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In Fashion, what is a Technical Designer?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A technical designer is one of the team of people who work to bring a garment from an idea in a designer's head to a finished product on the rack. Technical designers are usually graduates of schools with programs in fashion design and sometimes specifically hold certifications in technical design. The work requires a diverse set of skills. One of the best ways to describe the technical designer is as the person who acts as a liaison between the designer at the fashion house and the factory where the garments are made.

The technical designer works with the designer to discuss an idea for a garment and a patternmaker to develop patterns. Technical designers are concerned with fit, taking flat measurements and adjusting patterns so that completed garments will fit in the way intended. This information is used to provide guidance to the factory so that it can produce garments to specification. Many people start out in subordinate positions to acquire experience and gradually take on more job responsibilities before becoming full fledged technical designers.

Technical designers must keep up with fashion trends so that they help their employers produce finished products that fit in a way that is currently fashionable. They also need to have a good sense of textiles in order to understand how different fibers fit, drape, and behave once they are sewn. Understanding of patternmaking is critical, as is a good aesthetic eye. Technical designers also need good communications skills because they are points of contact for many important people in the design process.

When factories produce the first mockups from patterns sent by the designers, the technical designer is involved in checking the garments to confirm that they look as intended and making any adjustments to the specifications if necessary. Technical designers tend to be responsible for the sizing and fit of entire lines. This is why clothing from the same company tends to have consistent fit and sizing characteristics.

Not all fashion houses use technical designers. In some cases, a designer, pattern maker, and spec technician will work together to develop patterns and specifications for production without a technical designer. Large companies and companies dealing with overseas producers are more inclined to use the services of a technical designer to streamline the process, however. It can help to have foreign language skills, as sometimes conversations with overseas producers may require translation, although proficiency in multiple languages is not necessarily required from a technical designer.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By dimpley — On Jun 08, 2011

I love to design clothes, and then to create them from scratch. I’m really pretty good at it, too. Actually, all modesty aside, I am pretty awesome at it. I would love to earn a living doing it, but there is a problem.

I don’t really have the look that design firms are looking to throw their fashion technical designer jobs at. Actually, I prefer the Goth look.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t design frilly and frolicky with the best of them, because I can. It’s just not what I prefer to wear myself.

Many people tell me to just change what I wear and how I look, but I really feel like that is a personal liberty I’m not willing to give up.

I suppose what I’m wondering is if there are any design company’s out there who are willing to give a Goth a chance.

By poppyseed — On Jun 07, 2011

Although slightly different from an actual fashion designer, I was well-trained in the art of costume design for the theatre when I was in college. I actually supervised a pretty huge costume shop that clothed hundreds of actors a year.

I think that many people overlook the genius it takes for a person to look at a design on paper and transform it into something that is really wearable.

Now mind you, we used tons of patterns and things – we hardly ever tried to make patterns from scratch ourselves because it is quite difficult. You see, with patterns comes suggestions for materials, all of the sizing charts that you need for multiple sized folks and other helpful hints as well.

So I give total props to the people out there in the fashion industry who can actually take a picture, and create something tangible and wearable from it. Heck, they actually create the patterns!

These guys might not get the kudos all of the time, but apparel technical designers get nothing but respect from me.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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