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In the fashion design industry, the college where an individual earns their degree is exceptionally important. Aspiring fashion designers with a degree in the field will be assessed by employers, clients and other fashion designers based on the reputation of the college just as they would judge an article of clothing by the label affixed to it. Not all fashion design programs are of the same quality; some programs do not provide the level of training deemed necessary by the fashion design industry.
Academics are always an integral aspect of any college degree program. In order to be successful, Students need a thorough academic program which encompasses all aspects of the educational spectrum. However, the best colleges providing degree programs in fashion design must also include comprehensive training in art, sketching and a number of technical areas as well. The schools need to provide state of the art technology with which to train their students. And the program content must remain abreast of the changing trends within the dynamic field of fashion design.
There are certain factors which can make the decision as to which college to attend easier. Accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design or NASAD is a chief indication that the college offers a superior program in fashion design. The NASAD requires colleges to meet rigorous standards in order to be considered for accreditation by their organization. The process is lengthy in duration; often taking years. A visit to the college by NASAD to ensure the program meets their standards is mandatory and a detailed report must be completed prior to a final decision being made by the commission judge. In addition to the academic aspects and the technical training offered by the college, prospective students should take into account other services and features provided such as internships, job placement programs, special projects opportunities and affiliations with industry organizations.
Below is a list of ten college fashion design degree programs ranked among the top in the nation:
1. California College of the Arts
California College of the Arts, founded in 1907, offers a wide range of interdisciplinary degree programs in architecture, design, fine arts and writing. California College of the Arts has attained several accreditations including both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Schools of art and Design. Curriculum for the degree programs at CCA is designed to combine a broad educational experience with practical training in the arts. The degree program also develops the student’s abilities in analytical and critical thinking and problem solving while instilling in them an awareness of their social responsibility. Students are prepared to become influential contributors to the creative fields in which they are interested as well as to their communities. The college boasts several notable alumni such as the designers Michael Vanderbyl and Lucille Tenazas and the filmmaker Wane Wang.
The Fashion Design Program at California College of the Arts presents an innovative approach to a long-standing, established creative field. CCA boasts one of only fifteen programs in the country to receive an invitation by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Students are taught the fundamental skills of design, conceptual development and communication necessary to become successful professionals. The curriculum includes training in pattern making, sewing, fashion illustration and draping; all of which are considered essential educational aspects by the fashion industry. Required courses in the major include drawing, visual 2- 3- and 4- dimensional dynamics, fashion illustration, body in motion drawing, studio, eco seminar, elements of production, diversity studies and portfolio review. The degree program includes the development of a professional portfolio and participation in a senior fashion show intended to provide experience and exposure for the students. Internships are also available.
2. Cleveland Institute of Art
The Cleveland Institute of Art, established in 1882, is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The college earned the prestigious NASAD accreditation as a result of their dedication to providing a superior quality education to their students. The sixteen studio majors offered at the Cleveland Institute of Art provide a challenging educational experience which build on the existing talent and creative skills of the students. The campus is located in the midst of a city which offers extensive cultural resources including museums, galleries and access to performing arts and other colleges. With enrollment limited to a small number of exceptional students, class sizes are small and the faculty to student ratio a mere nine to one. The college provides the latest in technology so that their students are able to gain experience working with the most advanced software tools.
The art and design programs at the Cleveland Institute of Art incorporate training in all relevant aspects of the field. Students complete a liberal arts curriculum in addition to the art and design specific courses. Business education and professional skills specific to each creative profession are addressed within the context of the program. The program is designed to begin with a foundational understanding of and to provide exposure to the field as a whole. Students are then able to select their area of interest or major. The Fiber and Material Studies degree program encompasses the breadth of the various professional areas affected, influenced or involved with textiles. Students of the program examine techniques and ideology related to materials including weaving, sewing, pattern making, computer aided design, stitching, dying and felt making. Courses include pattern design, intro to fiber, patternmaking and fabrication, sustainable design and advanced studio problems. Internships are offered.
3. Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Massachusetts College of Art and Design was the first college to offer degrees in the art field. Established in 1873, Massachusetts College of Art and Design endeavored to provide talented creative individuals with the necessary training to become successful professionals in the fields of teaching, design, architecture and as various artists. The college is an independent public college and a leader in art and design education dedicated to the success of their students. Students are encourage to think beyond established boundaries in the creative disciplines and expected to use the skills attained through their education to achieve their potential. The college is committed to the concept of lifetime learning; offering professional and continuing education courses and workshops. The latest technologies for the creative fields are provided for student use to ensure graduates are proficient with them.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design program offered at Massachusetts College of Art and Design is comprehensive and challenging. Students are taught the creative and practical aspects of the field; creating unique designs while considering the areas of cost and marketability. The curriculum includes traditional design concepts, computer aided design, pattern making, detailing and accessories. Among the required courses provided are culture, dress and identity, color, line and design, history of textiles and U4ia (CAD), fashion history, handbag design, fashion illustration, pattern drafting and construction and fashion industry production/Gerber. The courses include traditional classroom lectures and hands on practical application of the skills being taught through design exercises. Students are required to complete a degree project which incorporates the research and design techniques taught; developing a clothing line of their own. A two year certificate in fashion design is also available. Internship opportunities are offered.
