May 27, 2012

Beyond Business: The Portfolio


Continuing with some profesh advice for anyone pursuing a career in fashion design - here's some tips on the ever-important portfolio.

A professional portfolio is a collection of your best work. It should also contain written information, such as your name and the title of each work. Keep in mind that the overall design of a portfolio presents an important visual image to the viewer. The portfolio itself is a presentation of your design and organizational skills.

The first thing you'll want to do is decide what kind of designer you intend to be, and then use portfolio examples to support that image.

You'll need great images that create a cohesive portfolio. Consider hiring a good photographer. Bethany Yellowtail, who consistently works with Anthony Thosh Collins, has noted that anytime she shows her portfolio, she always gets positive responses about her photos. They look clean, crisp, and professional, so that they viewers can focus on the talents of the designer and are not distracted by bad images.

If you can't afford to hire a photographer, do it yourself, but keep these things in mind:
  • Get a decent digital camera. I have a Canon 12.1 megapixel camera (~$200). I play with the settings, shoot on a variety of settings (play with the buttons!), and then I edit like mad afterwards ("delete, delete, delete, keep, crop, and repeat"). Current iPhones have hi-res options that are suitable. However, I always make sure I'm on the highest possible resolution.
  • Keep it clean. For your first images, keep the background simple, and do not Instagram (Instragram can be for your own fun promos, but not for your profesh portfolio). If you're doing jewelry, the background should be white, gray, or black. For fashion, neutral colors such as black, white, tan, beige, or gray are the most effective background colors to show off your work.
  • Get good lighting. Lighting is so important. If an image is too dark, you'll miss out on the details. And to lighten up an image in Photoshop risks distorting an image. Avoid lighting that is yellow (which is what we use in our lightbulbs at home) or too blue (unless that's what you're going for?). I prefer natural lighting - getting next to a large window and staying out of direct sunlight. Check your settings to make sure you don't end up with yellow images.
  • Try to shoot your collection (or your story / mini-story) at once for consistency. You can always add on the occasional extra item, but overall, you want to have a consistent look to your images.
  • Crop. It is important that your images are all the same size and dimensions. Again, we're going for consistency - like, you know how to put together a collection. 
Once you have the images. Then you need to put them together into a portfolio.


Carefully select background colors and typeface that may appear in your portfolio and the composition of your work on each page. Remember these simple tips:
  • Evaluate and edit all of your work. Select 12 to 14 good examples to present in your portfolio. Be brutal and honest with yourself, and select only your top images. Quality is more important than quantity. We don't need to see everything, just your absolute best.
  • Decide how to display your work. Paper pages under vinyl or acetate sheets or boards are the preferred display methods.  
  • Design a format and organize your work by type. All similar projects should be presented together. You are presenting a story (or, a selection of mini-stories), so make sure that the images flow from one to the next.
  • Present strong examples of your work at the beginning and again at the end of your portfolio. 
  • Pay particular attention to details in the titles and text of your work - spelling, grammar, and typing must be perfect. 
  • Maintain consistency in shape, size, and page orientation when planning boards or pages. 
  • Practice the order and manner in which you will present your work. 
  • Be prepared to discuss why you have included certain types of work and how the work will relate to the job, or whatever you're going for. 
  • Regularly update your portfolio and show your latest, most impressive work.
Consider getting on to CarbonMade or DripBook, or, just browse these sites to see how other designers or artists put together their portfolios (there are some very inspiring examples featured!)



Also, check out the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Career Center website - click here to read more.

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