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2014 Top 75 Fashion Design Schools in the U.S.

Written by FS StaffMay 12, 2014

6. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1891, Drexel University sits on a 74-acre campus just minutes from Downtown Philadelphia (Center City). Home to around 21,912 students from 50 states and 100 foreign countries, Drexel University has nine campuses, and it offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across more than dozen colleges and schools. The school’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the Fashion Design program.

Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design and a BS Design & Merchandising. Fashion program highlights include the Drexel Undergraduate Co-op and an annual fashion show. The Drexel Undergraduate Co-op gives students the opportunity to gain six to 18 months of paid career-related work experience at places such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach, and Neiman Marcus. The Drexel Fashion Show attracts media and industry professionals, giving students to opportunity to display their best work and network with successful designers and brands.

All students have the opportunity to participate in Drexel’s internship program, which offers both local and nationwide opportunities, as well as the Study Abroad program. The school offers both short- and long-term experiences in fashion meccas such as London and France, as well as Iceland, Prague, Australia, and Greece.

7.  Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Established in 1858 under the name Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, Iowa State University began with a farmhouse, 648 acres, and several dozen students. Today, the school sits on a 1,795-acre campus consisting of more than 100 buildings and 33,241 students enrolled in eight colleges and two schools. Students may choose from more than 100 majors and 800+ student organizations.  

Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences’ (CHS) Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Department is home to the popular Fashion program. Offerings include BS and MS degrees
in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. Also on the menu is a rare PhD and distance PhD in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. Both PhD programs prepare students to work in the fashion industry, academia, museums and more. The hybrid (distance) PhD features 1 or 2 short on-campus summer coursework sessions.

Fashion program highlights include access to the Department’s Textiles and Clothing Museum and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities such as the Digital Textile Design and Printing Studio, Design Production Lab, Sourcing Simulator, Body Scanning Technology, Product Development Technology and Testing Lab, and OptiTex Computer-Aided Design Software.

Students also participate in the Annual Fashion Show, they have the opportunity to work on the Department’s award-winning fashion magazine—Trend, and they are encouraged to enroll in the Study Abroad program, which will take them to places such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Wuhan.

8. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Established in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was created by the founder and publisher of the world famous Los Angeles Times—General Harris Gray Otis. The school, Southern California’s first independent school of art, sits in a 5-acre main campus on LA’s Westside. With additional campuses in Downtown LA (in the heart of The Fashion District), Culver City, and the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa  Monica, OTIS accommodates more than 1,100 students enrolled in more than a dozen programs from Architecture and Product Design to Writing and Fashion Design.

The OTIS Fashion Design Department offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fashion Design. Program highlights include an annual fashion show and access to famous guest design mentors such as Billabong, Venus Williams, and Urban Outfitters. All OTIS students have the opportunity to enroll in the school’s Study Abroad program during their final years of study. Past study destinations include the Island country of Palau, Venice, Belgium, France, China, and Italy. Travel Study Tours to New York City are also on the menu.

After completing the program, an internship, and exciting study experiences, many OTIS Fashion graduates have gone on to work with Vivienne Tam, Sean John, Michael Kors, and John Varvatos, as well as DKNY, Liz Claiborne, Max Studio, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Jane Magazine, and many others.

9. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Established in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD or RIZ-dee) is one of the nation’s oldest schools of art and design. “Founded and nurtured by women,” RISD is now home to a co-ed student population of 2,420 and more than 500 faculty members. The school sits on a 51-acre urban campus, and it houses several of the region’s most popular attractions including RISD Museum of Art, the Nature Lab, and Fleet Library at RISD. The Fleet Library features more than 150,000 volumes of art, design, architecture, and photography, Nature Lab features more than 80,000 natural history objects, and RISD Museum of Art is home to 86,000 works of fine and decorative art from ancient times to the present,

Rhode Island School of Design offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in 19 majors. The most popular undergraduate degree is the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA). Fine Arts offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA in Apparel Design, BFA and MFA degrees in Textiles, and Jewelry + Metalsmithing, and a BFA in Illustration.

