How to Best Prepare your Portfolio
For fashion design students, the creation of a compelling portfolio is a crucial step in carving out a niche in the industry. Which is why in September, we hosted ‘Fashion Designer Portfolio Review’, at this event, aspiring talents were paired with industry mentors, gaining invaluable feedback and insights on their work. Among the participants was Ranura Edirisinghe, a former textile, print, and graphic trainee at Burberry, who sought a fresh perspective after a year of job searching:
“I’ve been actively searching for a new job for nearly a year, following my role at Burberry. I’m eager for a fresh perspective on my portfolio to identify areas for improvement. When applying to various brands, I adapt my portfolio to match their identity, so feedback is invaluable,” Ranura shared, highlighting the importance of adaptability and understanding brand identity in portfolio design.
Ranura’s approach to his portfolio, featuring a blend of joyful prints and artisanal assemblies that pay homage to his Sri Lankan heritage, underscores the importance of a portfolio in showcasing a designer’s unique creative vision and technical skills.
Echoing the significance of a well-crafted portfolio is one of the mentors from the event, Chloe Andersen: “A portfolio is a showcase of all your work and skills. It’s a great way to show your skill set, your areas of interest within design, and an opportunity to tell a potential employer more about yourself as a designer… The portfolio will be the first thing your potential employer will review, so this is your opportunity to show your employability and to set a great first impression.”
Whether you’re applying to design programs, seeking employment, or showcasing your work, your portfolio is more than just a collection of images; it’s a reflection of your journey, skills, and aspirations in the fashion world. Let’s explore the key steps and considerations for preparing an outstanding fashion portfolio, keeping in mind the insights from industry events like the Fashion Designer Portfolio Review and the advice of seasoned professionals like Chloe Andersen.
Understand Your Audience and Purpose
Before diving into the portfolio creation process, consider your target audience:
- Design Schools: If you’re applying to design schools, follow any specific guidelines provided by the institutions. They typically want to see a mix of creative exploration, technical skills, and personal expression.
- Employers or Clients: For professional portfolios, tailor your content to the type of work you aspire to do. Highlight relevant skills and demonstrate your ability to contribute to specific fashion niches (e.g., haute couture, streetwear, sustainable fashion).
Organise Your Portfolio
Decide on an organisational principle for your portfolio, such as chronological order, a storytelling approach, or thematic clusters. Remember to keep it concise, focusing on quality over quantity and showcasing only your strongest work.
Your fashion portfolio should include:
- Creative Investigation and Research: Show how you explore ideas and gather inspiration, including mood boards, colour studies, fabric swatches, and trend research.
- Design Sketches and Illustrations: Showcase your ability to translate 3D concepts into 2D visuals. Andersen stresses the importance of this aspect: “Personally I love to see lots of great drawings! Whether this is by hand or CAD, it’s a great way to convey and explain your ideas and it will be a skill you will be using every day in the industry.”
- Technical Drawings: Demonstrate your understanding of garment construction with detailed technical flats or CAD drawings.
- Finished Projects: Highlight completed designs or collections with high-quality photographs.
- Process Work: Include unfinished pieces or work-in-progress, explaining your research, ideation, iteration, and problem-solving processes.
Consider creating both digital and physical versions of your portfolio. Design an eye-catching cover that reflects your aesthetic and maintain a consistent colour scheme throughout.
Tailor Your Portfolio
Customise your portfolio based on the recipient. Andersen advises, “Researching and having some background knowledge of the brand is really helpful for you to understand their aesthetic and who their customer is… It is good to make sure that you are not only a good fit for the brand but they are the right brand for you too!” This insight is crucial for aligning your portfolio with the specific brand or employer you’re targeting.
Remember that your fashion portfolio is not just a collection of images; it’s a reflection of your creative journey, skills, and aspirations. Be intentional in every choice you make—from layout to content—and let it speak volumes about who you are as a designer.