Having spent the last 9 years in seemingly the most glamorous and desirable industry to women, fashion I am often asked about the careers and opportunities for women in fashion and more often what are the best paying careers for women in fashion today?
The beauty about the fashion industry is that it caters for the creative and the business savvy as well as encompassing the back end blood sweat and tears in producing apparel for the Australian and global markets.
Let’s look at the best paying careers for women in fashion
For the business savvy roles for example Brand Manager, Product Manager or Retail Buyer you need a qualification in business, commence, economics or marketing. Candidate perception is often misunderstood with these roles and in the past 4 years they have become the glamour roles of the industry. The misconception largely surrounds the intense business acumen required to be a success. You need to be numbers savvy, have strong skills in product forecasting, budgets, calculation of EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) and have strong analytical skills and margin and profit focus. All too often candidates see for 15% fascination with the product side of these roles and fail to see that 85% of the job is spent behind an excel spreadsheet.
Salaries in Australia for Brand Manager, Product Manager and Retail buyer vary greatly and are very dependent on the size of the company. With this said, some of the larger brands are the poorer payers. Brand Manager, Product Manager and Retail Buyers earn above national average to executive salaries at the top end. Longevity plays a big role in securing top dollar so proving yourself is essential. Your success will be measured on year in and year out results and growth so 18 months here and there is not going to get you into the best paying careers for women in fashion. You need to have some creative edge in these roles, so a sense of style and fashion is essential as much of the creative team is likely to report to you. These roles will see you provide product direction, range planning and product lifecycle analysis as a response to market forces and trends as well as the financial management aspects..
The creative roles in fashion are probably the most deceptive. Design is hard work and again longevity is going to go along way to allowing you to achieve your financial salary goals. My best advice when negotiating a role in design is to negotiate your increases when you commence. One of the biggest problems in increasing salaries once you start working is the lack of a remuneration plan at commencement.
To be a fashion designer you will need to have studied fashion design at any one of the various International Design schools. Getting accolades will also help. Make sure your design projects reflect commercial fashion and if they don’t leave them out of your portfolio. It is very off putting to an employer of a fashion designer to see arty unwearable fashion in the recruitment process.
As a fashion designer you will not only be responsible for the design of the ranges within the product budgets and brand values but you will be responsible for the outcome, market acceptance or rejection! It is very rare for a design graduate to score a top job as a fashion designer but occasionally it does happen. Your career path is however more likely to commence behind the scenes as a designers assistant. You will sketch, source fabrics, trims and accessories, cut samples, prepare range books and coordinate the design timeline with the pattern makers and sample machinists. Not too much creative here but at least you will be close to the action.
Prove yourself and you will be introduced to designing your own portion of a range with a bit of luck (and blood sweat and tears). As a designer assistant (graduate) in fashion expect to earn average national salaries. You will be competing with a big group of graduates all chasing the dream so embrace anything on offer and be realistic about the brand opportunities offered to you. It is no time to be a brand snob when you have just graduated from design school. If you decide to be brand specific be prepared to wait tables as it may be required for a while until the right break comes you way.
As a Range Designer of a visible and market identified brand expect to earn anywhere from average to executive salaries at the end. When so much hinges on the talents of a designer you would expect higher paying salaries, however, simple supply and demand principles unfortunately come into play. The best news is that when longevity kicks in (if you haven’t started your own label) the role of Design Director comes with a hefty pay packet. As Design Director of a fashion brand expect to earn serious executive dollars. Achieve this in fashion design and you have made it!
Let’s look at the engine room; Production Management, Operations and Supply Chain. These roles are the most critical to a fashion operation. Apparel may not be a perishable commodity but if it is late into store it may as well be. With the changes in supply chain and imports the production of apparel in the last 10 years has changed the nature of these roles significantly. In fashion production, operations and supply chain you can expect to frequently travel to operations particularly in the east and work in some quite deceptive conditions. Let me qualify this by saying that your negotiation skills need to be razor sharp and your ability to identify the right sources is essential.
In terms of qualifications you need a fashion production qualification, business or logistics supply chain management qualification or similar. Garment construction knowledge is essential. You will work hands on and be required to make the call on garment construction issues so it is imperative that you know the lingo. At the low end Production Managers in fashion earn just above national salaries with Operations and Supply Chain Managers earning exceptional executive dollars.
Whilst I have purposely focused on the highest paying roles for women within the fashion industry the obvious roles of General Manager, CEO and Company Director form the highest paying roles in the sector. It is difficult to focus on these roles when the opportunities are quite few are far between. Some outstanding women have achieved these roles in fashion with Sue Morphet of Pacific Brands crashing through the glass ceiling some years ago and moving up the scale with full force. Sue is of particular inspiration having conquered such an exceptional role within an established and traditional brand. There are other women like Sue earning exceptional salaries within the fashion sector, but the roles are few and far between. Salaries at this top end can reach beyond half a million dollars including bonuses and share options.