FASHION PORTFOLIOS FOR TECHNICAL DESIGN OR MERCHANDISING JOBS

You’re currently reading Chapter 9 of The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Fashion Portfolio (in a weekend)

How do you put a technical design fashion portfolio together (or a merchandiser, pattern maker, etc)?

Just because a lot of “non-design” roles aren’t as visually “sexy” as a fashion designer portfolio, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of visual aspects to your job that you can show.

Many of the same rules apply to a “non-designer” or technical fashion portfolio as a designer one with a few adjustments.

Just like a fashion designer, you should still focus on creating THE PROCESS PORTFOLIO.

We’ll go into specific ways you can do this for different roles, but think about where your work starts, what your process is like, and what the finished product is.

If you can document this in your portfolio, you will quickly and easily communicate your skills to any brand.

Your digital representation of your work (web / PDF) is going to be similar to a designer portfolio:

Show various projects from start to finish in a cohesive way.

Your physical book will most likely be different.

For pattern makers and technical designers, it’s not going to be important to have a beautiful, large bound fashion portfolio with thick pages and fancy presentation. You’re probably going to share paper patterns, spec charts, tech packs marked up with comments, and before and after photos of how garments fit. Since these are much more technical, they can be presented in a much less sophisticated way. That doesn’t mean using a generic 3-ring binder, but it doesn’t have to be as artsy as a designer’s book. Use your judgment and use something you feel good about.

What should a fashion patternmaker / technical design / product development / visual merchandiser portfolio look like?

I want to be transparent that none of these are my job (meaning my portfolio doesn’t represent this type of work). That said, it’s not rocket science [29] to figure out what they need to look like.


[29] Again, I don’t mean to demean you or your challenges with putting your book together, but this is something many of you told me verbatim. You actually know it shouldn’t be that hard, but it just is. And that’s ok! It’s why I wrote this book 🙂


Let me share some cool ideas of how you can create The Process Portfolio no matter what your job role.

Patternmaker [30]


[30] For patternmaker work, you may have to create sample / self directed projects to share since a lot of your work may be proprietary. Further discussion about this in chapter 6, The Do’s and Don’ts About Including Client Work in Your Fashion Portfolio.


As a patternmaker, what do you want to convey to brand?

Think about the Portfolio Golden Rule for designers:

“This [project / collection / design] speaks to the brand, tells them that I understand their market, customer and aesthetic, and visually shows them that I am the right designer for the job.”

And then think about what the Portfolio Golden Rule for patternmakers would be. Again, this isn’t my job, but I’m going to guess it could look something like this:

“This [pattern / before + after fit photo / etc] shows the brand that I understand how to create and adjust patterns that make great fitting garments.”

To do this, you’re going to show your process. This may differ for each of you, but this is where you have an opportunity to show brands why your process is so great and what you do that makes your patterns the best.

What do your patterns look like when they first start out?

If they’re on pattern paper, take a photo of that to show how you have them laid out. Next, maybe you transfer to digital. What does that look like compared to paper? Juxtaposition of this may show that on paper, you’re just getting the shapes right, but come digital, you’re looking more at optimal layout for fabric consumption and print directionality.

Next, show a photo of some fittings, either on a mannequin or model. Unlike design photos, these don’t have to be professional photos. Regular iPhone snaps are good enough, as you’re just trying to show things you notice in the fit and what adjustments you make to the pattern to correct them. Maybe this means photos to show how you pin or mark with chalk.

Next, you probably start making adjustments to the pattern. This is where you can show a before and after photo of that pattern piece with a note about what adjustment you made and why (ie: increased curve to fit better around bustline). Pairing your note of that adjustments with the photos of how the product fits before and after making it are a very powerful way to show not only your process, but that you know how to make a great fitting garment (or however you defined the Portfolio Golden Rule for for patternmakers).

Bonus Points: consider doing some timelapse videos for interest. If you draft by hand or drape in muslin on a mannequin, consider setting up an overhead camera (as simple as a smartphone with a tripod rig and a timelapse app) to record your drafting in timelapse.

Again, I am not a patternmaker and don’t know your process, but you do. So use this inspiration and figure out how you can show brands that your patterns make great fitting garments.

Technical Design (TD) / Product Development (PD) [31]


[31] For TD / PD work, you may have to create sample / self directed projects to share since a lot of your work may be proprietary. Further discussion about this in chapter 6, The Do’s and Don’ts of Including Client Work in Your Fashion Portfolio.


Depending on the company, this may be multiple jobs or just one. To keep things simple, we’re going to discuss on a broad scope and assume it’s one job. If your role is more specific or a little different, you can adjust / edit accordingly.

As a TD / PD, what do you want to convey to brand?

Think about the Portfolio Golden Rule for designers:

“This [project / collection / design] speaks to the brand, tells them that I understand their market, customer and aesthetic, and visually shows them that I am the right designer for the job.”

And then think about what the Portfolio Golden Rule for TD / PD would be. Again, this isn’t my job, but I’m going to guess it’s something like this:

“This [tech pack / before + after fit photo / proto comment sheet] shows the brand that I understand how to create and use tech packs that result in accurately produced garments.”

To do this, you’re going to show your process. This most likely starts with tech sketches and tech packs, so begin with that.

Yes, it’s as simple as showing what your tech packs look like!

But beyond that, show how you do proto / fit / construction comments. Instead of just showing a tech pack where it starts, show how it evolves.

What do your comment pages look like from one proto to the next?

How do you track / convey changes to POM’s or tech sketches?

How do you use a tech pack to make sure products get made right?
However you defined the Portfolio Golden Rule as a TD / PD, make sure your portfolio includes things that help show this.

Including this kind of work in your portfolio immediately lets brands know you have skill and expertise to meet their needs.

Visual Merchandiser

Depending on the brand and what this role really means, there could be variations in your portfolio / work. For this example, we’ll assume visual merchandising to mean creating trade show / in store / window displays.

As a visual merchandiser, what do you want to convey to brand?

Think about the Portfolio Golden Rule for designers is this:

“This [project / collection / design] speaks to the brand, tells them that I understand their market, customer and aesthetic, and visually shows them that I am the right designer for the job.”

And then think about what the Portfolio Golden Rule for a visual merchandiser would be. Again, this isn’t my job, but I’m going to guess it’s something like this:

“This [project / window display / trade show booth] shows the brand that I understand how to creatively merchandise product in a way that connects with customers and entices them to buy.”

To do this, you’re going to show your process. And of all the “non-design” roles, this one will look most like a designer portfolio.

Do you have moodboards or sketchbooks where you collect ideas? Show these! Do you create mockups in Photoshop or Illustrator [32]? Show this!


[32] Do visual merchandisers do this?! I have no idea!


Whatever your process is, show where you start and how you end up with the finished trade show / in store / window display.

Bonus Points: consider doing some timelapse videos for interest by setting up a camera (as simple as a smartphone with a tripod rig and a timelapse app) to record you assembling the displays.

Go to Chapter 10: Job Interviews and Your Fashion Portfolio: Meeting Brand Expectations