A hierarchy of needs for the fashion design student

Recently I was asked to hold a speech in academic circles on the needs of a fashion design student and speak about what a modern fashion design program should offer.


I am a great admirer of Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who is famous for inventing the hierarchy of needs for humans and I took inspiration from him to prepare my speech.

Acording to the original structure by Maslow, our needs are arranged in a pyramid, starting with the most essential ones at the bottom.

If you do not have air to breathe, water and food, then you cannot exist.

Only after this need has been fullfilled you can move on to the next step and worry about clothing and shelter.

After this you can think about family, friends and being part of society.

If this need has been met you might worry about your self-esteem needs.

Ultimately and only after all other needs have been met, you can self-actualize and become what you really want to be. This might include art and design, or travel, be creative and engage in personal development.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


But for fashion design, I turned the pyramid upside down. I believe that any artist or designer has to self-actualize as a basis.

The fashion designer has to be a creative and artistic person first and foremost, always ready to express him or herself. Only if this basic need is met, the individual can embark on a fashion design program and grow into a successful designer. If someone is not creative by nature, not interested in making, shaping, drawing, collaging, sewing, experimenting, expressing oneself and striving for personal growth – he or she might not be suitable to study fashion design.

My pyramid thus looks like this:

My Hierarchy of Needs for Fashion Design Student

My Hierarchy of Needs for Fashion Design Student

It begins with an artistic nature, creativity and self-expression,

moves up to technical design skills and craftsmanship (which is so vital to be able to thrive in the fashion world),

and then moves on to the understanding of the industry. This includes understanding of vital industy elements such as sourcing, textile productions, supply-chains, buying and retailing, fashion promotion, trend forecasting, branding etc…These are the types of jobs a fashion design graduate might also work in, apart from pure design. If the graduate remains in a pure design role – whether its the very own brand or a larger company – he or she must comprehend the scope and interconnections of this particular industry.

These are the three basic steps that I believe are vital for a fashion design student.

The next two levels are optional: Research, topped by lecturing may well be an act of self-actualization by an accomplished designer who is ready to give back to the next generations and share the secrets of his or her success!

What do you think? Have you ever considered what the needs of a fashion design student might be and how they build up on each other? Do you have similar or different views? Please share your opinion!

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