How to become a real designer and start selling (without fashion school)

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Corrado Manenti
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Making fashion has always been the prerogative of fashion designers, at least that is what we are used to thinking. For those who, like me, work as an insider, i.e. from behind the scenes, the reality is much more complex. In fact, the stylist is only the tip of the iceberg, the one who puts his or her face on it, the one who signs the so-called brand.

NOTE ON REVIEW 2022 [Original article of 17 February 2017].

I am particularly fond of this article: historical? because it was one of the first articles written by me in 2017 . Almost 5 years later, many things have changed and from some naive intuition I derived a solid approach to building a fashion collection, a brand and above all being a designer!

Many of the insights in this article then became the foundation of my approach and what you can find in the book, videos and all my materials. I wanted to keep the structure intact and have added and integrated new insights and reflections.


  1. Origin of the term designer

  2. Skills that anyone who wants to consider themselves a designer must have

  3. The designer as entrepreneur

  4. The designer and man's deepest needs

  5. The designer between inventor and visionary

As you well know if you are a designer, or as you can well imagine if you are approaching this world, the creative process in the design and subsequent creation of a fashion collection is long and changeable! Many times it happens that we are attracted by this world and want to start making something of our own even without being ?designers? but simply wanting to follow a dream of our own.



Making fashion has always been the prerogative of designersat least that is what we are used to thinking. For those who, like me, work as an insider, i.e. from behind the scenes, the reality is much more complex. In fact, the designer is just the tip of the iceberg, the one who puts his face on it, the one who puts his signature on it, the so-called brand.  

In this article I will explain how one can approach the world of ?making fashion? even without possessing some of the characteristics that are usually considered fundamental, namely: ?having studied fashion in the academy? and being able to sew?

We all know names of great designers and it is true that most of them had studied fashion and were also good tailors, but this was mostly in the past. Today things have changed in the fashion world and there are many more people and possibilities to create a brand and be its designer (even without being able to sew on a loose button)

Don't misunderstand if you have studied fashion and are also an experienced tailor, this will certainly help you and you will have an extra edge, this knowledge and skill can certainly come in handy but in case you don't have it, you can still cultivate your dream and now I will explain how.

Let's start with a definition to set the record straight: "who is a designer?" if you have read my previous article ?The difference between a tailor and a designer?you will surely already have some ideas. Here I want to start even further back, from what the dictionary says:

Stylist [sti-lì-sta] s.m. and f. (pl. m. -sti, f. -ste)

Who designs and creates the models for a collection of clothes, accessories or mass-produced industrial products: Italian fashion boasts famous designers; a car designed by a famous s.?

From this definition, it would seem that in order to forge oneself the title of designer, one must at all costs design and create what will then be our collection, but is this really the case? Not really! 

A stylised design depicting a trendy group of people wearing glasses.

From my book: Portrait of some of the Italian designers who have most influenced our imagination. Courtesy of Martina Riva @Smileys


As I said, the stylist is just the tip of the iceberg, the familiar face and the guarantee that what we buy in the shop is not just "chinese" or "market stuff". For we do not simply buy a garment or a dress but we buy a philosophy a lifestyle, a status symbol.  

The designer (who most often coincides with the name of the brand) through a special care of all those details that characterise and distinguish the brand is its spokesperson and collection after collection, consistently re-proposes those details that in the minds of its admirers make it authentic? 

What makes a designer worthy of the name is the expressive consistency and constancy in repeating the same message in each of his creations.

To become one takes time, perseverance is a long, uphill road that risks draining all your funds if you are not careful (I will explain what later), but it all starts with an idea, a particularly good differentiating idea, an idea that has above all been thought of in relation to a potential niche of passionate people ready to buy it when it comes out on the market.

In a brief summary, we can say that:

?The designer is the one who has a business idea that through clothes and accessories goes to satisfy the need of a particular niche of people who by buying his creations will feel good and see his way of living and seeing the world reflected?

 Don't worry if my definition is not clear to you, I will try to explain it in detail.

If you have read my article The difference between a tailor and a designer'.you already know what I think: 

?A designer does not create clothes he creates business models?


And it is crucial that you start thinking of fashion as an entrepreneur rather than a creative one, because making a good collection is all in all simple (assuming the initial idea is a good one), but being able to market it and sell (and maybe even make a profit) by offering something new every season is quite another matter. 

