NYC-based portfolio lab Collectiv3 partnered with Kent State University’s New York Studio to deliver to a group of alumni the skinny on what currently constitutes a successful fashion portfolio. Societal unrest; the economic downturn, consumer shifts, globalization versus localization, and adapting to a digital world, will all inevitably affect the portfolios entering the job market. But based on the work the three co-founders have been seeing, the pandemic has only resulted in a rebirth of creativity. Competition is building even as the workforce has been diminishing. So FashionUnited decided to summarize their professional tips to serve as a sort of check list for those designers furloughed or laid off, contemplating an update of their books but unsure where to start, or the graduates back living with their parents, hungry to kickstart their careers when the industry opens up again.
Portfolios build connections and the best ones can compel even the most taciturn interviewers to interact with you. Collectiv3 identifies three portfolio touchstones for ensuring a portfolio's strength: Concept, Curation, and Creativity. Pre-pandemic portfolios invited tactility. An interviewer touching fabric swatches or lifting an acetate layer to peek at an engaging page layout underneath was some sign that the interview was proceeding well. Who knows if such clues will be evident in a contact-free future, yet digital pages must elicit the same level of response through a thoughtful mixture of analogue techniques and the right software.
Some basic tips that co-founders, Ami Mountford, Ashleigh Crawford and Jeannine Umrigar, believe bear mentioning up front: Avoid poorly photographed images, check for unseemly shadows, ensure good lighting and clean backgrounds. Play with alternative layouts by merging imagery, manipulating opacity to create delicate layers, enhancing color, magnifying detail.
Your design portfolio should represent your point of view
Portfolio creation is an opportunity to reflect on who you are a designer and to express consistently the uniqueness of your point of view, both visually and verbally. It’s more important than ever to filter that perspective to incorporate diversity, marginalized bodies, and focus on the sustainable world. Move away from fabrics that you know in order to familiarize yourself with ones you don’t: pineapple or fish leather, natural rubber; or go print with algae ink; or investigate smart manufacturing. Your portfolio should boldly wear your values.
Illustration is back with a vengeance after decades in the shadows. If hand rendering is a personal strength, showcase it with confidence. Illustration pages are a favorite hang out spot for interviewers perhaps used more to staring at Excel sheets, line plans and columns of figures, a place to inspire fantasy and romance. Whether using hand drawing or digital, how you illustrate must reflect your collections, inspirations, target customer.
Every portfolio creator should download the Procreate app, and look around the CLO website. Kent State University is one of the schools which will be offering CLO software education for fall. Make sure your portfolio, your website, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts all make visual sense.
No matter how long you’ve been working in the industry, keep in mind that the portfolio should never remain stagnant. Edit and update whenever you get a chance; tailor its contents for the company you’re interviewing with. Dividing your book into sections to correspond with the various companies you have worked for can be helpful, but continue to create new work to demonstrate your own personal evolution outside of the positions you’ve held.
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Images by Collectiv3