I Want Your Job: Fashion designer

'I love experimenting with colours'
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The Independent Online

Nazia Nasir, 31, is a fashion designer. The name of her Asian-inspired label Rang means "colours" in Urdu

What do you actually do?

I design ready-to-wear and made-to-measure outfits. I spend a lot of time at the boutique, getting clients' ideas and responses on the new range. Every four months, I travel to our factories in India and Pakistan where the clothes are made, and I regularly fax over designs and sketches. I don't sit down and just think: "I'm going to design something." Instead, when I'm out and about, I always carry a notepad and pen to jot down ideas. I love experimenting with colours, designs and cuts - like mixing mustard with emerald and brown.

What's a typical day like?

I'm in and out of the boutique, talking to customers and doing fittings. I might have a consultation with a client who wants an evening dress made for a ball, or a bride who wants a wedding gown. We'll discuss colours and fabrics, hold up swatches of embroidery, and get an idea of what it is they're looking for.

A consultation could take three or four hours, as it takes so long to go over all the little details of the garment - sleeves, neckline, cut. There's so much that goes into one outfit. You build up a rapport with customers, so that when they come in you can pick something off the rack that will suit them.

What's the best thing about fashion designing?

I love fashion. I'm passionate about it. It's in my blood - my twin sister designs fashion accessories, and our mother is a fantastic seamstress who used to make us clothes when we were little. When you put an outfit on someone and they absolutely love it, it's just fab. The satisfaction you get when a client is overwhelmed is incredible. And I love seeing someone in the street wearing one of my casual outfits; I recognise it straight away.

Are there any downsides to the job?

There is a lot of stress, and in the evening, I do find it hard to switch off. When it's your own business, you're solely responsible for everything. You have to work long hours, because people are relying on you.

What skills do you need to design great clothes?

When it comes to fashion, you could have all the money in the world, but no style. You must have an eye for which colours look good together, and what suits people's figures. You need drive and passion - and your family's support, because if you're stressed out all the time, you can't be creative. If you felt down and dreary every day, you'd only design clothes that were black! It helps to be able to cut patterns and stitch, so you know exactly how to adjust something. You need to know more than just how to let out a seam.

What advice would you give someone who wanted your job?

I'd say be prepared to put in long hours. It's hard work and stressful, so be ready to get knocked down and take criticism. Not everyone will love your designs, but constructive criticism can help you to make better clothes in the long run. It's good to do a course in sewing and pattern-cutting, as there's always something new to learn. But experience is the best thing. If you can work in a fashion outlet or boutique, do.

What's the salary and career path like?

When you're starting out, anything you earn goes back into your business, so you might only make £10,000 to £15,000 a year. My sister and I began selling our designs from a room at home, then moved to a little showroom, then finally we opened a boutique. If you run your own label, you could grow and open more branches and concessions in department stores.

See Nazia's designs online at www.rang-group.com

For information on training in fashion design, see Skillfast-UK, the sector skills council for apparel, footwear, textiles and related businesses, at www.skillfast-uk.org; and Creative & Cultural Skills, the skills council for advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts, at www.ccskills.org.uk

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