentrate on fabric designing are either fabric designers or manufacturers who use textiles that have had designs printed on them to fashionable clothing and other accessories or furnishings and homeware. More than that, they focus on creating products that are beautiful, wearable or something we want to live with.

The role of a Textiles Designer

This specialist designer creates special patterns and designs on fabric for fashion products including garments and homeware.

They work in either the fashion or interior design industry, and create magnificent designs to adorn interiors (wallpaper, soft furnishings, upholstery, linen etc) and fashionable (clothing and accessories such as shoes, handbags etc).

A fashion fabric designer works closely with various teams in the industry, as well as designers and retailers in the clothing and interior decor industries.    

The 2 most important types of fabric designer

1.   Fabric designer: Concentrates on designing woven textiles, which are the most durable types of material.

2.   Surface designers: These are also what we call print or pattern designers. This designer doesn't actually create the textile; instead he or she creates patterns and designs for fashion and interior design. We then print, embroider or dye these designs on the fabric.

How to study fashion and get into the industry

Here’s a guideline on how to master the skills to study fashion and textile design:

·      Proper training: There are various courses, diplomas and degrees available in fabric design, fashion designing and fine arts that offer the skills required for this industry, which include colour theory, screen printing, digital printing, block printing and surface design.

These 2 to 4 year courses sometimes offer scholarships for those who cannot afford the fees. Aside from study fees for the year you will need spend money on another important skill – design software, such as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

·      Internships: Once you’ve received the training, you can learn so much with physical experience during your time as an intern. This practice-based approach helps you take what you’ve learned and narrow it down to a field that excites you.

Working with professionals also teaches you various techniques required in the workplace, such as teamwork, marketing, networking and the discipline required when you have a full time position.

·      Finding jobs: Internships for a year or longer with or without being paid fees to work often open doors to further career advances in these fields.

Courses you can take to study fashion

After doing research from a national student survey, we found various high quality courses available for students to study this subject. They range from a 2 to a 4 year programme depending on whether you choose a diploma or a degree.

Our research showed that one can also choose a shorter diploma programme. These are available for every student, some of approximately a year in length, some taking longer.

Each programme covers a variety of content, including contextual studies, fashion illustration and fabric design, pattern cutting and sewing. Technical expertise and knowledge enable a student to compete on an international scale within the fashion industry when it comes to textile design and printing. 

Common traits of fashion designers

Aside from having the necessary academic requirements for a career in this international industry, students also require the following expertise:

-       Ability to solve problems

-       Artistic and creative

-       Able to sketch and illustrate

-       Sense of visual imagination

-       Able to design on computer (CAD)

-       Can meet deadlines

-       Can work within specified budget restraints.

What students learn in this international field

·      All about fabrics, including the history of materials and of printing designs on textiles.

·      How fibres are constructed to make different fabrics – woven materials, knit textiles, etc.

·      The properties of different textiles so that you can learn which textiles work best for which products.

·      The uses of different textiles so that you know how to make different items from fabric, whether it’s clothing, cushions, upholstery, soft furnishings, handbags, you name it.

·      How to wash and look after each type of material.

·      What to look for in textiles to ensure they are the best quality for a particular product.

·      All about fabrics, including the history of materials and of printing designs on textiles.

·      How fibres are constructed to make different fabrics – woven materials, knit textiles, etc.

·      The properties of different textiles so that you can learn which textiles work best for which products.

·      The uses of different textiles so that you know how to make different items from fabric, whether it’s clothing, cushions, upholstery, soft furnishings, handbags, you name it.

·      How to wash and look after each type of material.

·      What to look for in textiles to ensure they are the best quality for a particular product.

·      Fabric sustainability and why this is so important.

·      Different types of fashion clothing. The two categories we're talking about here are fast fashion (low quality, high-fashion garments that are made to last only as long as the trend exists) and slow fashion (quality clothing that withstands the test of time. 

The best universities and design schools in the UK

Believe it or not, you don’t have to go to London to find placement in the best institutions in this creative field. Here is a list of some of the best institutions countrywide where you can apply to graduate, including in London, with details of each module. Entry requirements for students who apply differ per institution.

·      Top of the list: Loughborough University, ranked as one of the leading centres for art and design in the world as well as in the UK.

·      Kingston Uni in London offers a 4 year BA Hons Fashion degree for students that includes art as well as fashion, designing and fabric subjects.

·      Bucks New University, located between London and Oxford, offers a 4 year BA (Honours) Textiles that offers technical expertise in weaving, printing and dyeing as well as designing abilities, creative problem-solving and trends analysis.

