The pandemic changed the remote work world forever. And while a lot of old school brands still believe in the “butts in seats” model, there are still plenty of opportunities to work from home in fashion.
There are a plethora of articles out there that talk about some of the more “obvious” work from home fashion jobs. Of course you can easily work remotely in fashion in a variety of jobs like:
Let’s jump right to the answer…it sure is. I cover it more in this video:
But if you’d rather read, let’s talk about working remote in fashion a little more…
Most people think to be a fashion designer, you have to work on-site. After all, you’re working with a lot of physical materials like textiles and trims.
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of fashion brands that still require you to be in-house and don’t allow their designers to work from home.
These are typically larger, established brands that are located in fashion hubs like NYC, LA, London, etc.
But what a lot of people don’t know (even experienced fashion professionals) is that there are thousands of fashion brands that do allow you to work from home. In fact, there are thousands of brands that actually prefer to hire people remotely.
So, what are your opportunities to work from home in fashion? Let’s look at a few big picture topics.
If you want to work fully remote in fashion, most of your opportunities are going to be as a freelancer working with multiple brands. I’m not talking about a temp job permalancer…
I’m talking about true remote freelancing where you work with multiple brands, when and where you want, and you set your own rates.
As an employee, you might get lucky and land a full-time fashion job where you’re allowed to exclusively work from home. However, there aren’t many opportunities like this. Most full-time jobs for fashion require at least some time in the office.
As of the time of writing this article (December 2022), there were only 35 remote jobs in the entire US for fashion design on Indeed. That’s a *tiny* amount!
But as a fashion *freelancer*, you can work for multiple brands and work exclusively from home. You can work with brands located anywhere in the world, and you get to do work you love. It’s how most of my Freelance Accelerator: from Surviving to Thriving (FAST) grads run their businesses as Successful Fashion Freelancers.
“I work with clients all-over the world. Germany, Argentina, Switzerland, Egypt, US, Australia, and beyond. It’s really cool to connect with different cultures!”Lucia SJ, kidswear, Germany
Beyond the ability to work from home as a fashion freelancer, many designers love this option because they get to work on a variety of projects. It keeps their creativity fresh and they don’t get bored designing for the same brand over and over.
It can also be more stable than a full-time fashion job.
And even better, you have the opportunity to earn more money as a fashion freelancer.
Most big name fashion brands are old school and prefer their team to be in-house either full or part time. Which means you need to live in a fashion hub, or at least near headquarters. (There are some big brands located outside of fashion hubs. For example, Target is in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Chico’s is in Fort Myers, Florida. But the majority are located in fashion hubs like NYC or LA.)
When it comes to working remotely in fashion, you will find a lot more work for fashion startups or independent brands. There are thousands of these brands that you’ve never heard of, and they’re doing really progressive things in the industry.
Now, when you hear “startup,” you may get visions of someone scraping their brand together out of their basement. Sure, these brands exist. But “startup” also applies to brands with smaller teams, anywhere from 2-50 people. They have a presence. They have a business. They are successful. And they have the funds to hire freelancers (whom they very happily allow to work from home). I’ve interviewed many of them on my podcast!
One of the great parts of working for fashion startups is they’re more agile and open to doing things differently. Which means you get to have more of a say in the designs, materials, manufacturing, and more.
Startup fashion brands are often *actually* doing it instead of just “greenwashing” like a lot of big brands do. It’s a great opportunity for you to have a bigger positive impact on the fashion industry.
You can do a lot remotely. In fact, every part of the fashion design and development process can be done remotely.
Now, let’s look at a more detailed explanation of each role. (Full disclaimer that these “titles” vary from brand to brand. Depending on the size and department structure, there may be overlap or slightly different titles for the responsibilities I’ve outlined below. Nonetheless, this will give you a general idea of the various tasks that can be done from home in a fashion job.)
As a remote fashion or accessories designer, you’re responsible for the collection’s vision. This may include trend / color research, silhouette / product design, picking textiles / trims / findings, drawing fashion flats in Adobe Illustrator, and creating tech packs.
If you’re working as an assistant / associate fashion designer from home, your responsibilities will likely be drawing fashion flats in Adobe Illustrator and / or creating tech packs. You’ll take the head designer’s vision and translate it into digital fashion flats, and / or spec the design for manufacturing.
