You’re currently reading Chapter 4 of The Ultimate Guide to Adobe Illustrator for Fashion Design
I’m not writing this because I’m an Adobe affiliate. I’m not.
I’m not writing this because I’m an Illustrator nerd. Ok, I am an AI nerd, but it’s not why I’m writing this.
And I’m not writing this because I have nothing else to do. I have boatloads of things on my to do list.
I’m writing this because fashion schools (even top ones like FIT, FIDM and Parsons) are NOT teaching designers the #1 skill they need to GET A JOB in this industry (hint: it’s Illustrator).
I’m writing this because there aren’t a lot of GOOD resources to learn.
And I’m writing this because it was Illustrator that landed me my DREAM FASHION DESIGN JOB.
Even though I DID NOT go to fashion school…
And even though I had NO professional industry experience.
(Although now I know there’s an even better way to break into fashion without a degree or experience.)
It all started back in 2004 when I graduated with a very expensive college degree…
And then I landed my first job…as a RECEPTIONIST.
Long story short, I threw away 2 years of my life filing papers and answering phones before reality kicked me. HARD.
I felt defeated, frustrated, and cheated by my worthless degree. I was EMBARRASSED about what I’d become.
When people asked what I did for a living (and it was no longer a temp gig I could blame on recent graduation)?
I felt NAUSEOUS.
And I knew I had to change something.
But with a degree in graphic design and “receptionist” on my resume, I didn’t feel qualified to land a fashion job.
So I DIY’d it and launched my own label.
I sewed my HEART out on the red Husqvarna my mom gave me.
I SLAVED weekends away selling at markets, doing fashion shows and photo shoots.
And I MADE it happen.
After a year, I was earning SOME money and had my designs in boutiques.
Business was growing and for the first time in my life, my dream was CLOSE.
So I said goodbye to my HORRIBLE receptionist gig to work on my fashion brand full time.
It was AMAZING.
But it was also freaking HARD.
One struggle was just replaced with another.
Embarrassment about my job? GONE.
But my anxiety? THROUGH THE ROOF.
I had no idea where my next paycheck would come from.
So when one RANDOM day (6 months later) my red Blackberry Pearl rang?
And there was a fashion job opportunity on the other line?
It was bittersweet.
I’d have to walk away from my collection…
But stable income sounded REALLY freaking good.
So…where did this magical job come from?
You see, back when I was a receptionist, I’d gone on one of those job hunting BENDERS and applied to a kajillion opportunities. #youknowthekind
They’d kept my resume on file, and almost a year later, needed someone with my skills.
This was my chance to design product that was professionally made in bulk (not piece by piece with my own two hands) and sold in retail shops worldwide.
It was a no brainer. I said YES.
Just like that, my impossible fashion design dream had come true.
And it was because I was good in Adobe Illustrator.
I worked with that brand for 3 years. But in the first 3 months it was CRYSTAL CLEAR why I beat out the competition (even though I had NO formal training or experience):
They needed a designer who was good with Illustrator.
Because fashion designers use AI 20+ hours / week.
Proficiency is MANDATORY.
But students coming out of fashion school? Weren’t being taught the software.
Old school designers? They could sketch by hand, but AI intimidated them.
Companies needed designers who could create EVERYTHING digitally, from repeating patterns and fashion flats to presentation boards and line sheets.
I had enough AI knowledge from my graphic design degree to figure them all out. And I did.
Life was AMAZING.
Days were full of design meetings and cork boards overflowing with magazine tear-outs.
Fit models shuffled in weekly to try on product and get pinned for adjustments.
I spent endless hours sketching flats in Adobe Illustrator with my boss often over my shoulder.
She couldn’t believe how fast I could mock designs up, and I couldn’t believe I was living THESE moments.
It. Was. SURREAL.
When the realities of the fashion industry set in (those 80-hour weeks, the boss who’s toxic AF, and that promised pay raise that never comes), my Illustrator skills are what allowed me to jump to freelancing.
As a freelance designer, I finally had it all. I was doing projects I loved and only working with brands I was excited about. I made my own flexible schedule and worked remotely from anywhere in the world. And I built my income to $100k+.year.
My dream life of being a fashion designer had come true.
I want your fashion design dream to come true, too.
You have talent and passion.
Like me, it’s what keeps you from COMPLETELY giving up.
But right now, you feel STUCK.
Why? There are reasons. And they may make you uncomfortable.
I could have very easily just put together a LONG list of Illustrator for fashion tutorials and called it a day.
And yes, this guide DOES include a list of tutorials in logical order…we’ll get to those soon.
But I know you need MORE than that.
Because after teaching Illustrator to THOUSANDS of designers for over a decade through in-person workshops, free online tutorials and my comprehensive AI program, The Adobe Illustrator Masterclass (which is now part of Freelance Accelerator)?
I know a lot of reasons you get stuck are technical hiccups in the software. And we’ll cover those.
But I also know that lot of the things that trip you up?
ARE IN YOUR HEAD.
I don’t say this to be MEAN.
I say them because if I didn’t? I’d be doing you a HUGE disservice.
Your MENTAL BLOCKS are more debilitating than you may realize.
I see this with new freelancers all the time. They waste months or even years working on their portfolio or designing a website, when all they really need to do is find a few brands and start pitching.
The same is true with learning Illustrator! Which is why before diving into the tutorials, there are a few things I want us to cover first.
So keep reading.