Portfolios- let’s talk about it

Hi All,

Please share what you put in your portfolio??

When talking to friends in the business I noticed that for lower end mass market companies portfolios are usually work from your former/ current companies. Whereas for more high end companies your portfolio is fulfilled with work you have created yourself (not on the job) that speaks to the company you are interviewing for. Bringing work from your actual job is frowned on in high end as it makes you look like you will/are sharing “secrets” with other companies. But in mass market it’s totally the norm.

Also share anything else relevant to your portfolio.
Size? Do you include hand sketch’s? Do you include any mood boards? Do have a website?

Tells us what you think has worked for you and why?

Also make sure to include your level as this will surely change what goes in your portfolio.


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This is something i am currently battling with and have been for the last few months as I hope to make the switch from mass market to the higher end of the business. But with the current climate of the industry many have suggested I create two to cover my bases and I think thats a great idea. i think including mood boards is important for helping convey the story.

Websites for me are highly problematic as I’ve seen and heard way too many stories of peoples work being ripped off. But someone close to me has suggested having someone build a website that’s locked and only allowing people to view it if they have the access code. And i thought that was a good idea but alas screenshots are still possible. So i’ve even thought of creating a physical one for the higher end and for mass market creating a series of files using things that I’ve had in hand that already exist in stores as a sort of work around being knocked off on the mass market side.

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Get an online portfolio, but don’t make everything available on it - give them a reason to call you in. I password protect mine to control who has access to what and for how long.

High end portfolios - I have never had anyone tell me that they didn’t want to see past work. As a courtesy, I would never show anything in my portfolio before it hits the store, that usually solved any questions of discretion. I would also show work as more of a creative progression rather than a look book of finished pieces.The finished piece isnt always as important as the story behind it. They know what their competitors are doing anyway - they want to know about the ‘creative journey’ you went on to get there, so I would document my design process and make my portfolio more about that. If they needed to see anything technical, I had a separate section in my book for that.

I also agree about including personal projects, especially in other mediums. They do love a painting.


The best advice I can give is to tailor your portfolio to the taste level of the companies you are interested in working for. If you’re interested in the luxury market, put projects together for brands like Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Margiela, etc…if your experience doesn’t line up with these types of profiles, it will be difficult to make the transition from mass market to luxury (not impossible, but difficult). You have to show them that you have the taste level. Also keep in mind that you are actively up against people who have luxury experience, so you really have to impress them.

For more corporate brands like RL, TH, PVH, etc…make sure your portfolio is very commercial; that’s what they want to see. Don’t get hung up on companies stealing your ideas; if you’re a good enough designer to be hired by a Kering/LVMH brand in the design studio you should have endless ideas and a strong understanding of brand DNA. Brands like RL, TH only want to see relevant work to their brands, so you may want to include a project or two to show that you have a strong understanding of their DNA.

Digital or hard copy portfolios are fine; and a sketchbook to show your design process is also great to show. A website is also a nice addition. Also, only show relevant work to the brand you are interviewing with. RL doesn’t care about your Margiela or Raf Simons project; however a project for TH or J.Crew may be interesting for them.


Any professional tips of how to save your work for your portfolio when you’re at a company?
I do projects for a company I’m hired at, but then feel scared or paranoid that someone is watching me if I want to go into my personal email and upload the work I just did to save for myself. Is it ok to do this and sneak the work digitally into your email? I feel like im not supposed to be doing this to secretly save my work without my boss finding out. I don’t want them to think I’m stealing ideas from the company, or that I’m doing what I’m doing which is saving the work for my portfolio. They might get the idea that I’m looking for another job. In reality, I just like to keep a record of what I’ve done so that if I do get fired on the spot, I have something to show for it at an interview at a new company.

@fabricologist I’ve always kept a small, external hard drive or thumb drive in my bag (easier than Dropbox or we transfer, as some companies block access to those sites). Everytime I’ve finished a part of a project/season, it goes on the hard drive, then taken home and immediately uploaded on my personal file storage - research done: copy files/take it home. Illlustrations done: copy files/take it home. Samples photographed: copy/ take it home…etc. If you are worried about being ‘watched’ by IT, doing data transfers in smaller increments raises less attention than a sudden, large spike in traffic. And this way, if I ever did get let go suddenly, the potential loss of work would be minimal. If I was freelancing or it felt like layoffs were coming, I backed my work up on the hard drive more frequently.

If you incorporate documentation into your normal workflow, it saves you time and attracts less attention.


