Fashion Apprenticeships

If you’ve ever picked up a needle and thread to turn those old denim jeans into a jacket, have a knack for turning a lewk, or a keen eye for spotting trends before they happen - a fashion apprenticeship is the way to go.

Fashion Apprenticeships

Fashion is a cool industry to work in. You could be jet-setting across the fashion capitals of the world. Think Paris, Milan, London and New York City. Plus, you’ll…

  • Meet and work with some of the most interesting people

  • Travel the world

  • Make meaningful and thought-provoking changes to the industry. 

Not only that, but it’s also big business. The industry draws in mega coins. Around £20 billion per year is added to the UK’s economy and employs well over 555,000 people in the country alone.

Read on to get the full scoop on fashion apprenticeships.

Can you get an apprenticeship in fashion?

200% yes. Fashion isn’t as exclusive as it thinks it is. There are plenty of routes into the industry, and an apprenticeship is a fantastic foundation for a career in fashion.

Fashion is skills-heavy, and getting first-hand on-the-job experience is a valuable asset that employers will eat up. Apprenticeships are about on-the-job experience, and it’s a much quicker way of entering a profession than an academic route.

Plenty of the world’s most well-known designers started their careers as apprentices.

Before starting his iconic brand, the late Alexander McQueen was an apprentice at the prestigious Savile Row tailor Anderson & Shepard

Stella McCartney was also an apprentice on Saville Row, and her brand is worn by some of the most iconic people in the world, including Rihanna, Madonna and Beyoncé.

So now you know that you can do a fashion apprenticeship, what’s available?

Want to learn more about apprenticeships and all the career goodness they offer?

Read Guide to Apprenticeships

What apprenticeships are there in fashion?

The fashion industry is super diverse. There are plenty of roles within the sector for people with a fashion background and those who may not. You can find apprenticeships that cover everything from journalism to marketing and digital media creation.

Fashion apprenticeships can be found across all levels…

Level 2 (Intermediate)

Level 3 (Advanced)

Level 4/5 (Higher)

Level 6/7 (Degree)

Fashion Studio Assistant

In the first six months of being a studio assistant, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the running of a fashion studio. Then you’ll spend the next 12 months specialising in one of three pathways…

  1. Product development and production…Here you’ll get to grips with studio management, develop your knowledge of patterns, materials and construction, as well as buying/sourcing

  2. Sales and operations…Perfect for those with logistical skills, you’ll learn all about creating sales strategies, merchandising, and customer relations/service

  3. Fashion marketing and communications…You’ll get into various aspects of brand promotion, creating content for social media, working with media and influencers, and PR strategies.

Fashion Buyer/Merchandiser

You’ll work mainly in retail for companies big and small. Here, you’ll learn all about brand awareness and the products your customers want. Some tasks will include…

  • Sourcing, maintaining and delivering on-brand products

  • Understanding and even predicting trends in fashion to help bring in the right products at the right time

  • Building relationships with suppliers and attending supplier meetings.

Fashion Retailer

Being a fashion retailer is a pretty important job. Why? Because you’ll be the face of the product. Fashion retailers are there to sell the product and help customers with any queries.

The great thing about working in fashion retail is you can work online too. It’s a super versatile role. Some tasks can include…

  • Delivering top-tier customer service and liaising with customers face-to-face, via telephone and email

  • Ordering, managing and taking out stock

  • Helping to make sure sales targets are met.

Textile Care Operative

Believe it or not, you can learn how to look after fabrics with a fashion textile care apprenticeship. You’ll learn how to use wet and dry techniques to wash, revive and look after fabrics. Tasks include…

  • Providing laundry services for various kinds of materials

  • Making sure the quality of cleaning is up to industry standards

  • Making sure the working environment is clean.

