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Fashion Designer Without a Degree ?!?!

April 6, 2016

For many aspiring fashion designers, attending a top art college or university is the quick and easy answer to the question, "how do I make it as a successful fashion designer?" But in an industry jam-packed with talent, skill and ambition, is a degree in fashion design really necessary for success? Furthermore, is a higher education degree necessary period?

As young designers pass out  with hope end of every academic year, many begin hunting for the best for their futures. Some will enroll for prep classes, some will prepare to move overseas and enroll at one of the world’s top ranking art and design schools. Then that’s when the internal debate starts: do I attend college? Can I launch my label without a degree? And so on.

Can you be a successful designer and never attend college? ABSOLUTELY! But that’s not the normal psychology and that is the critical message. With over  19yrs of experience from teaching at various fashion designing institutes, Mr. Anil Nair, Founder of Blackhoney mentions “Each year we see new students enroll in UG/BACHELOR’S DEGREE/B.A.HONS./PG/MBA in “Fashion”,  with dreams of becoming the next ace fashion designer. Many will graduate with astounding grades, large size portfolios & laminated degrees, work experience from renowned brands. Where are all of them? Only a handful continue towards a successful career.”

While obtaining “degree” is the primary psychology of any person, not many people know that the industry is flooded with stories of designers who chose to be self trained & reached to success.

At least 50% of the top luxury designers today fit the category “self-trained”, and have achieved their way into this multi-million dollar industry with known faces of the world as their clients.

Manish Malhotra: Every budding designer in India wants to be a ‘Manish Malhotra’.

Did anyone know he’s a successful fashion designer without any formal training in designing? And yet the most celebrities of India rely their wardrobe on his creations. To add a feather to his hat, Manish Malhotra has also designed for the legendry Late Michael Jackson & super model Naomi Campbell to name a few of his international accomplishments.

Archana Kocchar: "I am a self-taught designer and I am proud that I have established a prominent name for myself in this field," she says. Her signature style is her ability to blend Indian bridal trends with western concepts and ideas.

Michael Kors: got to school and had been sketching since he was really small, and had such firm ideas about what he liked, so he would be fighting with the teachers. “I don't think that there's a rule in fashion in how you have to chart your course” expresses Michael Kors.

Chanel: With her trademark suits and little black dresses, fashion designer Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today. She started her fashion career by becoming a licensed milliner. From there, Chanel opened her first shop, which originally sold hats and later expanded into dresses. Another fun fact? She was the first woman to have a perfume named after her.Chanel stands today as one of the biggest fashion house.

Miuccia Prada: With a degree in Political Science but lack of interest in it, even though she’s had no formal training, Prada is probably one of most elite & recognizable brands worldwide. And then because the label did so well, she launched Miu Miu, its more affordable sister, in the early 90s.

Dolce & Gabbana: Dolce began his career in the fashion industry after dropping out of a three-year course in fashion design, believing that he knew everything the school had to teach. Dolce taught Gabbana how to sketch and the basics of tailoring.They always filed two different invoices for the freelance work they did, even when working for the same client". Their accountant suggested 'Why not just do one invoice for both of you? Put Dolce and Gabbana at the top'". So the brand was born!

Karl Lagerfeld : He is well recognized around the world for his trademark white hair, black glasses, and high starched collars. Successful fashion designer, artist, and photographer based in Paris, he is the head designer and creative director of the fashion house Chanel as well as the Italian house Fendi and his own fashion label.

Tom Ford: who did not study fashion design at all but studied architecture at Parsons, and obtained a key internship.  The rest is history.

Success ratio in any creative field is due to demonstrating immense talent, ambition driven goals & ability to learn on the job; not due to certification from reputed institutions.

Education is really a lifelong habit and whether you gather it in a formal setting or by working in the trenches of the design world, one thing is certain: education doesn’t end because you have a degree in design. Contrarily your career in fashion doesn’t need to begin with a degree either.

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