I’m just wondering…is this even something we are allowed to do? In the design world? How do higher ups create their portfolios? I’ve even seen some bosses years later after a quick web search that they’ve been using the work I’ve created for their portfolio - which is appalling because they didn’t actually design it at all. I did all the work from concept to completion, with their ever so minimal guidance. I’ve always wanted to ask my boss about it, and how to save work for a portfolio, but then I risk losing their trust, or getting fired if they’re in panic mode.

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@fabricologist It’s my experience that higher ups, when they are looking to leave or need a portfolio rely on all the work that their subordinates have done, and, tailor that to reflect their skill set. Ex: Creative directors who put together pages of concept and color from past seasons they’ve curated. They don’t include say, techpacks, because they wouldn’t be doing them as a director. And then it’s up to them to speak to their leadership and vision as they walk people through their portfolio. I agree that it can be super frustrating to someone lower to see a higher-up doing this. I used to find it especially annoying because I have had bosses who couldn’t even use a computer, let alone the programs that are used to create the visuals.

A lot of what you show in your portfolio, though, comes down to what you know you can do for your potential new job. I do the same thing @HMSHaribo does, where i squirrel away my work a little at a time. I would never show something that hasn’t hit floors in my portfolio but certainly past items, a long with screenshots or tears of the finished goods in ads. However, I’m still at the level where I’m working through the line from start to finish, so its important for me to show that I can make a concept, sell the concept to the customer, make the techpack and then have the image of the finished good on a website, because it helps show that I can make things that actually sell. I wouldn’t worry too much about taking the work that YOU did and showing it at this point.

When I go in, if I REALLY want the job I usually do a small project on my own before I go in that’s tailored to the company, that’s new work, and show that along with past work projects.

Also FWIW I have a website, where I throw up some of my past work that has, again, hit stores, and most of my work is better / contemporary.


@fabricologist I’m not sure I’m reading your question correctly - are you asking if you are ‘allowed’ to keep copies of your work? You absolutely are and you should, though some companies will be difficult about it if you ask them, because…people can mean and unreasonable. So the solution is - if you think they will be unreasonable, don’t ask for permission. Quietly take copies of/document your work while you have the opportunity. If you wait until after you’ve left, you put the power in their hands, and they have no obligation to help you.

And you won’t always have to be secretive about it. A good manager will want to help you develop your portfolio and will be invested in your growth within your current role and beyond. :slight_smile:


Great advice -
Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. I never want to get in trouble if it’s not ‘allowed’ because in some workplaces you can have some extremely nosy people hovering over your shoulder and they might make a comment. Or ask you why you’re emailing yourself a copy of the confidential project we just worked on.

@fabricologist so just bring a thumb drive - you can get a 256gb one on amazon for $30. It’s small and innocuous. You can drag your files onto it more quickly than emailing yourself, and you won’t have your personal email open/visible on your monitor.

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Thought I would jump in on portfolio outside of design specifically. I have held Global VP and President Roles. Companies always care about money (top line sales, value engineering and cost avoidance). It is often a good idea to keep tabs (aka make a friend in planning/allocation) that can share specific revenue of an item you designed. Commercial and luxury, International and wholesale. Being able to say you drove x amount of revenue through a specific design is powerful when you are interviewing. If you worked on a large project what was the investment the company spent and what revenue did that drive? Think anything Personalization (Digital Printing, etc)
Back your work up on a thumb drive, which is easier than dragging a laptop back and forth. Also, IT can always run queries for “send to outside” emails like your home/personal address.


I’ve used flash drives too. I only said email because often I’d forget the flash drive was in the computer after saving my work on it, and then my boss could grab it and ask me what’s on it if I were to accidentally leave it in the office. She assumes anything physically in the office, regardless of whose desk it is, is for her to explore. Even still, there are always eyes watching me in such a small office space cramped in with other people. It just felt wrong to do in the atmosphere of the office.

Totally agreed- I have worked for Mara Hoffman and TH- Both really different markets- MH loved seeing the conceptual, story telling collections in my portfolio- TH loved seeing my technical skills, CAD presentations, Textile and rendering techniques that were done digitally- The more digitally savy you are the more value you’ll offer to big brands like TH and MK, etc- with brands like MH being able to show off your multi-skills is ideal- small companies rely on employees that can take on different roles- You should always keep the brand’s target market in mind when deciding which projects to show off during interviews :slight_smile:

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Absolutely save your work! Email it through personal email not a company account, or open a Dropbox account and save online, or use Wetransfer to send yourself bigger files. Or get a external hard drive or thumb drive. I would advise to be professional about what you post online- don’t show work that they haven’t released yet. But totally have in your portfolio, for personal job interviews.


Emailing to your personal email is easiest because you don’t have to worry about the company firewall.