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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Unexpected Colleges for Fashion Majors

Dr. Kat’s List: Five Unexpected Colleges for Fashion Majors

Spring is in the air and across the country people are packing away their winter clothes and looking forward to donning brighter summer fashions! This time of year is popular for fashion shows as the style-obsessed begin to see what trends are taking hold in the new season – including students looking to pursue a career in fashion.

For those enamored with fashion and the latest style trends, there are a few fashion-specific colleges that immediately come to mind when considering where to purse a degree in fashion. However, there are a number of great fashion design and merchandising programs at large and small colleges across the country. If you’re looking to break into the fashion industry, look for programs that offer the education and experience you need to succeed. We’ve picked out a few for you here. Here are Dr. Kat’s five unexpected colleges for fashion majors.

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
When one thinks of an Ivy League education, a fashion degree is probably not the first program of study that comes to mind. At Cornell University, however, students in the College of Human Ecology can get a first-class education in not only fashion design, but also fashion design management and fiber science.

The Fiber Science and Apparel Design program at Cornell takes fashion education to the next level. Students don’t just learn the ins-and-outs of fashion design; they also learn the business of manufacturing and marketing on an international scale – which can be used to secure a career in a variety of areas within the fashion industry.

The fiber science concentration is especially distinctive as students learn about not only the types of fibers and merchandise they’re used in, but also the chemical, physical, and engineering properties of a variety of textiles. This gives students a base knowledge to go beyond fashion design and create new fibrous materials with a variety of uses. Students are also encouraged to participate in spring, summer, or winter internships for credit in order to gain real-world experience within the fashion industry well before entering the job market.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Lincoln, Nebraska might not be the fashion capital of the world, but it is home to one of country’s best fashion programs at University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

The textiles, merchandising, and fashion design program in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences offers four undergraduate degrees: merchandising, textile science, textiles and fashion design, and communications. Many of the alumni from UNL’s program have gone on to work at some of the country’s biggest textile merchants, design for some of the US’s most popular brands like Nicole Miller, Tiffany & Co., and American Apparel, and even start their own businesses in fashion design, merchandising, and more.

What makes UNL’s fashion program so comprehensive is the integration of history and theory, with students taking courses like art history, psychology, and history of fashion courses. Students majoring in the communication concentration also have the unique opportunity to take classes within UNL’s College of Mass Communication and Journalism, allowing them to prepare for a career in fashion communication or advertising – opening a variety of doors for future employment opportunities.

When students aren’t in the classroom, they can utilize the program’s many design facilities to bring their creations to life, including the Weaving and Surface Design Studio, which has looms, print, and dye areas so students can create their own textiles, and the Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio, equipped with dress forms, sewing workstations, and the latest design technology and software.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond takes a simplified approach by offering just two degree options within the school’s fashion program: fashion design and fashion merchandising. The opportunities to learn and gain experience in this program, however, are almost limitless.

Students in the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising may study in two different tracks, but what makes VCU’s program so different is that design and merchandising students take many of the same courses – allowing them to learn both sides of the industry together.

Outside of the classroom is where the real magic happens. Every year students in the fashion program host a fashion show, where students are able to showcase their creations based on that year’s fashion show theme. Students are also able to take part in a summer program in Florence, Italy, where fashion students learn about Italian design, history, and the fashion culture abroad. Fashion graduates from VCU have gone on to work at some of the world’s most notable labels and retailers including Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, and more.

Baylor University, Waco, TX
Baylor University in Texas takes fashion industry experience very seriously, which is why apparel design and product development students in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences are required to complete an internship as part of their degree program.

Fashion students at Baylor have interned both in the US and internationally at very reputable fashion houses including Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui, and more. What makes Baylor fashion students desirable interns? Apparel design and product development students gain a well-rounded understanding of the fashion and textile industry through the study of history, theory, business, and advanced technical skills.

Students also have access to the world-class Parker Design Center, which houses “the most extensive collection of apparel design, merchandising, and product development software and technology of any university in North America.” Through the technology and equipment in the Parker Design Center, students are able to bring their creations to life while also learning how to navigate industry-leading software and production tools.

Kent State University, Kent, OH
In this digital age, it’s important for traditional industries to find ways to adapt and become more efficient with the help of technology, and fashion students at Kent State University in Ohio have the opportunity to do just that.

The Fashion School at KSU is home to the TechStyleLAB, which is one of the first and best of its kind. The TechStyleLAB was created as a way to explore digital design and production in the fashion industry. The lab includes digital textile printers, embroidery machines, and more in order to create an “on-demand design and production environment.” The goal is to serve as a production and research facility for students, as well as an incubator for small businesses.

Aside from its innovative lab, the Fashion School is also known for its combined degree program, where fashion merchandising students are able to complete both their bachelor degree and MBA in 5 ½ years. The Fashion School also hosts a fashion show every April, where students get the opportunity to show off their designs and skills to a wide audience. Not only does this allow students to showcase their work, it also teaches them the basics of event planning and preparation, as well as business and marketing skills.

Other colleges that offer great fashion design, production, and merchandising programs include University of Cincinnati, Savannah College of Art and Design, Drexel University, and University of Missouri.

If you’re interested in fashion, there’s a lot you can do now to focus your interests and prepare to apply to selective fashion programs, including interning, starting a blog, and creating a portfolio. If you need help identifying fashion-related activities or selecting programs to apply to, contact us today for more information on our Initial Consultation and ongoing counseling programs.