5 STEPS TO BUILD A FASHION PORTFOLIO
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Attached below here is a PDF version of a complete portfolio board, which is actually my assignment in the 2nd semester at LCDF! Feel free to visit it to learn more about building a portfolio!
As someone who is committed and devoted to a fashion career, it is without question that building a portfolio is something that cannot be left out of your journey. An artist portfolio is the sum of all your artistic works and experience in fashion that you have for a certain amount of time. With a portfolio that stands out, you will have more opportunities to be welcomed into renowned fashion universities, as well as promising job opportunities in this industry.
Recently, many students have sent inquiries seeking advice on their fashion portfolios. I myself do not think of my portfolio as particularly outstanding, but I share with everyone what I have personally experienced after a long fashion journey.
If you think it will be of help, you can apply these techniques in your portfolio. Each person has their own “color” and experience, so I trust that you will know what works best for yourself, and my opinions serve as your references. Good luck everybody!
Step 1. Gathering and selecting
One of the very first steps I take while building my portfolio is to prepare a “source of material” and determine the artistic direction for it. I would search and gather all the sketches and designs into a single file and list all the fashion projects and events I have taken part in since high school. I used to love illustration so I would draw a lot, but it would be pointless to put all those in your portfolio. It is better to select your best, most outstanding work, or just the work with which you have the strongest connection. Even so with extracurriculars, you can include, though limited, activities unrelated to fashion. All of your experience should ultimately be related to fashion: if you feel like you already have something to show for in this area, a maximum of 3 non-related activities can be included as well. They will recognize your flexibility, while your portfolio stays on-topic. If you have little to no fashion-related experiences, you can include 3-4 personal projects (preferably video, photoshoots, styling,...) If you are not satisfied with your current art skills, you can spend some time honing them for your portfolio. The process of gathering and selecting as above will help you make more sense of your own abilities and set goals for what you wish to improve.
Step 2: Let’s be consistent and have a story.
After getting a holistic view of your materials, you need to find a common thread between all your chosen experiences in order to establish a mood/concept/layout throughout your portfolio. If your collections bring a variety of subjects and themes, you still need to communicate them with a general message, a common goal to be met.
What will that creativity and vibrance bring to the world of fashion? Your portfolio will have a clear vision with broadened horizons, a special fate, something that will make a lasting impression. In other words, it’s a storyline written in the language of fashion. Just like building a personal brand, the factors of branding and brand mission are always placed as top priorities and you need to communicate your values with clarity. Building a portfolio is similar to personal branding, but to the admissions office. This can be shown through your layout, your graphics or even a few introductory sentences. Use a consistent template with the pages and have a set color scheme. If your content and presentation is lackluster, they will not understand what you are trying to say despite how compelling it may seem.
Step 3. Divide your portfolio into content sections.
Creating a portfolio is like making a Powerpoint presentation: you need your content and your table of contents/outline. You should make your table of contents a separate page and make sure it’s compelling enough to hook the reader in. In my own experience, this is one of the key things to remember when it comes to building a portfolio. What do you think about trying to diversify our ways in the field of fashion? My portfolio has 4 main sections:
- Fashion design (including fashion illustrations, are drawings that I have done which made it to final products).
- Creative direction (fashion photoshoots that I have joined as the role of designer or creative director, as with personal projects).
- Fashion management (runway shows that I have organized).
- Fashion research (pages and pages of personal research on historical trends and styles)
To build such categories, I have had to spend countless months with my blood, sweat and tears to gain fashion experience from a very early stage. Even if you do not have much experience, I still think you should find ways to diversify your experience in your portfolio because admission officers are always impressed by individuals who are energetic, flexible and progressive. If you apply to any specialized major then the category of that major should be prioritized, it’s just that you can choose to not be restricted to a certain field of fashion.
Step 4: Come up with picture layouts and design materials.
After establishing your narrative, artistic direction and all the individual aspects that you need to show, this is when you truly get to work on your portfolio. Other than fashion images, you also need to show your developmental process so the admissions office can see your creative thinking.
You can include images that have inspired you, such as collection themes or materials. You can have fun with this by making collages to enhance the sense of variety in your portfolio. That’s right, an attractive portfolio is one that is multimedia. In terms of layout, focus on principles of distance and size in relation to content. With fashion design, those sketches with fine lines and pretty pictures may be a great source of inspiration, but don’t forget to leave some negative spaces in your portfolio boards. Those are meant for the reader’s eyes to rest from the load of information, maintaining a harmonic balance throughout the page(s). Make sure that the images you use have the strongest overall composition when you put them together, think of the flow and structure. Don’t hold back your personality and show them pictures you think they would like but show them pictures you want them to see. Design schools always expect to see your individualized approach and your passion in every single work.
Step 5. Polish up on content and language.
Other than images, keywords or paragraphs detailing your process are also crucial to a fashion portfolio. Try your best to use refined vocabulary that will emphasize your ideas so that the reader can immediately understand the feeling or concept of your collection. You don’t need to get too wordy, however, because the best language to convey fashion in a portfolio is images.
IMAGE: @NAOMI PUGH
Successful portfolios are ones that can convey the right message to the reader without being too descriptive. When writing a summary for each page, pick the main ideas such as inspiration and development. The font also needs to be consistent and if you cannot explain a picture then you might as well not include it. Avoid descriptions that do not match the content of the image.
@IMAGE: NAOMI PUGH
Additional resources: http://www.northumbriafashion.com/