BFA and MFA program highlights include mandatory internships that often lead to employment in the industry, seminar speakers, field experiences, visiting critics, interaction with experts in the field, and an annual runway show. Although not mandatory, students are encouraged to participate in RISD’s enriching Study Abroad program.

The program offers access to 45 participating institutions in 26 countries. Study Abroad experiences last a full semester. Past destinations include Copenhagen, Rome, Mexico, France, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland, Cuba, Russia, Paris, Bali, Ghana, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

10. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Established in 1865, Cornell University is the land-grant institution of New York State and one of the nation’s top Ivy League schools. Home to more than 14,000 undergraduate students and 7,000+ graduate students from across the U.S. and 120 countries, Cornell University houses 14 colleges and schools offering more than 80 formal major fields, 70 minors, and dozens of graduate and professional degrees. The school, which sits on a massive 2,300-acre campus, has graduate and professional units in New York City and Doha, Qatar and the recently opened Cornell NYC Tech Campus in New York City, which is less than 200 miles from the Ithaca campus.

Cornell University's College of Human Ecology, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) offers several esteemed programs for aspiring fashion designers, beginning with the BS in Fiber Science & Apparel Design with Specializations in Apparel Design, Fashion Design Management, and Fiber Science. The Fashion Design Management program offers three options including Management and Marketing, Product Development, or Communications. A Minor in Fiber Science is also on the menu.

FSAD is also home to an immersive Graduate Studies program that offers 5 degrees for fashion designers. Options include MS and PhD programs in Fiber Science, an MA and PhD in Apparel Design, and a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Human Ecology. MPS Concentrations include Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

FSAD highlights include internship and Study Abroad opportunities in Italy, Australia, England, Israel, and Spain. The Department even offers an unheard of Semester at Sea. Students also have access to the school’s elaborate National Textile Center and Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, and The Cornell Fashion Collective. The Collective is a student-run organization that produces a professional runway show that displays student designs and fashion management skills. The show offers a tremendous amount of exposure to the industry, giving students a head start on securing a position with a top designer or brand.

11. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
Oregon State University (OSU) was established in 1868. The school, which sits on a green 400-acre campus, is just 90 miles from picturesque Portland, Oregon and an hour from the Pacific Coast or the Cascades. The school is home to 27,925 students from 50 states and 100 countries. OSU students have access to more than 200 degree programs across 12 colleges, 15 Agricultural Experiment Stations, 35 county Extension offices, the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center in Newport and OSU-Cascades in Bend, Oregon.

The School of Design and Human Environment at OSU’s main campus is home to the sought-after Fashion program at OSU. The School offers a BS in Apparel Design and an MA, MAIS (Master of Arts in International Studies), and PhD in Design and Human Environment. All fashion students (graduate or undergraduate) may participate in the School of Design and Human Environment annual fashion show—designed, modeled, built, managed, and promoted by OSU students.

12. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Auburn University (AU or Auburn) was established in 1856 as East Alabama Male College. In 1872, the College became the first land-grant college in the South and was renamed Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama. The name changed again to Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1899. It wasn’t until 1960, that the school became Auburn University. Today, Auburn University is home to 13 schools and more than 25,000 students, enrolled in over than 140 degree programs.

Auburn University’s College of Consumer and Design Sciences offers several undergraduate and advanced degrees for aspiring fashion designers. Many of these programs combine elements of fashion design, merchandising, and management, but student may choose to focus in a specific area. Offerings include a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design, and Production Management (BS-AMDP), a Master of Science in Consumer and Design Sciences Apparel and Interiors (MS-CADS), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Consumer and Design Sciences (PhD-CADS).

Focus areas for the BS-AMDP include Apparel Design and Production Management, and Apparel Merchandising. Besides immersive study in everything from Apparel Design to Global Retailing, fashion students will take study tours to Atlanta, New York and other cities, and attend speaking events that feature professionals from the textile, apparel, and retailing fields. According to Auburn, speakers include corporate CEO’s, internationally recognized designers, product developers, store managers, merchandisers, and industry representatives.

