How to Build a Fashion Portfolio

16 Mar 2017

As promised today is Portfolio Day! I know I mentioned doing a video, however, I found that I need to ease into the realm of YouTube video production. Regardless, today's post will be all of the same great tips, and info. Open links to my full portfolios below to follow along, though images will be in the dialogue below.

 

2017: https://indd.adobe.com/view/1d1a5b0b-d4cb-43c4-a9e6-caec5bdde548

2016: https://indd.adobe.com/view/f04e4acd-84eb-4421-b742-cbefdb78635a

 

Note, that this is not the only method for creating a great portfolio, and you should ALWAYS follow the requirements set forth by the institution for which you are submitting.

 

So let's get to it!

 

WHY DO I NEED A PORTFOLIO?

 

As a designer, your portfolio is your visual resume. It will be the intercession between you, and future employers, school admissions committees, or even clients. Your portfolio demonstrates who you are as a designer from your technical competence, to your aesthetic, and you will be judged mainly with respect to the work you put forth in it!

 

HOW TO START

 

A portfolio can theoretically be started at any time you start producing work. I would recommend having an assortment of material before you begin publishing it into a document, but all you need are images of your work, and a computer.

 

For compiling your work, I recommend using Adobe InDesign. If you have access to the software, or can purchase a subscription of your own this is the program to use! InDesign is created specifically for page layout, and therefore interfaces extremely well with both text, and images, and extremely user friendly (I swear I learned it in an afternoon). This program allows you to construct a beautiful layout suited for both print, and online publishing, which leads me to the best thing about InDesign (at least for CC, I'm not sure if it is available in earlier versions), which is the "Publish Online"

 

sync feature. This feature allows for you to publish your document online, with an essentially private link to the work that you are able to share with anyone who needs to view your portfolio. You then are able to update the document at anytime, and your most recent changes will always be reflected, which means if you provide an employer with the link to your portfolio, and then realize you have a spelling error or forgot to include something, you can edit it, update the file, and the employer will see the corrected portfolio! If you have the option, do this instead of submitting it as a PDF, it is a lifesaver!

If you don't have InDesign, my next recommendation is Adobe Illustrator. I used Illustrator for my first portfolio, and it works...with some effort. Illustrator first off isn't as liquid as InDesign for page styling, but it can be accomplished. However, the major downfall to using Illustrator is how it interfaces with images. If you're creating a portfolio with a lot of high-quality images, the program will start being sluggish, and take ages to save. Not to mention it will take even longer to render into a PDF (my first portfolio I had to split into 3 files, and each took around 45 mins to export as a PDF). You also do not have the online publishing option.

 

Lastly if you are looking for the free-ish option, Microsoft Publisher or Powerpoint are functional programs, you just won't have all of the bells-and-whistles that Adobe applications can offer.

 

SIZE

 

DIMENSIONS-When setting up your portfolio the page size is up to you, however I advise against having anything over 11"x17". My 2016 portfolio shows an 8.5x11 example, while my 2017 one is 12x12.  If you stick to standard paper sizes, it will be a lot easier to layout (mainly due to standard photo aspect ratios), and will be extremely easier to print, and bind.

 

LENGTH- Again, this is up to you; the length of your portfolio will depend greatly on how much work you have produced. By that same token, it is important to state that everything that you produce should not go in your portfolio. Remember to include variety, and that you should only put in work that is representative of your talent. As you create new work, it is important to periodically remove older content, adding more recent, or better executed work.

 

ORGANIZATION

 

First off is your cover page. This page should include things like your name, or line, the year, and some original artwork, design, or imagery. I personally have utilized all three, and they give slightly different effects: edgy, refined and editorial respectively. After that I recommend adding a table of contents, and page numbers; it makes navigating your portfolio not only easier for you, but for the viewer as well.

 

SEQUENCE-This can vary but the rule of thumb is to start with your strongest work, meaning you want to open your portfolio with you best work. Your portfolio probably isn't the only one an employer will be reviewing, so understand that they might only get a few pages in;  you want to make sure you catch their eye immediately. You can also consider starting with your most relevant work, meaning if you're applying to a technical design job, it would be a good idea to open your portfolio with examples of your flats, and sketches. Personally I sequence my works Collections -> Student Work -> Illustration ->Research. 

 

PAGE DESIGN- Be sure to center text, or be consistent with non-standard justifications. You should use the same fonts throughout, ensuring that they are easily legible. While it needs to be creative, it needs to look professional first and foremost. Lastly, avoid having pure white or pure black backgrounds inside your portfolio. Using black or white often can exaggerate or imply alignment issues, and alter the perception of negative space. For images, it will distract from a white or black garment as well. Using a 10-75% grey, or a sepia tone works best!

 

 

WHAT TO INCLUDE?

 

The institution you are applying to is going to somewhat inform what needs to go into your portfolio. For fashion designers, as I mentioned before, you need variety. For a general portfolio you should have collections, singles, illustrations, etc. Everything in your portfolio shouldn't be eveningwear, or denim for example. 

 

IN-PROGRESS DOCUMENTATION- Be sure to include PROCESS documentation. This could be snapshots of patterns, mood boards, sketches, muslins, or prototypes. Institution like to see HOW you work, and not just THAT you work.  Process imagery can be integrated within photospreads, or book-ending photo spreads.

 

PHOTO SPREADS

 

If you have read nothing else, these last few tips are must-knows, and make all the difference. A photo spread is a 2-page feature in your portfolio that frame your images. Follow these 5 Tips to creating the perfect photo spread.

 

TIP1: Have professional or high-res photos: grainy, or poorly lit photos make your work look unprofessional, and in short, bad.

 

TIP2: Completed garments should always be photographed on a model: people wear clothing, not dressforms, or mannequins. Photographing on forms will convey an ammetuer quality about your work ethic. Models don't have to be pros or 6 feet tall, just living, and the clothing should fit them well.

 

TIP3: Arrange imaged so that models are looking towards the center of the spread, or out of the page (at the viewer): Believe it or not, this will solve the majority of your composition woes. Not only does it help your spread look balanced, and grounded, it also suggests where images should go. Just understand that this is not always possible, and it is better to have a few exceptions than to try to artificially mirror the image. 

 

 

TIP4: A spread needs to be balanced: Images should be laid out to provide a smooth rhythm to the viewer. Arranging photos in columns, or a grid help make pages look stable (FYI InDesign, somewhat does this for you).

 

TIP5: If you need a hard copy of your portfolio, ALWAYS get it professionally printed (At a FedEx or a copy shop), don't do it from home: the paper quality, and color will be so much better. It is not that expensive.

 

So I hope this tutorial has helped you understand a little more about how to create a portfolio! I would love to get your feedback on my tips, and would be glad to answer any questions you may still have. Stay professional, and stay relevant guys!

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