Five Tips for a Great Portfolio
Updated: Oct 9
First things first, what is a fashion design portfolio? Consider this as a professional presentation of your work, your USP in the respective field, and the scope and aptitude in it. As a designer or a fashion student, your portfolio speaks more than your resume or CV. Why so? Well, since fashion design is more of a creative career that works around visual proofs of the work, a portfolio is naturally the medium to showcase that. A fashion professional’s portfolio reflects their personality and work that displays the ‘Why You?’ factor.
But, not every compilation of designs and your work can make the cut. Sure, they can be referred to as portfolios but not as exceptional ones. And, you certainly need an exceptional portfolio to excel at your designing gig, get that dream fashion job, or reach the top of the industry in any capacity.
Why Do You Need a Portfolio?
Of course, you need it to showcase your best work and/or your ability to grow in the said industry. But, why exactly do you need a portfolio? What other requirements in your professional journey does it fulfil?
- It makes room for more creativity and personal discovery
It is not just a presentation of your designs but it also paves the way for your own creativity and individuality to shine. It is your PERSONAL portfolio, which makes way for you to experiment, explore, and showcase your best.
- It makes for a great tool for admission to your dream school
If you are someone who is just getting started in your fashion career and looking to get into your dream school. Then, there is no better way to do that than with a complete and impressive portfolio.
- It markets your skills and everything in between
A portfolio not only helps promote yourself and your skills but also your confidence, aptitude, dedication, and passion. These things combined can help make a great portfolio, making sure that it is ready to be showcased. And, here's how you do so!
1. Personalize your portfolio and include self-initiated work
Reiterating this, let your personality shine through your portfolio! We know it is a professional piece, but it is yours and what will set it apart is your uniqueness. So, don’t refrain from blending that individuality into your portfolio, whether it is in the form of designs, designer brief/introduction, theme, or the style of conveying it all. The industry is full of exceptional designers and fashion experts, and what sets each of them apart is their confidence and individuality. If you own your personal style and qualities that distinguish you from the lot, you and your portfolio will stand out for sure.
Secondly, always remember to show the real you through the portfolio, which also means that you include your passion projects in there too. The projects you created outside of your fashion education and work, the ones you did purely out of passion. Not all of them but the best and the raw ones must be a part of your portfolio. All this self-initiated work is the one that really speaks and shows your creativity, dedication, and willingness more than anything.
2. Have one big cohesive theme for your portfolio
Secondly, never undermine the power of uniformity and a consistent theme. The layout, alignment of the designs, fonts, colour palettes, supporting elements, etc. Each of these things should tie in together to exude one common theme, which can only happen when it is planned in advance. This not only shows professionalism and hard work but is also visually appealing and engaging for the viewer. A cohesive theme holds it all together and conveys a common mood, feel, and hence, a common vision.
Identify your theme, something that resonates with you and your work. A theme that not only complements your personality but also your work, is key here. Say, if you’re presenting bridal designs, then a more western theme in terms of colour and other elements may or may not work as much. So, narrow down to your theme and then browse through your layouts, colour, and font options to narrow down to each.
3. Quality over quantity
Many people believe that a thicker portfolio is an impressive one. Contrary to that belief, it is all about what kind of designs or projects you showcase more than how many you do. It is of utmost importance to present designs that resonate with your vision. Show pieces that reflect your USP as a fashion professional and/or your niche, the kind of work that you want. Say, if you’re someone who is inclined towards athleisure and wants work in that domain, you cannot have more trousseau or occasion wear in your portfolio. Naturally, you’d want to show more of athleisure if that is your speciality and that’s where you want to head. So, the takeaway here would be to tailor your portfolio, keep it crisp and compact, and only include the best. Don’t add designs simply for the sake of it.
4. Plan and curate it
A portfolio cannot simply be made out of the blue one random day. It is definitely something to be planned, prepared for, and then be curated. And, this is not just a one-time process. This needs to be done from time to time, regularly. Before you begin the process, you need to set down a plan. The theme, the main focus of your portfolio, the end goal, and the pieces you definitely want to include, personal and professional both. Once you jot down the plan, you begin to curate the projects or designs you want to include in your portfolio. While you do so, you also plan and decide upon the overall theme and focus.
All this has to proportionally contribute to the end goal, be it getting into your dream school or bag your dream job. The portfolio has to speak to them. Remember to tailor your portfolio every time you send it to a new company/school. One way or another, don’t forget to declutter and eliminate what is outdated and not needed anymore. Keep planning and adding relevant new designs regularly. Lastly, don’t forget to add the design process for each project. It not only grabs the attention of the reader but also gives them a deeper insight into your thought process, creativity, and vision.
5. Layout like a pro
Lastly, pay attention to detail and plan the layout just like you would plan the entire portfolio. Choose your five main projects, the best ones. Not the substandard ones but your best ones. Your very first project should be your first best of the lot. And, the second best? Well, save that for the last slide. As they say, first impressions count and they definitely set the tone for the rest of the portfolio. So, let your first best do it for you. Saving the second-best design for the last slide means that you conclude the portfolio in style, by leaving the viewer with a strong impression of your creativity and skills. Make sure that all of this conveys the theme of your portfolio at every step.
Also, ensure that the designs you add in between your opening design and the last one should be equally strong and impactful. You must not accept any fillers to be a part of this; include only killers! You see? A great portfolio is as much strategy and creativity as each of your designs. So, make sure you give it enough time, energy, and effort for it to represent you and your work in the way it is supposed to. Moreover, a little upskilling in this regard only serves as the cherry on top of the cake. So, go ahead and seek a little schooling in portfolio design to refine your skills and be at the top of your game!