All Apparel and Design programs include a ten-week professional internship during the final year of study. Fashion and Interior Design students also have access to the Joseph S. Bruno - Auburn Abroad in Italy program. This semester-long program takes place in the small town of Ariccia, Italy located in the Alban Hills near Rome. AU Study Abroad opportunities give students “a global perspective on international trade laws, fashion trends, and the impact of culture and economics on consumer preferences,” according to AU.

13. University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina
Established in 1891, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNC Greensboro or UNCG) opened on a 10-acre campus with just 198 students and 15 faculty members. At the time, the school housed three departments including Commercial, Domestic Science, and Pedagogy. Today, UNC Greensboro sits on a 210-acre campus that houses seven academic schools, two colleges, a graduate school, and a population of more than 17,000 students. The school offers more than 200 graduate and undergraduate programs.

UNC Greensboro’s Bryan School of Business and Economics is home to the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS). The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Apparel Product Design, Global Apparel and Related Industry Studies, and Retailing and Consumer Studies. Graduate offerings include a Master of Science (MS) and a PhD in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies.

Because UNC Greensboro sits halfway between Atlanta and Washington in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, students have access to literally hundreds (if not thousands) of fashion and retail companies. As such, all students will complete a mandatory internship during the final years of study. The Department sponsors many opportunities at textile and apparel companies across the region and the U.S.

The Department also offers opportunities to study abroad in Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe. Past opportunities, both locally and internationally, include Polo Ralph Lauren, Hanesbrands, VF, the International Textile Group, and Kayser-Roth.
14. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Established in 1851, the University of Minnesota (U of M) is home to 69,221 students, making it the largest university in the State of Minnesota. The school has five campuses including Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester. The Twin Cities campus stretches across 1,150 acres in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it houses the bulk of the student population—around 52,557 students. Besides a large student population, the campus features historic architecture, green spaces, and views of the Mississippi River.

The University of Minnesota offers more than 180 programs throughout 19 colleges and schools. The College of Design is home to school’s competitive Fashion Design program. Degree offerings include a BS in Apparel Design, and MA, MS, and PhD degrees in Design with an Apparel Studies Track. A Minor in Fashion Studies is also on the menu. 

Although enrollment in the school’s Study Abroad program is not required, the College of Design encourages participation. Fashion students may enroll during their third year of study and possible locations include London (one of the world’s leading cities for fashion), Australia, Fiji, Italy (home to several fashion capitals), and the Netherlands. Students may also participate in global seminars, freshman seminars abroad, and the school’s Work, Intern, and Volunteer Abroad program. Although the program is non-credit, most students agree that the experience is priceless. 

1515. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Established in 1890, Oklahoma State University (OSU) sits on an 840-acre main campus, less than 70 miles from Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The school, which is home to 35,000 students across five campuses, offers dozens of degree programs across 10 colleges. OSU’s College of Human Sciences-Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising (DHM) is home to the school’s Fashion program.

Options for aspiring fashion designers include a BS in Apparel Design and Production (ADP) with a Focus in Apparel or Production. DHM also offers an MS in Design, Housing and Merchandising (MS DHM), a PhD in Human Environmental Sciences with a Specialization in DHM, and a Minor in Apparel Design and Production.

According to OSU-DHM, “ADP students gain real-world experience by completing an internship for academic credit, usually between the students’ junior and senior years. Recent internship sites include Vera Wang, BCBG, Victoria’s Secret, Lands’ End and Liz Claiborne.” Travel Study programs also help students reach their goals, and may include experiences in the Fashion Capitals of Paris and New York, as well as Dallas, Mexico, Berlin, and others.

DHM graduates have obtained positions at companies and labels such as J.C. Penney, DKNY, Dillard’s, Cabella’s, and Red Engine Jeans in LA, Leota in NYC, and many others.