·      University of Central Lancashire features a 3 year BA (Honours) Textile Design to equip a student with industry skills. 

·      University of Edinburgh has a 4 year BA Textiles art and designing programme for “anyone with a passion for creating repeat patterns and print for fashion and interiors”. 

·      The London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts London (UAL) offers students various 3 or 4 academic year under graduate and 1 final year postgraduate programmes in the art field.

·      Central Saint Martins, also based at the UAL in London, offers various types of study in art and fashion design for men and women as well as fashion print.

Furthering your studies

If you’re already working in this industry but would like to become a student and further your studies to go independent or get a better job in the industry, it’s time to do some research. Numerous standard fabric designing studies with top market levels will help you achieve what you want.

Check out the programmes above, or do further research for information at one of the recommended institutions regarding a foundation year, studying towards a diploma or certificate, taking an advanced course, or a postgraduate degree or diploma. We have listed local British institutions but you could also consider furthering your studies at an international school or college.

Professions for designers

We’ve done some research for you on standard and specialist designer professions. Once you have the academic requirements, you can become one of the following:

-       Fabric designer

-       Fabric artist

-       Fashion designer

-       Home furnishings designer

-       Designing consultant

-       Fabric analyst

-       Fabric resource manager

-       Clothing technologist

Coveted career options

Fabric designer

·      Either works independently or with a team of designers in studios or agencies. 

·      Create 2-dimensional fabric designs and patterns with innovation to print on various textiles  for fashionable clothing and interior furnishings and accessories for both.

·      Their designing projects entail colour, texture and pattern on fabric.

·      Work involves producing sketches, designs and samples for customers, collaborating with clients and developing designs together with technical, marketing and retail staff.

·      Be able to take direction from clients to produce what they want, and then use the latest designing and fabric software and production techniques to create these patterns.

·      Once the patterns have been created, they are printed onto fabrics.

·      Part of the live project could also include the art of pattern-making and managing the entire production process of the textiles.

Fashion designer

Not everyone can be as famous as Alexander McQueen, but we all can start somewhere and progress to being one of the UK’s most formidable designers. Let’s take a look at what this entails:

·      Using creativity and applied technical knowledge (mastered through further education) to create designs for innovative clothing and/or interiors.

·      This often involves designing your textiles to use in your creations. To do this, you should know all about textiles and how we use them.

·      Part of your everyday life involves being up-to-date with developing trends and being aware of what’s coming next so that you can forecast what trends will be appearing on runways and in modern homes.

·      The ability to produce fresh designs with innovation that people want to wear or have in their homes. 

·      The knowledge to take create a wide range of designs that blend together to create a look or trend. 

·      Must be  able to source textiles , select the best for your designs and then buy them, along with all the trimmings (including embellishments, fastenings and accessories).

Clothing technologist

·      A technically adept person who works together with producers and manufacturers of fashionable garments and accessories. 

·      A large part of the job entails selecting, doing research and testing fabrics to make sure they are suitable for the fashion products.

·      This involves working with a variety of textiles  as well as leather, fur, metals and plastics.

·      Works with a wide selection of textiles (natural, synthetic and a blend of both), including leather, man-made textiles , organic and natural materials, as well as metals and plastic. Has in-depth knowledge of colour application as well.

·      Enjoys science and technology, checking for4 quality control and testing fabrics for suitability.

·      Has an expert knowledge of the production process so that they can ensure production of the fabric items is extremely fast and efficient. 

·      Ability to analyse different fabrics means they could be employed in various different sectors in the clothing manufacturing industry including producing durable, safe pigments and dyes for printing.

Which is better – fashion or fabric design?

It all depends on what your passion is. Fabric design is all about creating textiles , while fashion designing involves creating finished garments.

According to research, both have numerous exciting scopes and opportunities. And both involve fabrics, interiors, accessories like jewellery and footwear, and several other fascinating topics.

Fabric designing involves setting the tone of living space, to make it inviting and comfortable. On the other hand, fashion designers create a magnificent garment.

The two types of design also combine well, so don’t feel obligated to choose just one part.

5 tips to succeed in the fashion industry

You can never stop learning in this fast-evolving, exciting industry. So prepare yourself to upskill yourself regularly. Here’s how:

1.   Constantly do research

Keep up-to-date on new textiles that are being created. When you do research, make sure to find out about all the certifications required on textiles. You need to know whether they are safe for use for children as well as for those with sensitive skin. You also need to find out about fabrics that manufacturers produce for specific reasons, eg swimwear that can withstand harsh UV rays and water-repellent textiles for outdoor use.