Garment Maker

This is where the magic happens. A garment maker brings the designs to life - they cut, sew, and construct clothing. Garment makers can work with machines in large companies or as part of an ‘atelier’ creating hand-made clothes in smaller batches. You can expect to…

  • Follow instructions to create garments according to the design

  • Find and fix any problems with the clothes and recommend any changes

  • Regularly check in with the Head Designer.

How long is a fashion apprenticeship, and do I get paid?

Apprenticeships are full-time, meaning you’ll work up to 40 hours per week on average. You’ll also spend some time earning your professional qualification through classroom learning.

Essentially, you’ll spend four days a week on the job and one day in the classroom.

Most Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships last between 12 and 18 months, whereas Level 4 to 7 can last between one and five years.

Unfortunately, unpaid work experiences still lurk within the fashion industry. However, more paid opportunities for young people have been created over the years. So don’t accept anything less than paid work experience - like an apprenticeship.

As an apprentice, you'll earn while studying from the first day of your career. Currently, the average apprentice earns a minimum wage of £5.28 per hour. However, many employers pay a stack more than that.

For example, a Trainee Bespoke Cutter can earn up to £20,000 per year, and a Garment Maker apprentice can earn between £16,000 and £20,000 per year.

Where can I find a fashion apprenticeship?

Fashion has become so much more accessible in recent years. Thanks to new initiatives, there are loads of opportunities for you to jumpstart your fashion career.

British Fashion Council (BFC)

The BFC’s job is to make sure that the world takes British fashion seriously. It’s the head honcho behind events like London Fashion Week and The Fashion Awards, so naturally - they’re the number one resource for all things fashion.

It’s also an excellent resource for finding fashion apprenticeships, and they often advertise their roles.

Fashion Retail Academy

This is the place to be if a career in retail is your bag. They offer apprenticeships across all levels, from a fashion studio assistant to fashion buying and merchandising.

Hear from Level 3 Fashion Retail Student Ellie as she answers 73 questions (fans of Vogue will get it) about her apprenticeship and the Fashion Retail Academy.

Fashion Enter

Fashion Enter offers apprenticeships that specialise in the creation of clothing. 

You can learn anything from textile care and pattern cutting to bespoke tailoring. So if your needle and thread are set on becoming the next Rick Owens, an apprenticeship with Fashion Enter is precisely what the atelier ordered.

What are the entry requirements for a fashion apprenticeship?

The entry requirements for a fashion apprenticeship will always depend on the level of apprenticeship you apply for.

Usually, an employer will require the following…

  • For a Level 2 Intermediate apprenticeship, two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D)

  • For a Level 3 advanced apprenticeship, five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C).

  • For a Level 4 higher apprenticeship, three A-Levels or equivalent and/or five GCSEs at grades 9 to C (A* to C).

However, many apprenticeships don’t require you to have any previous qualifications or experience. As long as you can show that you have a genuine interest in fashion.

So if you spend your free time drawing fashion illustrations, upcycling your old clothes, or you can name every collection Chanel has unveiled yearly since 1995 - these are the kinds of things employers want to hear about.

What GCSEs do you need to be a fashion designer?

Technically, you don’t need GCSEs or to have studied a fashion degree to become a designer.

Loads of the world’s most famous designers didn’t come from an academic background or even a fashion background. 

French designer Pierre Cardin studied architecture before making his fashion debut in the 1950s, and wedding gown extraordinaire Vera Wang started as a figure skater. Her wedding dresses have been worn by the likes of Issa Rae, Ariana Grande and Victoria Beckham.

If you have your needle and thread set on studying fashion design, you can do so through a fashion textiles or studio assistant apprenticeship or even attend university to study fashion design.

University does mean that you will need to have the entry requirements to be accepted onto the course. The minimum requirements are;

  • Full Level 3 qualifications (A-Levels, BTEC ND, Foundation diploma, HED or equivalent) in an Arts or Design subject

  • Three GCSE passes at grade 4 or above (grade A*–C)

  • Portfolio work.

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