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Sport is also a big fashion business these days, everyone wants to look good down the gym, at an event and even when shopping or out for an evening. Sports wear is fashionable, and we have looked into how you go about starting a career within it.

Our summary findings are:

1. Sports brands are increasing turning to skilled fashion designers to broaden the appeal of their products.

2. As a specialist sports fashion designer you could find yourself creating new shirts for Nike, new trainers for Reebok or even working on your own designs.

3. While some fashion designers go into the job with no formal qualifications, most employers now like to see formal training.

4. The University of the Arts in London is just one of many UK institutions offering degree-level courses in fashion design.

5. As well as a creative flair, you will also be expected to be proficient in Computer Aided Design (CAD) programmes.

6. Additionally, you should have a good head for business and be able to work with a wide range of people, including global suppliers.

7. Pay rates for sports fashion designers vary considerably. Newcomers can earn as little as £16,000 a year, while top designers can earn more than £80,000 a year.

What Do Fashion Designers Do?

Fashion designers work on designing a wide range of clothing, both for the high street and for the catwalk. While some designers specialise in children’s clothes and others focus on menswear, many choose to work with sports fashion.

Indeed, over recent years, the world of sports and fashion have become increasingly close, with big names such as Puma, Adidas – which has worked with Stella McCartney – and Reebok recruiting specialist designers to make their products appeal to athletes and non-sports fans alike.

If you do go into this area, you could find yourself tasked with designing new trainers, running kits, football shirts or tracksuits, often working with state-of-the-art fabrics.

Day-to-day responsibilities of working as a sports fashion designer may include:

  • Using the latest computer aided design (CAD) packages to create and produce a new design. However, you may also be expected to create new designs by hand.
  • Working with marketing teams to ensure designs adhere to the image and philosophy of clients, including of major sports teams and leading brands.
  • Sourcing, selecting and buying fabrics, often working with scientists and researchers as well as manufacturers.
  • Negotiating contracts with third parties, including suppliers, manufacturers, buyers and retailers.

While the above list may seem daunting, you will not be expected to do all of these at once, we are giving you a wide spectrum overview of the type of work that you could find yourself doing.

Skills and Qualifications

There is no one fixed route for getting into sports fashion design. While some of the best designers have no formal training but instead worked their way up in the industry through hard work, talent and, in many cases, good luck, others enjoyed a more structured career path, studying design at degree level before being taken on by a design company as a junior and working their way up.

Notably, however, many employers are increasingly looking for evidence of formal training, with university or college qualifications complementing on-the-job experience.

Fortunately, a number of UK universities and colleges offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses in fashion design, with several including modules focusing on sports fashion design.

The Universities we found that offer courses include:

  • University of the Arts, London

The London College of Fashion at UAL offers a three-year, full-time BA (Hons) in Fashion Sportswear allowing students to “combine a love of fashion with a passion for physical activity”.

  • University of Derby

Its BA (Hons) Fashion Studies includes several specialist modules and gives students the chance to gain practical work experience alongside classroom training.

  • Bath Spa University

The university offers an MA in Fashion and Textiles Design, including modules on designing sports fashion.

What else employers may look for:

Alongside a degree or other relevant qualification, employers may also look for the following skills and attributes:

  • Excellent working knowledge of CAD packages; even if you’re supremely talented with a pen and paper, you will still be expected to be proficient in the latest digital design applications.
  • A keen passion for sports and sports fashion, with a demonstrable interest in working in the sector (for example, several relevant work placements).
  • A genuine flair for design as well as good knowledge of the latest design trends.
  • A good head for business, including good levels of numeracy and literacy as well as the ability to work well with others.

Pay and Benefits

Pay for sports fashion designers varies greatly. For instance, if you’re newly qualified, you may have to work for nothing (or next to nothing) as an intern in a design house in order to gain some experience to go with your qualifications.

Once you make the step up to paid work, you can expect to earn around £17,000 a year as a design assistant, with junior designers taking home around £25,000 a year.

At the other end of the scale, senior designers can earn upwards of £40,000 a year, though if you get to the very top of the tree, your earnings as a freelance sports fashion designer can be much higher.

Aside from the financial rewards, benefits of this line of work include being able to combine your personal passions with your career and being able to learn of the latest trends and technology in the field of sportswear and equipment well ahead of the general public.

If you work for one of major brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma then you may be offered event tickets from time to time and even meet some of the sports personalities who are wearing your designs.

Finding Work

The majority of specialist sports fashion designers either work for major sports brands or for dedicated design agencies, with most opportunities are to be found in major cities, including London and other European capitals such as Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen.

As well as checking out the careers pages of major brands such as Puma, Adidas and Nike, perform a search with us and also check out some online recruitment sites:

  • Fashion & Retail Personnel

These websites seem good sources if you are looking for overseas opportunities:

  • Apparel Search
  • Fashion United

If you’re already built up some good experience in the area of sports fashion design and fancy going it alone as a freelance, then the British Fashion Council website offers advice on setting up your own fashion business.

Further Reading

If you haven’t read our articles on Fashion Internship and Getting the Most from a Fashion Internship then we suggest you do so.

If you need advice from your local jobcentre then check out our JobCentre Online section where you can find all the details you need to contact or visit them.

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