2.   Upskill yourself

It’s not enough to know about the latest trends and newest textiles. You need to know how to use these in your working environment so that you can produce the very latest and best products on the market for your customers. You should also do further research to keep abreast of the latest computer software so that your industry stays at the top of its game.

3.   Work to increase your portfolio

It’s your ‘look book’, your catalogue of products created that will make new customers want to step on board, and regular customers keep coming back for more. This is also where marketing comes in. Become known in your industry as one of the best, everybody’s go-to fashion design fundies or fashion fabric designer.

4.   Study as much as you can about designing in the fashion and fabric industries

This involves knowing everybody in your particular industry, including your competitors. It’s a goodo idea to sign up to professional organisations to help you keep abreast of the latest trends, fabric industry news and certifications.

5.   Be inspired to try new ideas

Inspiration often comes out of left field. Be inspired not only to try new ideas, but to create new things – new ideas, new products, new ways of doing things.

Examples of popular fabric designs

Here at maake we have several exclusive patterns and designs created by independent fabric designers in our library, or textile museum. We give examples of some of the most popular types of fabric patterns and designs we have in our print workshop as well as show you what they look like from our stunning library selection:

1.     Argyle



This timeless pattern features overlapping diamond shapes with intersecting diagonal lines on top of them. This classic fabric pattern is used for both woven and knit fabrics and is equally favoured in fashion garments and interiors. It originated in Scotland (yes, it’s a tartan design!) and was used to decorate kilts and socks worn by Scots Highlanders.

Pringle of Scotland made Argyle famous and it even became a trend in America in the early 1950s. Although Pringle still remains the inventor of this design, many creatives have made their own versions since, using it to decorate homeware, interiors and fashion garments.

2.  Harlequin



This is another diamond-shaped design, with elongated shapes that are arranged vertically and are often very close to each other, in fact they almost touch one another. Some Harlequin patterns have spaces between the diamond shapes, and those spaces form a very attractive lattice effect.

In this pattern, the diamonds are usually in two very contrasting shades, although they can have numerous contrasting shades. This pattern gives the designer the opportunity to experiment with colour boldly and playfully.

Harlequin designs come from 16th century Italian form of theatre that was called ‘Commedia dell’arte’. The pattern was worn by clowns, or Harlequin characters. It was created out of pieces of fabric scraps in diamond shapes. After the Italian Harlequins, British court jesters started wearing this pattern.

These days we no longer create Harlequin patterns from scraps of material; it’s a printed pattern that often appears on the world’s fashion runways. When used in the home, the Harlequin print can be playful, striking or bold, depending on what you’re looking for.

Plain fabrics


Eco Linen Look

Believe it or not, plain fabrics are also designs, as these are often used in fashion and interiors as a solid base or tone to offset a particular pattern. In interior design especially, designers come up with groups of up to 4 patterns to create an ideal setting, and they use plain fabrics with the patterned ones when they do this to create a theme or story.

These days when a designer uses plain fabrics, you’ll often find that the texture of the fabric is exceptional to add to the story that the designer is creating, both visually and in a tactile way. In fact, sometimes a very subtle pattern is printed onto the fabric to create that textural effect.

3.     Stripes


You’ll find stripes everywhere you look – this pattern is used in various iterations and hues to create all sorts of patterns and designs for garments, accessories, homeware and interiors.

Stripes are either used in a line, one next to the other, or in a mirrored repeat, which mirrors around a centre point. Depending on what you’re using the stripe for, it will have a particular name: for instance, ticking stripes got their name from ticking fabric, which used to cover mattresses. These days we use them in a mirrored effect, with a centre stripe and smaller stripes on each side of it.

Wavy stripes curve instead of standing upwards or sideways. There are also awning stripes, which feature bold stripes of colour, often just 2 colours at a time together. Textured strips are made of different textures instead of hues – this is usually caused by the fabric weave or when you apply textured colour to the textile.

Two more types of stripes worth discussing are the ones found on suits, used when you apply different coloured yarns in subtle stripes to create the textile. These include pinstripes and chalk stripes.

And finally there are ombre stripes, which is a pattern where the colour of the stripe changes from light to dark as it moves across the textile.

It's time to get creative with maake

Choose your base fabric here

Create your own fabric pattern

Inspirational ideas for printing on fabric

Before you print a pattern on fabric, we suggest you read some of our informative guides on the use of colour, fabrics and fabric printing. We suggest the following for you:



May 05, 2023 — Artemis Doupa