Walter Foster Designs

“New York City streets are full of smart people. I want every designer to learn and know how to create.”

Walter FosterOwner

An industry veteran, Walter Foster has been part of the Garment District for over 50 years.

His fashion career began at the Fashion Institute of Technology during the dynamic 1970s. A seasoned pattern and sample maker, Walter has a reputation for achieving the impossible, meeting tight deadlines, and always exceeding expectations. When it comes to production, he has seemingly done it all – from belts and sweaters to handbags and blazers. His curiosity being insatiable, his newest interest revolves around redesigning women’s shoes.

While he is proud of his extensive client list of established designers, what brings Walter even more joy is nurturing the next generation of talent. He desires a future where garment manufacturing isn’t just a craft, but a shared knowledge. To achieve this goal, he goes beyond the traditional roles of pattern and sample maker — he serves as a development consultant and educator, imparting not only technical experience but also a holistic understanding of the industry.

dress form wearing a white tank top
rolls of fabric in a drawer

There are so many fashion graduates who want to start but just don’t know how.”

Always forthcoming with insights, Walter has always closely collaborated with his clients, providing them with recommendations, support, and referrals to guide them toward success. Recently, an aspiring designer approached him with a unique request. Recognizing Walter’s vast experience, this designer sought coursework and specific training to master the intricacies of garment making. Eager to share his experience and skills, Walter quickly arranged training sessions, marking a shift in focus toward education.

He found the experience incredibly satisfying. Acknowledging the challenges faced by many fashion graduates, Walter recognizes the gap between ambition and knowledge and now dedicates most of his time to teaching the practical skills of garment work, including pattern making, draping, sewing, and tailoring techniques. These one-on-one training sessions are personalized to each individual and, from educational courses to hands-on projects, Walter’s guidance bridges the gap between theory and practice. While exemplifying his flexibility and desire to foster a culture of growth and creativity, he shares that some designers don’t know anything about sewing or production. And while Walter would prefer for his students to be equipped with basic skills, like knowing how to thread a machine, he insists that he is happy to help anyone.

I am committed to supporting emerging designers.”

He is quick to share the stories of his seasoned career, and it can seem as if he knows everyone in the district, has touched every possible material, and can expertly execute any project. Despite his decades of experience and recognition in the fashion world, Walter remains unassuming and humble, preferring to let his work speak for itself. His unpretentious approach creates a welcoming atmosphere, and it’s no surprise that students seek his guidance.

His impact extends beyond the realm of fashion, leaving an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to cross his path. In a world filled with stories, Walter Foster’s is one of craftsmanship, mentorship, and a lifelong dedication to the art of creating. He is committed to fostering creativity, nurturing the next generation of designers, and creating a space where everyone has the opportunity to flourish. In Walter’s world, craftsmanship meets kindness.

garment sketches and patterns

Q&A with Walter Foster

What's your advice to someone starting out in this business?

It's not just learning the thing or a skill. To succeed in this industry, it’s everything—sourcing, understanding garments, customer service, just to name a few. Never stop learning.

What work have you most enjoyed?

I love challenging myself and learning something new.