What Are the Different Types of Apparel Industry Jobs?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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Apparel industry jobs can be divided into two categories: pre-retail and retail. Pre-retail jobs include positions in design, manufacturing and wholesale. Retail jobs include positions in merchandising, retail development and sales. These types of jobs exist in a corporate framework that has the ordinary types of executive positions available to support the operation of clothing businesses.

Consumers tend to equate the entire apparel industry with the experiences gained from shopping in a retail outlet. The apparel industry is actually much more extensive than the part of the sales process that consumers interact with regularly. Jobs in this industry are quite diverse, and offer opportunities for a wide variety of education levels, skill sets and interests. Apparel industry operations often cross international borders, so opportunities before the clothing makes it to a retail market can be more expansive than expected.

Clothing design is a part of the pre-retail process that drives many apparel industry jobs. Some types of clothing design is given its own industry label as 'fashion.' The fashion industry is part of the overall apparel industry but can have its own employment structure. Whether a person is looking for a job in either industry, the types of positions that will be available are based on artistic design talent. Support positions are also available at the management, associate and assistant levels.


Manufacturing creates the types of apparel industry jobs that include pattern-making, sewing, machine operation and quality control. Many clothing manufacturers have their assembly shops located in third world countries to take advantage of cheap labor. While the line manufacturing positions would not be ordinarily available to the average person, all of the executive positions that support an offshore manufacturing operation would be available.

Wholesale-level apparel industry jobs involve selling clothing lines to retail chains. Jobs in this area are sales and executive positions that develop markets for a company's products, including buying and selling agents. Companies can also outsource this process to a third-party specialist, so their are similar job opportunities working from outside of an apparel manufacturer.

Once merchandise is placed in a retail environment, apparel industry jobs change to focus on the customer, rather than the production process. Jobs at this retail stage include the sorts of positions that consumers are familiar with, from the sales associate to the retail store general manager. In addition to the positions at individual stores, there are corporate positions that support retail operations. These sorts of positions deal with business processes that affect the entire retail operation, such as product selection, marketing and merchandising.


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Post 3

I find it interesting how many people there are now who are circumventing traditional roles in the apparel industry to make a living from selling their own designs.

The internet has opened up a huge marketplace for people who have the skills and the imagination to make it work for them.

Post 2

@browncoat - It's not that clear cut. For example, many of the companies that are sourcing their garments from third world countries are contributing huge amounts to their economies. They are the only reason that there are any jobs at all in those areas. They should buck up and start providing a better wage and safer working conditions, but I don't think boycotting them altogether is the answer. If everyone did that, they would be harming the people they are hoping to help.

There is also the argument that getting a job at a place with bad ethics is the best way a person can change those ethics for the better.

Post 1

I feel like you really have to be cautious if you're looking for a job in the apparel industry, but you want to be ethical about it. There are so many companies that use unethical practices. Most people are, by now, aware of the terrible conditions of workers in impoverished countries that make a lot of the clothes that are out there today.

But there are other things to consider as well. Cotton is often grown with a ridiculous amount of dangerous pesticides. Synthetic materials might be made from chemicals sourced in unethical ways.

There are definitely companies out there that try to be ethical and I think it's worth holding out and trying to get a job with one of them, rather than selling out to work with one of the companies that are making the world a darker place.

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