Whether you love shopping, can’t stop sewing or you consider yourself a superfan of Project Runway, applying to fashion school can help you make your dreams of becoming a world-renowned fashion designer come true. But with so many phenomenal fashion schools out there, how can you even begin to choose? From assorted areas of study to impressive internship opportunities to close connections with the fashion industry, these schools offer everything a true fashionista could ever desire.
Read on to launch your fashion career at one of CM’s top 10 fashion design schools.
10. Stephens College
As one of the few Midwestern universities invited to the Council of Fashion Designers of America educational initiatives, this private women’s college provides students with plenty of real-world experience. Stephens College offers a BFA in Fashion Design and Product Development. This program includes experience with the Historic Costume Museum and Research Library. Take advantage of incredible networking opportunities with industry professionals like Brandon Maxwell. New York Fashion Week recently featured three Stephens students and a recent graduate. Students also showcase their work at local fashion shows like Kansas City Fashion Week and the FACTORY Fashion Show in St. Louis.
On top of all that, Stephens students put on their own fashion show annually. As a capstone project, Stephens seniors produce, design and model The Collections fashion show for a jury. Industry experts from designers to artists to TV producers review student work. Stephens students score internships with Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Cosmopolitan Magazine and more. One notable alumna Amy Bond even competed in the 16th season of Project Runway. She now works as a producer for Netflix’s Next in Fashion. Without a doubt, Stephens sets students on the path to fashion fame.
9. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Known as the fashion capital of the Midwest, the city of Chicago serves as a studio for fashion design students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Students learn via its acclaimed galleries, art museums, manufacturers and of course, its street style. Located downtown, SAIC provides two different pathways for fashion students to choose from. Core Fashion Design and Construction students take a series of fashion design courses like Dress and Society, Multi-Level Draping and Computer Imaging for Fashion Design. Body-Builder students choose an area of concentration like illustration, knitwear or embellishment. SAIC’s interdisciplinary curriculum ensures students gain a well-rounded understanding of fashion design.
Along with its unique curriculum, SAIC offers study trips to fashion capitals like Paris, London, Antwerp and New York City. Travel experience allows students to develop a strong knowledge of fashion. Seniors—as well as selected sophomore and junior designers—receive a chance to show their final collections in the annual SAIC Fashion Show. The show takes place at Venue Six10 at the Spertus Institute, one of the most innovative buildings in the city. Alumni include “Project Runway” Season 18 winner Geoffrey Mac and “Making the Cut” participant Jasmine Chong. Could you become SAIC’s next fashion TV star?
8. Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
With locations in four different California cities and over 30 creative degrees available—both two-year and four-year programs—the possibilities never end at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Students receive the opportunity to interact with and intern for the FIDM Museum and Library, one of FIDM’s most unique features. With a permanent collection of over 15,000 fashion pieces and a study collection of about 8,000, students can learn about fashion by seeing real designs that span over 200 years of fashion history. They even get to touch them. “They can actually put their hands on [the pieces]. We take a lot of these pieces right into the classroom so the students can see them up close and personal,” said Barbara Bundy, Vice President of Education at FIDM.
To add to the excitement, FIDM frequently collaborates with various industry partners including Uniqlo, Lucky Brand Jeans and Red Bull. These collabs provide students with hands-on opportunities to help them start their careers off strong. FIDM alumni land jobs at brands like Forever 21, Gap Inc., Guess? and many more. For FIDM graduates, the sky’s the limit.
7. University of Delaware
Most people know the University of Delaware (UD) as a large research university, but it also draws in aspiring fashion designers. UD offers a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Design and Product Innovation. With over 20 different career tracks available, you can follow your passion. Learn how to become a designer, a pattern maker or a trim coordinator. UD’s curriculum promises success to students interested in any one of these careers. Your class time will be combined with hands-on experiences.
For even more career experience, students also have the opportunity to intern at prominent retail chains and apparel companies. Alumni find employment with companies like Under Armour, Lilly Pulitzer and IZOD. “We were all able to develop relationships with all of the professors. Delaware has such a good reputation in the industry itself that the career fairs and all of the events that they threw were so relevant and helpful,” said Morgan Laffey, UD graduate and former President of UDress Magazine. Located in Newark, New Jersey, UD allows designated classes and clubs to travel.
Students take field trips to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Fashion students can also take their studies abroad. Travel to France for a winter program in fashion photography. In this program, you’ll attend Paris Fashion Week and maybe even get the chance to help dress the models. Or why not go to Hong Kong—the center of the global apparel agency—to study at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, intern at a multinational corporation and visit major manufacturers? Back on campus, UD’s various student organizations like UDress Magazine and the Synergy Fashion Group also provide students with real-world design and marketing experience. Before they even graduate, UD students already know the ins and outs of the fashion world.
6. Cornell University
Cornell’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design (FSAD) takes a unique approach to the study of fashion, combining design with elements of science. Students learn about apparel and textiles not only by drawing and draping but also by completing fibers labs and human development courses. The fashion design curriculum includes art history, writing seminars and economics as well. Students spend the rest of their time in the studio, working on design projects and ultimately producing a final collection to show at the student runway show their senior year.
When Cornell students take a break from working in the studio, they spend time giving their all to student organizations and internships. Clubs give fashion design students the opportunity to explore their love for fashion outside of the classroom. Join Thread Magazine, Cornell’s student-run fashion publication, or Cornell Fashion Collective, the organization that puts on Cornell’s annual fashion show. Students also intern at Oscar De La Renta, The Row and College Fashionista. Although Cornell calls Ithaca, NY home, fashion students often spend a semester in New York City for an off-campus study. As for notable alumni, Say Yes to the Dress fans might know wedding dress designer Hayley Paige, who graduated from Cornell in 2007. Any fashionista with a soft side for science will fall in love with Cornell.