Textile and print designers create artwork for fabric. This artwork may be AOP (all over prints which repeat all over the fabric) or placed prints (where a graphic is placed on a portion of the garment). This role is very easy to do from home – in fact, we have many FAST grads who are very successful as freelance textile / print designers.
“In my first year of freelancing, I have surpassed my earnings from when I was working full time for a brand.”– Katerina D, textile design, Macedonia
A technical designer (TD) doesn’t do much of the design process, but rather focuses on the engineering and construction part of fashion. Don’t discount this job just because it’s not design – it’s actually a really cool one (and tends to pay more than design)! As a TD, you may be responsible for tech packs, reviewing / commenting / measuring protos, and communicating changes with the factories to ensure the garment is well constructed. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible to work remote as a TD, but they’re wrong!
A product developer (PD) is typically responsible for the product development process. This basically means they’re job is to make sure the product successfully and efficiently (aka on-time) goes from the design stage through to the bulk production stage. They’ll communicate and coordinate with the various suppliers and factories to ensure all deadlines are met and the product is made correctly.
A patternmaker is responsible for creating the physical or digital sewing pattern that will be used for the garment. They are also typically the person who will do all the grading, which means creating not only one size (ie Medium) but also “grading” the patterns up and down to include all sizes (ie Small and Large). And it’s very possible to work from home as a pattern drafter in fashion AND earn a lot of money.
One note about patternmaking for a fashion brand that’s worth mentioning… Patternmaking for home sewing is different from production sewing (even if it’s small batch). A production patternmaker has to understand slopers, markers to maximize fabric consumption, and other nuances to production line cutting and sewing.
“As a freelancer, I work with fashion brands I enjoy on projects that I love doing!”Alison H, patternmaker, Missouri
Sourcing in fashion means finding the right suppliers and factories to create the product. Brands may have various requirements, such as sustainability, ethical manufacturing, low minimums, or preferred locations. A sourcing agent will scour the internet, utilize their network, attend sourcing fairs, and utilize other methods to find the right suppliers and factories.
A fashion consultant is a pretty vague term and can mean a lot of things. As a consultant working remotely, you can work with fashion brands on various parts of the design or product development process. The biggest difference between a “consultant” and other freelance roles is that a consultant tends to exclusively “guide” brands. You will advise them and give them direction, but you typically won’t do much execution. You’re providing the brand with expertise or access to your contacts / network more than you’re physically doing the work (like designing or patternmaking). There is often crossover between a consultant and other freelance roles, it just depends on what services you want to offer.
Depending on what sort of work you want to do remotely in fashion, you’ll need a different set up and supplies. As a consultant, a computer with internet is sufficient. But if you’re doing pattern drafting and sample making, you’ll need software as well as appropriate sewing equipment.
To work from home in fashion, you’ll likely need these essentials:
Beyond that, you’ll add or subtract according to your services.
If you want to be an employee, the process is as simple as checking the “remote” box when you’re searching for jobs on Indeed, Linkedin, etc.
But if you want to freelance, the process is a little different. If you’ve looked on Indeed or industry sites like StyleCareers, you won’t find them. That’s because true remote freelance opportunities in fashion aren’t listed, they’re found.
You can of course use freelance websites.
It’s usually not where you can charge the highest rates (there’s lots of competition there), but it can be a good way to get started.
Depending on the flexibility and lifestyle (and earning potential!) you want, you have a couple options to work from home in fashion.
If you want to be a WFH employee, you just need to find a job that allows remote work.
If you want to be a true remote freelancer, the process is a little different. First, you need some sort of skills and a service to offer. You don’t need experience and it doesn’t matter where you live…
“I didn’t go to fashion school and haven’t worked in fashion, but in my first two months freelancing, I already have 6 clients!”Arya M, fashion flats, India
“I love being a freelancer in fashion. When I get up in the morning I can’t believe that I’m actually living the life I was once dreaming about!”Eleni A, tech packs, Greece
…you just need to have *something* to offer clients. It can be as simple as fashion flats in Adobe Illustrator or creating tech packs (you can be self taught). You can offer the full design to the development process as well, or anything in between. It’s up to you!
From there, you’ll need to figure out the essentials like pricing, your portfolio, and finding clients. You can learn more about the step-by-step process in my free book, The Ultimate Guide to Being a Freelance Fashion Designer.
Whatever you decide to do, YOU have the power to create an amazing work life balance while doing projects you love in fashion…from home. #BOOM
You got this!