4. Parson’s The New School For Design
Since its early beginnings in 1906, Parson’s The New School for Design has provided cutting edge educational programs in fashion design. Parson’s is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The College endeavors to provide a challenging experience intended to develop the creative, academic and problem solving skills of their students. At Parson’s, students receive a thorough and innovative design education encompassing the use of the latest and newest technologies. Parson’s graduates are prepared for the challenges of the design industry; learning to contend with problems associated with the various markets. Students are afforded the opportunity to interact with professionals in the fashion industry. The College has produced alumni credited with revolutionizing the trends of fashion and the industry.
Parson’s The New School for Design provides a Bachelor of Fine Art degree program in fashion design. The program includes training in every aspect of the design process from the initial stages through development. Students learn concept development and studio methods, the basics of machine knitting and marketing strategies essential to success in the business arena. Courses include drawing studio, 2- and 3- dimensional studio, perspectives in world art and design, fashion digital studio, history of design, history, culture, society, fashion design core, themes in fashion history, global issues in design and visuality and business seminar. Menswear tailoring and Shoe design courses requires students to create and produce their own design project. The course, Themes in fashion history, provides a comprehensive perspective of the industry changes over time. The technological training includes the use of digital imaging and multimedia for design purposes. Students participate in fashion shows, special projects and internships.
5. Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design strives to produce qualified design graduates instilled with the knowledge, experience and technical abilities necessary to become leaders in the field. Pratt institute is a premier educational center, recognized for both their superior programs and extensive educational resources. The Pratt Institute endeavors to help their talented students realize their potential through a unique comprehensive educational curriculum which combines a liberal arts education with professional development. Faculty members are renowned award winning professionals recognized for their work in the various fields in the art and design industry. The campus includes an art supply store, a Design center equipped with the latest technology and offers proximity to one the fashion capitols of the world. Located in New York City, one of the fashion industry’s central locations, students of Pratt Institute are afforded the opportunity to experience the design industry while learning it.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design at the Pratt Institute is an interdisciplinary program which offers educational and practical training. Students learn pattern drafting, draping, construction, sketching and techniques specific to various types of clothing lines. Required courses in the curriculum include textiles, light color and design, sketching, construction techniques, fundamentals, fashion survey, survey of art, intro to literary and critical studies, introduction to apparel presentation, history of costume design, tailoring techniques and computer aided fashion design. Electives are offered in a range of specializations which allow students to explore areas such as accessories, printmaking and jewelry design. Collaboration is an integral aspect of the program, preparing students to become functioning members of a design team. Students participate in the renowned annual fashion show, known as the Pratt show. Field trips and internships are another aspect of the program which provides opportunities for experience.
6. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
The Rhode Island School of Design was established in 1877 for the purpose of providing education in creative design fields. The college endeavors to instill in their students the importance of distinctiveness and an appreciation for art and design in the public. Throughout its long history, RISD has continued to provide students with superior, consistently relevant and socially responsible educational programs. At the RISD, students are encouraged to consider the economic impact of their artistic designs. Graduates of the program are equipped to meet the demands of the profession and exceed the expectations of the industry. Rhode Island School of Design is dedicated to teaching global perspectives respecting diversity and cultural appreciation. The school offers sixteen undergraduate majors with three areas of concentration. Faculty members at the college are experienced and practicing professionals in the various art and design fields.
The Bachelor of Fine arts degree program in Apparel Design at Rhode Island School of Design provides a comprehensive education in the fine arts as well as a broad foundation in liberal arts. The Department of Apparel Design is equipped with the most advanced technology, 2- and 3- dimensional software and U4ia, and the latest in specialized sewing equipment. Students learn to create, design and produce functional and novel clothing. The curriculum includes coursework in pattern drafting, draping and construction, foundation drawing, two and three dimensional design, history of art and apparel studios. Special studio projects are assigned to students intended to develop the students’ creative design skills. The students also compete for a place in the annual fashion show, developing and producing a line of clothing to be judged by visiting professional critics who determine who earns the opportunity. Field trips to New York’s fashion district and a six week internship at a fashion in house located in the industry’s capitol cities; New York, London or Paris, are integral aspects of the degree program.
