The player selects one of four top fashion design studios in the city. After they make the selection, they receive an introduction to the head designer and studio owner. They're asked to supply their name and then put together several outfits for consideration for the next show based on a specific theme or requirement.
They receive access to a diverse range of models in terms of skin tones and shapes. Once they select the required number, they try different pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories on them. They can also change a model's hair length and style, eye color and gloss color.
After they receive a pre-show assessment from the owner, they can make alterations. If the player is satisfied with the looks, they can participate in the show. If they do well, they receive high praise from the spectators and the studio owner and a high star rating. They can then join another studio to try the same or different models and different outfits, makeup and other options.
Fashion Designer: New York offers a Hints button that gives the player hints about the types of clothes and colors that look best on specific types of models.