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Oakland Fashion Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Career Options, & Training Programs for Fashion Designers and Merchandisers

Written by FS StaffDecember 8, 2011
Oakland

The Oakland Fashion Scene

Like San Francisco, Oakland has an independent spirit. The fashions here don’t follow any one pattern. Some prefer the trendy look, while others create their own from a mix of vintage pieces and anything else they can find at any given local thrift store. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the Bay Bridge is the only thing that separates Oakland from San Francisco, so fashionistas, designers in training, and other fashion professionals commute back and forth regularly to take advantage of what both cities have to offer.

Besides being only a few miles from San Francisco, Oakland also has Oakland Fashion Week;
dozens of hip boutiques, consignment stores, thrift stores, and vintage shops, and a number of malls featuring some of the world’s top retailers. The top shopping districts in Oakland include Grand Avenue/lakeshore Avenue, Chinatown, City Center, College Avenue/Rockridge District, Fruitvale, and Jack London Square.

Oakland’s retail industry offers plenty of opportunities for aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers, but remember, students and graduates also have easy access to San Francisco. San Francisco is home to retail giants such as Levis, Espirit, and the The Gap. It is also home to a number of famous shopping districts such as Union Square, Chinatown, Fillmore Street, Hayes Valley (Hayes and Gough), Chestnut Street, Embarcadero, Polk Street, and Sacramento and Presidio Haight and Ashbury, North Beach, and Mission Street.

In addition to a lively and unique fashion scene, Oakland also offers easy access to a number of schools that offer fashion programs. California College of Arts (Oakland and San Francisco) and The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco are popular options.

Oakland Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Schools and Programs

California is home to 436 colleges and universities. This is nearly five times the national average of 88. Many of the state’s traditional colleges offer art and design programs, but the state is also home to one of the highest number of art and design schools in the nation. The variety of schools located in Oakland and just across the bridge in San Francisco make it easy for aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers to find just the right program.

Some art and design schools have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), while others have been accredited by agencies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools or the Colleges and the American Academy of Liberal Education. Visit the U.S. Department of Education at Ed.gov for a complete list of accrediting agencies.

Besides the California College of Arts and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Oakland offers access to the following colleges with art and design programs:

Oakland Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Employers

Oakland fashion designers can find work in technical production, textile design for product development, apparel design, pattern making, sample making, grading, handweaving, embroidery design, retail, and sales (textiles). Many fashion designers also teach, so the areas academic institutions and design centers are excellent sources of jobs for aspiring instructors. Fashion merchandisers can find work at any of the thousands of shops, design studios, department stores, and popular retailers across the city. Merchandisers work in product development, production, marketing, sales, visual merchandising, and more. Positions are available from Downtown Oakland to the surrounding metropolitan area, including San Francisco. 

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Careers at a Glance

The state of California is home to nearly 4,000 fashion designers. Around 320 live in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metropolitan area. Salaried Oakland fashion designers earn an average of $67,940 per year. Self-employed designers can earn six to seven figures per year. Nationwide, fashion designers average around $61,160. The lowest paid fashion designers average $32,150, and the highest paid salaried designers average $124,780 per year.

Employment in the fashion industry overall is expected to grow by one percent for the
2008-2018 decade. Sewing and cutting jobs may decline as more designers and brands choose manufacturing companies overseas. However, employment of fashion designers is stable because many firms prefer to keep design work in house.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported employment or salary figures for fashion merchandisers. However, a significant part of the job involves creating window displays and managing the overall look and feel of stores. There are 8,900 merchandise displayers in the state of California. Around 1,200 live in Oakland.

For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industry, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at bls.gov.