Moving from moderate or mass market to contemporary or designer

Not all designers have been able to get a job at Calvin Klein or Alexander Wang right out of college and end up taking a position at a mass market company in order to get their start in the industry.
Has anyone had success moving into the contemporary or designer market after designing for mass market? Has anyone encountered bias based on their resume when trying to move to a higher price point?


Yes, there is bias. There is a different design eye and skill set to working in luxury/contemporary. On the purely technical side, different price points have different materials, construction techniques that you need familiarity with to work in. Even the way you interact with the factories and suppliers can be different. It is also a different customer, so your design eye needs to be tweaked to that style. Moving up can be done, but you might have to take a temporary pay cut to do it.

Freelancing is a good path to take. If you have solid skills that support the design team - like technical or illustration, take freelance jobs helping with that. It will get your foot in the door and will help you learn how to work at that price point, while giving you the right brands to get on your resume.


Absolutely a bias there. I had a phone interview once, with a recruiter and she decided to not pitch me to the client because I’ve designed for product in Kohls, Target, etc., and the client had product is in Bloomingdales.

Temp to perm or freelance is a good way to get in.

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I agree, getting your foot in through freelancing is the best way. After years of designing mass market private label brands, I joined a small but popular contemporary luxury company as a freelancer. I convinced the CEO to test me out over one season as head designer and stuck on for over three years (just before the lockdown started and I was laid off). The CEO would have never hired me just based on my resume and portfolio. I would advise freelancing highly.


Even for Tech Design there is a huge bias. It is different. I somehow was able to get lucky enough to be hired at Alexander Wang mid career (and low salary) but it completely changed my career trajectory. Previously I worked for mass missy/junior brands and it really is a completely different world. I learned so much being there. I would agree with the above and also try to get in sooner than later. Unfortunately we are all judged based by the names on your resume.