WHAT IS AN ATTRACTIVE FASHION PORTFOLIO?
What is the best way to get an attractive portfolio? What is the criteria for an interesting fashion portfolio to admissions officers? This is a common question among aspiring fashion students, even including myself.
I myself still have a lot to learn, but we are here to learn from each other are we not? Through my personal experiences in fashion, along with some casual research here and there, I will share with you some criteria that I think will make your portfolio more unique.
1. An appropriate storage amount
There are many people who ask me what length a fashion portfolio should be at. Actually, this depends on the breadth of experience of each person and also their self-expression of those experiences. However, a portfolio’s appropriate length should be between 20-40 pages.
To those who aren’t currently taking a fashion design major but still want to submit a portfolio then 20-25 pages will be sufficient. If you want to study fashion design then you should consider 30-35 pages, with 40 at the max.
There is something we should be aware of, that is you should include many pages if your work is truly fascinating. Because an admissions officer will not mind the length if your work is so alluring that they want to see more and more. This is hard to get right because everyone has different aesthetic tastes, but to me, organizing page numbers is still the safe option and will help you order your content logically. A full portfolio of mine is 39 pages excluding the cover.
For a fashion portfolio to be professional, you need to express your full breadth of creativity and flexibility in this field. Collections and designs need to be displayed in different angles and subjects, showing experimentation with different forms, colors, materials and not restricted to a single concept. Or, you can express variety through your personal experiences in fashion. You can sketch, plan a photoshoot, plan an event or perhaps even sew?
A layered and picturesque portfolio is the driving force of what impresses the admissions officers. Because of this, you will apply to fashion schools alongside many other strong contenders with relentless creativity and the fashion field truly has many extraordinary people. Of course, diversity and variety doesn’t mean you will be “jack of all trades, master of none” but you should also have a common “thread”, which is your personal core through every single one of your designs.
3. Market awareness
Every single designer needs to determine their own path in the fashion industry. This is shown through your style/trend in your collections. Is it high fashion? Is it streetwear, evening wear, tailoring (vest/blazer) or formal wear? Which sex are you designing for (womenswear, menswear or unisex)? What type of customers are you targeting? Who in society is your collection tailored to? Which of the 4 seasons does your collection belong to? Does your design have any utility? If possible, you should summarize these factors in the pages of your portfolio, as this will help the admissions officers understand your direction clearly and how you organize your outfits, more so the position you could fill in the design field.
To those who intend to follow the commercial path but still want a captivating portfolio, you can categorize sections by creative fashion and commercial fashion.
On fashion marketing, market awareness will be shown through your trend boards, brand research and visual content. I will go into detail on this in a different article. There are many ways to organize your portfolio in a fun way, but the most important thing is to pay close attention to detail.
4. Clarity in communication
The factor of communication in a fashion portfolio decides whether the admissions officer can understand your ideas. With fashion design, three things you need to make clear in your portfolio is research - development - final garment. Many people ask me, does the portfolio need real designs? If you are applying for design then it is out of the question, mandatory even. I myself, even when applying for fashion marketing, still include my real designs. If I cannot sew myself you can hire someone to do it and it will not reduce the quality of your portfolio at all. But if you can do the sewing by yourself, it would also be a huge advantage.
Aside from that is a topic that I usually talk about, which is visuals and graphics. Choose a layout that communicates your personality and your collections with the most clarity. Choose page layouts and color schemes that are consistent throughout so the reader can see the connection. The way that you organize your sketches and designs also needs some planning to create flow for the viewer. In all, the university recruiter will not be interested in a lackluster portfolio with an inappropriate layout. You need to infuse your portfolio with charm and magnetism that will satisfy the reader optically and emotionally.
5. Idea development
Sometimes you may be fixated on creating real outfits to include in your portfolio that you forget to include the development process. If you do not have the Research and Development (R&D) process then you won’t have intriguing designs that reflect your unique style.
For fashion design, the process of brainstorming to create an outfit/collection is something that the admissions officers want to see the most. Through this, they can see what type of person you are and how you use ready materials. Instead of judging the final product, they want to understand how you reached the design. The process is shown through your inspiration sketches, ideas sketches to how you develop materials and form.
The recruiter wants to see how the outfit started off and the inspiration it sourced from. Even if the drawing isn’t perfect, be selective in your portfolio and organize well. All of those apparel you see in international runways started off from messy, inspired sketches. If possible, include your research on the historical/societal context of your concepts or your handling of materials in your portfolio. You can also include real experiments on mannequins. Show them that you have an inclination towards exploring and inquiring, and an attention to detail for every single piece.
6. Self-development process
After all that, I also learnt something that not many may notice when creating their portfolios, is that to show your self-improvement over time. Over a year ago, I even included my silly little sketches in my art portfolio. Those are designs from when I truly looked into the world of fashion. To describe them, I think they are lackluster and clumsy, outfits that do not stand out and appear childish in some aspects.
However, that is who I was when I started. If not for the bewildered and confused Vy Bui of the past, of 4 years ago, there wouldn’t be the experienced and skilled Vy Bui today. Those designs may not be beautiful or perfect but they are not to be taken for granted; we must be grateful to look back on them. That is what I communicated to the admissions officers! I don’t know if this works for everyone, but recalling those clunky steps in the field can sometimes ignite a sense of empathy in the recruiter. If not mentioned in the portfolio, you can share this in your verbal interview. I think that every person’s start should be cherished because it’s an integral part of them. The admissions officers will see your efforts to improve and your passions through a long period of time.
All in all, those are the 5 things that I personally believe will make an attractive fashion portfolio when applying to universities. If there is anything to be added, please do not hesitate to share with me! I hope this information can be of help to you all!
Additional resources: http://www.northumbriafashion.com/