7. University of Cincinnati
The College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning at the University of Cincinnati is dedicated to the development and dissemination of knowledge in the creative and technical fields through pioneering research and education. The challenging programs at the University of Cincinnati provide a superior quality education; ensuring graduates are equipped with the academic knowledge and technical skills necessary to become successful leaders in the industry. Students at the University of Cincinnati are prepared to meet the global challenges of the culturally diverse and continuously evolving design industry. Trained with cutting edge technology in the latest design techniques and trends, graduates of the University are competitively prepared for the various venues of the fashion and business arenas. Co-op programs are incorporated into the degree curriculum to ensure graduates attain a comprehensive understanding of the fields which they will eventually enter as professionals.
Two undergraduate curriculum tracks are offered at the College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning within the School of Design; fashion design and fashion product development. Both programs require students to complete a liberal arts curriculum. The program for the design track provides concentrated studies on the design process and includes hands on training in the field. Students in the design track utilize current technologies and various media forms to prepare the future design professionals for their use in the field. Students learn the foundational aspects of the design field; sketching, design, planning, development, functionality, patternmaking, draping and tailoring. The product development curriculum concentrates on the development of apparel based on consumer trends and demand. Students in this track learn how to identify target markets, calculate cost analysis and various business essentials. Curriculum includes studies in consumer buying, aesthetics of apparel and image, textiles and clothing in the global economy and theoretical courses.
8. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
The University of California Los Angeles was established as part of the California State university system approximately sixty years ago. The university contains more than 50 academic departments; six of which offer nationally acclaimed degree programs. The College of Arts and Letters at UCLA strives to exceed the accreditation standards set by the Department of Education recognized agencies; earning their accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design as a result. A nationally recognized leader among colleges in the fields of liberal arts and in design, UCLA’s College of Arts and Letters provides a superior educational program which instills a life enduring aspiration for learning within its graduates. The interdisciplinary programs provide a comprehensive experience which prepares students to become socially responsible leaders capable of advancing the existing knowledge and capabilities within their professions.
The degree programs offered at the College of Arts and Letters include the Bachelor of Art with a concentration in Fashion and Textiles or in design, Master of Art in fashion and textiles and certificate programs in fashion design or in fashion merchandising. The degree programs provide a thorough foundational education in all aspects of the visual arts. The fashion and textiles program curriculum includes cultural studies of the origins and evolution of fashion in society. Students then have the option of pursuing their interests in specific areas. Students can choose a focus in fashion design, fashion merchandising or textiles. Programs with a specialization require 19-20 completed courses in the area of specialization. Major specific courses required of students in the program include world art, art fundamentals, apparel construction, textiles and apparel, fashion design: flat pattern, social aspects of fashion, historic textiles and senior project: fashion and textiles.
9. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
The Fashion Institute of design and merchandising is a private career college located in California, founded in 1969, dedicated to the creative arts fields. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising is accredited by the Western association of Schools and Colleges and has attained accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The college is known as the “West Coast home of Project Runway”. Among their most notable alumni is the cofounder of the Juicy Couture label, Pamela Skaist-Levy. The focused degree programs offered at the college provide graduates the skills and knowledge necessary to become successful, ethical leaders in the global business industry. The degree programs are continuously updated to ensure students receive the most current training in all aspects of the field.
The Associate of Arts in Fashion Design degree program offered at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising is a career concentrated degree program. The rigorous curriculum is designed to provide students with the foundational knowledge in fashion theory, history and design. Students develop skills in the industry essential skills of communication and critical and analytical thinking and attain practical experience in the design process. Courses include fashion sketching for design, industrial sewing, pattern drafting essentials, draping and garment construction, creative design applications, business of fashion, computer aided fashion design, computer pattern drafting, portfolio preparation and color and design theory. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a fashion show. A range of specialized programs are offered in various aspects of design including theatre costume design, footwear design, textile design and jewelry design.
10. Woodbury University
Woodbury University was founded in 1884 originally as a business college; eventually expanding its programs to include design in 1931. The University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and has earned accreditation by various agencies for specific majors including, in 2008, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Woodbury strives to provide students with the tools and education to be effective professionals in the creative fields. The interdisciplinary program provides challenging degree programs that develop their students’ creative skills and adapts to their individual career goals. Faculty members are experienced professionals in the fields in which they teach and international experts routinely visit the campus to lecture. The on campus fashion study collection offers a visual look at 200 years of clothing and accessory history.
The School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University provides a challenging degree program in the Fashion Design major. The curriculum includes the fundamental areas of drawing, fashion history, textiles, draping, apparel construction and pattern drafting. Students learn to create apparel for various clothing lines ranging from women’s wear to men’s wear to swimwear. A range of specialized courses can be taken by students including millinery, shoe and costume design. Courses include design elements, beginning drawing, fashion sketching, color theory, history of fashion, textiles, knitwear and swimwear, young career wear, soft tailoring and computer assisted fashion design. A minor in costume design is also offered within the department. Students are offered the opportunity to participate in an annual Gala where they can showcase their work.