This requires great planning, knowing how to manage costs, how to give a coherent message, knowing marketing and, above all, your target audience: Put in simple terms, those who are willing to buy you walk into a shop over any other brand. 

Yes, because although we are not used to seeing it in these terms (even in academic circles no one seems to mind) fashion is a recursive type of business.

In simple terms you must not be content with your customer buying a garment from you once, but you must make sure that they are prepared to come back and buy from you whenever you come out with something new

Whenever you have a special occasion, such as sales or offers to choose you again.

This is one of the basic rules of marketing that says it is much easier for a customer to buy from us a second time than to get a new customer.

You can see how marketing and psychology are two fundamental dispiplines in building the perception and story of your products.


The question is simple: Why do we buy clothes?

Although we men are used to hearing a unanimous answer from mothers, girlfriends or sisters: ?Why do I need them? ?because I have nothing to wear?, the answer is very simple and is purely psychological: 

Do we buy clothes because they make us feel good?

Achieve success as a designer and start selling without fashion school.

If we analyse the act of buying a dress by looking at Maslow's pyramid (a famous US psychologist famous for summarising human needs in a pyramid starting from basic needs to more complex and evolved needs towards the top) we can find various interpretations.

As much as a piece of clothing certainly helps to keep us warm and protect us from the weather and can have a basic function in our evolution as human beings, fashion is part of our psychological needs (yellow pyramid step). Yes, because we do not only need clothes to protect and warm us, we need a dress that represents us for who we intimately feel we are.

There is no randomness in the purchasing process, every purchase is weighted at a subconscious/unconscious level (quoting Freud) according to our values, according to our ideal self-image and so on. 

Why am I telling you this? Because if you want to be a designer, you have to be clear in your mind who you are addressing, who the people are who will wear your clothes, why they will wear them, how they will feel. Because it is reductive to think you have come up with who knows what innovative idea if in practice what you do says nothing to anyone and simply does not sell. 

In fact, each line of clothes or accessories must satisfy the need of a particular niche of people who, by buying, will feel good and see their way of living and seeing the world reflected

This is the only sensibility you need to be a designer and create your own brand, everything else is optional including knowing fashion and how to sew. You can find someone who will make the garments for you, who understands pattern making, and all the rest, but the idea, the message that differentiates you and makes you unique (technically it is called your 'positioning') and your audience must be you who knows it.  


Because in the end, most of the time the designer (which most often coincides with the brand name) is the creator, the one who puts his face to it.

Because one thing nobody tells you is that people like to deal with people they can recognise, not with abstract brand names that you don't really know who or what is behind them. So if the idea is yours and you carry it out successfully, you will be recognised as the 'founder', the 'creator', and you can build your success piece by piece.

After all, Steve Jobs was not an engineer himself and would not have even known where to start to assemble the iPad when he came up with the idea to build it back in 1995. His genius lies in the fact that he had an idea, no matter who came up with the chips and circuits.

The same goes for you if you want to enter the world of fashion. 

As you already know, I am Corrado Manenti, I work in marketing and I am a 'designer of designers? What do I do? I help designers or aspiring designers to build their own brand and to compete with the market. I am not a designer and I can't even sew, fashion fascinates me but I mostly see it from behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, I too have created a few brands from an idea and moving on (and it has been almost 7 years now). All the considerations I have given you are the result of experience and years of study and trial and error in practice, which I hope I will be able to help you avoid. 


It is a long road from idea to market, and you also have to find the right angle of attack in which to position yourself among all your competitors. Because to succeed you have to sweat and fight, but most of this war is fought before you get on the battlefield (the market) and above all in the minds of our potential customers even before we make a single dress.

Did you like this article? Leave me a comment below and share it on your social networks with everyone who might appreciate it! That's all from Corrado! See you next article!


Corrado Manenti, the designer of designers, showcases his work in Elementor Single Article #3277.
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Marina Rhodes
Marina Rhodes
1 year ago

Merci énormément à vous vous faites me croire que rien n'est perdu voulant faire des études en couture ,mes parents trouvaient que ce n'était pas à l' hauteur de leurs attentes j'ai dû convergé vers autre chose.Mais aujourd'hui je suis toujours tourmenté par la non réalisation de
mon rêve. Votre article est vraiment... Les mots me manquent tout ce que je puisse dire j'avais besoin de ça pour y croire encore?

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