Fashion Designers: Salary Overview
Fashion designers sketch designs for original clothing, accessories, and footwear.
They also select fabrics and give instructions on how the products should be created.
Fashion designers typically choose the theme for a collection, use computer-aided design programs to create designs, visit manufacturers, select fabrics, showcase their ideas during fashion shows, market their designs to potential consumers, and oversee the production process of their design.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for fashion designers was $73,790 as of May 2019.
This means that half of all fashion designers made less than this amount and half made more.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,260 while the top 10 percent made more than $149,010 a year.
Fashion Designer Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fashion designers held approximately 25,800 jobs in the United States in 2018.
Their biggest employers were apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers, a field that hired approximately 28 percent of all fashion designers.
Many wholesalers and manufacturers who sell apparel and accessories to retailers hire in-house fashion designers.
Some fashion designers are self-employed.
Self-employed fashion designers typically create custom apparel and may sometimes work for a clothing line that bears their name.
Most U.S. fashion designers work in New York and California.
The average annual wage for fashion designers who worked for apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers was $85,370.
Fashion designers who were employed in the industry of management of companies and enterprises reported an average annual wage of $91,560.
The motion pictures and video industry paid fashion designers, on average, with $85,850 per year.
The mean annual wage was $93,510 for fashion designers who worked for cut and sew apparel manufacturers and $100,960 for those employed by companies that provide specialized design services.
The highest annual salary was reported by fashion designers who worked for other miscellaneous manufacturers.
The average annual salary for designers in this industry was $112,360.
Salaries also vary depending on the designer’s level of experience and his/her portfolio.
Entry-level fashion designers typically start with a salary close to the minimum for this profession and, after building an impressive portfolio their earnings increase.
Commissions, Profit Sharing and Bonuses
Along with a fixed salary, many fashion designers also receive a share of the company’s profit, commissions on sales, and bonuses.
According to a report published by payscale.com in July 2020, fashion designers received, on average $3,029 in bonuses, $8,000 in commission, and $297 in profit sharing.
These numbers vary widely depending on the designer’s level of experience, reputation, and portfolio.
The same report shows that bonus earnings range between $500-$11,000 a year, commissions can be anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000 a year and profit-sharing can be between $50-$5,000 a year.
If we also take into account these additional benefits, the total compensation for fashion designers can be anywhere between $35,000-$106,000, according to Payscale.
The report shows that approximately 73% of all fashion designers received medical insurance and 60 percent of them had dental insurance.
Fashion Designer Pay by Experience Level
Salaries for fashion designers also vary depending on their experience level.
According to payscale.com, on average, fashion designers with less than 1 years of experience made $46,000 a year.
Those who had between 1-4 years of experience made around $55,000 a year and those who had between 5-9 years of experience earned, on average around $68,000 per year.
The average annual salary was $82,000 for fashion designers with 10-19 years of experience and $92,000 for those with more than 20 years of experience in the field.
In conclusion, being a fashion designer can be a well-remunerated job but before earning a six or seven-figure salary you will most likely start with a wage that is below $50,000 a year.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Fashion Designers. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.