Creating a Successful Portfolio 101#
Portfolios are MANDATORY in starting, and maintaining careers in fashion. Even if you didn’t make one while you were still in design school, you can put one together now. Here are some tips for how to make a fabulous fashion design portfolio.
The first thing that you’ll need is something to contain the pieces you wish to have in your portfolio. This can be a binder, a folder, or a higher-quality, specifically formatted portfolio binder. This will contain samples of your best work and can be updated as your skills improve. My personal choice artistic portfolios, in black ofcourse.
- Organize your pieces by collection and give some logical flow to the progression of what you show. Start strong, but definitely save the best for last. Now since the last 10 years, I have instructed my protegé’s to create what is “disjointed collections”, a series of collection, showing their particular skills. Show preliminary sketches, having the viewer understand your thought process and or creative protocol, but NEVER show finished collections. The reason why is artistic and creative thievery. I know of several individuals that shall remain nameless, (maybe one day Ill drop random blind items), that have “seasonal job searches” for new design talent. Now any person observing this situation, would say the companies have a very high turn-over concerning designers, no, not all because they are not really hiring anyone. They hold these “talent searches” as a rather unscrupulous form of “trend forecasting”, stealing ideas and or complete design concepts from innocent, hopeful job seekers. Suddenly, you see YOUR unique design(s), theme and concepts in Macy’s the next season. This happens more often than I would care to admit, so I recommend that you create look-based presentation boards, limited to 2 boards per concept. If they can’t see that your the next Coco Chanel after your shrewd, but delicious presentation, then you don’t need to work for them because they are idiots, and that creates a whole other cornucopia of problems and situations. Some may find this approach unorthodox, but TRUST me, creative thievery runs rampant in the NYC garment industry, duping potential job seekers out of potentially MILLIONS of annual dollars concerning their work. You make the choice, don’t say no one told you.
- Your portfolio should include sketches of your designs. These will be the large, final sketches in color. Now being that I am a digital fashion illustrator, coupled with a mean “gauche hand”, I couple BOTH in my presentations. Potential employers will have wet dreams about a portfolio that is incredibly versatile, even with execution of materials used to create the portfolio. This shows the employer that you are a talent “power-house”, you can do detailed 5 minute sketches for design meetings, as well as polished digital sketches for sales presentations,etc. Keep in mind, versatility is the key in landing ANY design position.
- Include fabric swatches to show what fabrics were used, will be used, or which ones inspired you. This demonstrates texture and creative process.
- Include finished photos of your designs. Every time you make something you should take a picture of someone wearing it and make sure the pictures are large enough to show detail of pattern and texture.
- Make a digital version of your portfolio. You may need to scan images onto your computer; this is helpful to places that are far away and the only means of communication is via phone or email. I can NOT stress this enough, ESPECIALLY if you are a Freelance designer. High resolutions photos of your presentation boards are wonderful for attracting jobs overseas, in other states, anywhere you can’t get to conveniently. As I said before, NEVER send whole collections, just “bits and pieces” of your strongest work. Try to keep it cohesive , but protect your work at all cost. Speaking of portfolios, there are dozens of sites that offer design portfolio services for FREE. Sites like Coroflot , Styleportfolios,and Carbonmade offer free templates, easy and diversified uploading formats, and a great way to network with others in your chosen industry. Many reputable companies have been known to recruit from these wonderful sites, so get onboard. The drawbacks of being on these sites can be said in one word, Competition. After you have reached out to a certain job opportunity, and they think you’re the next best thing to a free sunday brunch at Balduccis, it would be unfortunate for them to find someone else more talented than you, after you have sent them your Coroflot portfolio link. (I have had this happen to me,its heart breaking, and I needed therapy.) Instead, invest in several free site building websites, build an independent online portfolio, then send links till your hearts content. I prefer this method for two reasons, 1. no competition, the person is sent to YOUR site, about YOUR talent. 2. A great way for your work to be “searchable” in search engines such as Goggle, Bing,Yahoo, to name a few. This can sometimes bring VERY unexpected, but highly lucrative opportunities from companies that simply “came across” your site online. Make sure you use highly searchable meta-tag words, for BOTH your site content and uploaded jpegs of your work. I obtained a japanese client this way,( or rather they obtained me), by just having a few of my presentation boards “searchable” in search engines.
- Remember that a neat presentation is the best way to show professionalism. Classic colors to use as a portfolio cover are either black or neutral tones. This way the emphasis is on the actually design pieces themselves.
- Include an introductory page that tells a little about who you are and can include a logo or a graphic if you have one. It is always a good idea to brand yourself even if you are just beginning- you want people to be able to recognize your work.
- Last, but not least, include a “digital version” of your portfolio. Yes, I know you already have that “black old stand-by” portfolio, and physical samples of your work is the norm, but incorporating your trusty macbook / Ipad into your presentation has garnered me a lot of job opportunities. Use your Macbook / Ipad to create slideshows of your designs, coupled with a rocking soundtrack, and you have a portfolio-based video. This will have the employer further understand your vision even more and its just dang cool! One of my protegés has an Ipad, and as he is flipping through his physical portfolio, he hands the Ipad over to the interviewer, as his video presentation is displayed with music, themes, along with his designs. Its gets the interviewer “engrossed” with what you are presenting, you have made your portfolio an “experience”, sure never to be forgotten.
Each of these portfolio tips is designed to help you make the most of your career. It is best to update your work as often as you make new designs, and it is ok to spend lots of time in how you put everything together- the stronger your portfolio, the better your chances of getting that dream job in the fashion industry. Remember, be creative, learn to think “out side the box”, don’t just depend on your talent to land that job, be innovative.
Since the topic is job hunting, here is MY online portfolio site, I am using BOTH sites for FREE (until they work out their “server kinks”), but about 95% of my work is searchable in all worldwide search engines and I am getting hits, literally from all over the world!!! http://freelancefashiondesignernyc.moonfruit.com/