5. Savannah College of Art and Design
Step aside, New York City and L.A. Although at first glance it may not scream fashion, Savannah, Georgia makes a name for itself. SCAD students discover the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) FASH Museum of Fashion + Film and a thriving local art scene. If a student wants to escape the city feel, they can spend a quarter in Lacoste, France at SCAD’s international campus. They can even try their hand at fashion journalism on campus by joining the team of SCAD’s student-run fashion publication, The Manor.
With small class sizes and plenty of majors and concentrations available—from fashion design and fashion merchandising to luxury and fashion management—students get to find an area of study that aligns with their passions at SCAD. “There’s so many options for majors, minors and classes to take here. There were things that I didn’t even know existed,” junior Fashion Marketing major Ava Tamborella said. “Sometimes I sit back and think, ‘Wow, I’m so glad I’m actually doing what I’m passionate about and that I can go to a school that offers that.’” Given SCAD’s experienced instructors and industry connections, SCAD alumni make it big, landing jobs with Diane von Furstenberg, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier and more.
Also, SCAD students get to learn from the pros even before they graduate. In the past, famous designers like Alexander Wang, Betsey Johnson and Brandon Maxwell led panels and workshops. For a fashion-filled college experience in a stylish Southern city, set your sights on SCAD.
4. Parsons School of Design
If you want to study fashion, do it in the fashion center of the nation. Located in New York City with a second campus in Paris, Parsons guarantees real-world design experience to help every student launch their careers. Fashion design majors at Parsons choose from four different pathways: Systems and Society, Materiality, Fashion Product and Collection. Alumni meet great success post-graduation, including famous names like Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Claire McCardell.
Enjoy some healthy competition? Students compete in design challenges for well-known brands and organizations like Uniqlo, Goodwill, Google and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The opportunities for awards, collaborations and internships never run dry thanks to Parsons’ close connections with the design industry. Graduating seniors even receive the chance to show their work at the annual Parsons Festival each year. Last year, the fashion design students chose to hold their runway show outdoors. The city streets became their catwalk and the public became their audience. With so many opportunities for hands-on experience and plenty of room for creativity, Parsons is always on the cutting edge.
3. Pratt Institute
So, you feel passionate about fashion, but you also want to try out photography or illustration? Pratt gets it. The school’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of fashion design encourages you to dabble in various art forms beyond fashion. You’ll learn to sketch, drape and sew, but you’ll also get the chance to study music, literature, anthropology and more. With so many learning opportunities available, Pratt students work constantly. “Some of my favorite memories come from my friends and I pulling late nights in the studio together,” senior fashion design major Marissa Giordano said. “Even though the work is intense we secretly all loved what we were doing.” Besides working on class projects, Pratt students also dedicate their time to student organizations.
Pratt’s Fashion in Society Club, founded by Giordano, invites students of all disciplines to meet and discuss fashion. Pratt students also intern at various design companies, including Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. The institute’s Brooklyn location also makes it possible for students to explore urban design studios and museums. Famous names who graduated from Pratt include Betsey Johnson, Norman Norell, Jeremy Scott and more. Who knows? You could become Pratt’s next star designer.
2. Otis College of Art and Design
At Otis, you’ll never find yourself falling asleep with your nose in a textbook. Otis offers a project-based fashion design major, so students create constantly. Some students choose to add an emphasis in costume design. As they create their design projects, Otis students keep their finger on the pulse of the industry. Representatives from existing brands serve as their mentors. Plus, students are responsible for every step of their collections—from the initial idea to the design to the production—meaning they get to learn every skill imaginable. “As a student you are the designer, pattern maker, sample maker, cutter and sewer,” senior Fashion Design major Isabella Lopez said. “Learning each of these skills helps us to better understand the roles in the fashion industry.” Also, Otis lets students explore the fashion industry in Los Angeles, one of the most vibrant fashion hubs in the U.S.
Juniors and seniors even show their work in the Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills window as part of the annual Scholarship Benefit and Fashion Show. Eighty-six percent of each graduating class becomes employed as assistant designers within three months of graduation. Alum Dahn Tran even went on to win “Shark Tank” with his design, Buttercloth. Got a passion for fashion and an entrepreneurial spirit? Let yourself shine at Otis.
1. Fashion Institute of Technology
Launching successful careers for alumni like Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, FIT could make your dreams of becoming a world-renowned designer come true, too. Located on New York City’s Seventh Avenue—also known as Fashion Avenue—FIT allows students to explore themselves as designers by exploring the city. “We go to Barneys and look at the different clothes they have and write reports on them. Or we go to a sports store and look at their athletic clothing. Being able to actually go into the stores and also be inspired by what people wear in the streets is nice,” senior Fashion Design major Mariana Gomez said. Within the fashion design major, students can choose from five different concentrations, from sportswear to knitwear to special occasions.
Outside the classroom, student designers receive the option to get involved in a fashion club. Join FIT’s student publication Blush Magazine or student-produced fashion show Runway27. Aside from that, students receive feedback from industry critics on their work. They go on to show their collections at the annual Future of Fashion event. Esteemed alumni and designers serve as judges for the annual runway show. FIT’s connections to the world of fashion provide opportunities for students to gain exposure. They intern for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and more. If you seek a city feel and the chance to make it big, you’ll find your home at FIT.