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Top 10 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges on the West Coast – 2015

Written by FS StaffJune 8, 2015

Our 2015 rankings of the Top 10 fashion design schools on the West Coast. 

We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was founded in 1918. It is home to 1,100 students enrolled in more than a dozen art and design programs. The school offers one degree program for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA in Fashion Design. Students may select an Emphasis in Costume Design which focuses on “new directions in character development for film, television, live performance, concept art, and video,” according to OTIS.

A Minor in Sustainability is another popular option and the Continuing Education Department offers a number of single courses for aspiring fashion designers as well. Offerings include Fashion Design, Textile/Surface Design, Jewelry Design, and Illustration. 

OTIS Fashion students are mentored by major brands and designers such as Ruben & Isabel Toledo, A|X, Halston, Billabong, Nike, BCBG, Hurley, and Johnny Was. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their designs at the Annual Scholarship and Benefit Fashion Show. Student designs are also displayed in the Nieman Marcus window in Beverly Hills.

2. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State University was founded in 1868. It is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate and more than 80 graduate degree programs across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Business houses the School of Design & Human Environment. The School offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers at all degree levels.

Offerings include a BS in Apparel Design, MA and MS degrees in Design and Human Environment (MA DHA, MS DHE) with an Emphasis in Design and the Near Environment (Apparel Design and Interior Design) and Textiles, and a PhD in DHE with an Emphasis in Design and the Near Environment. A Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) is with an Emphasis in Textiles or Human Behavior in the Near Environment (Apparel and Housing) is also on the menu.

Fashion design students will have the opportunity to learn from the DHE Historic and Cultural Textile and Apparel Collection, which includes approximately 2,000 Euro-American and ethnic apparel pieces and other textile products. In addition teaching and assistantships are offered to graduate students, and all undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in the internship program. Students have interned with major designers, brands and retailers such as Anna Sui, Columbia Sportswear, Nordstrom, and Fred Meyer.

3. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. It is home to more than 18,000 students enrolled in dozens of art and design programs across several schools. The School of Fashion offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Fashion Design, Knitwear Design, and Textile Design. A Certificate in Fashion Design is also on the menu.

According to the Academy, fashion students have access to facilities that feature “the same leading-edge equipment and resources that top fashion houses enjoy.” Internship opportunities are also available as well as the opportunity to participate in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in New York City and the Annual Graduation Fashion Show in San Francisco. According to the Academy, “the show has been heralded as the "Fashion Week of San Francisco" by both local and national members of the fashion industry.

Graduates of the Academy of Art University have been hired at major companies such as Gap, Kate Spade, Levi Strauss & Co., Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, and many others.

4. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California

California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907. It is home to 1,968 students enrolled in 21 undergraduate and 13 graduate degree programs. Several programs are available for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design, a BFA in Jewelry/Metals Arts, and a BFA in Textiles.

All fashion students have the opportunity to participate in CCA’s internship program. Students may intern at San Francisco Bay Area companies such as Levi Strauss & Co, Athleta, and TEA Collection. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their designs at the Annual Fashion Show and many find success in the world of design after the show. Many CCA fashion graduates have started their own businesses or found employment at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, Athleta, Forever 21, John Varvatos, Michael Kors, GUESS, Kate Spade and more.

5. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, California

Founded in 1969, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) is home to 7,000 students across four campuses including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine. The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS degree.

Programs for aspiring fashion designers include a BA in Design, a BS in Apparel Technical Design, and AA degrees in Fashion Design, Fashion Knitwear Design, Jewelry Design, Merchandise Product Development, and Textile Design. Associate of Arts Advanced Study Programs (ADV) programs include Advanced Fashion Design, Film and TV Costume Design, Footwear Design, International Manufacturing & Product Development, Menswear, and Textile Production and Development. 

In addition to a wide variety of program offerings, FIDM fashion students have the opportunity to participate in the internship program as well as annual study tours that will take them to fashion capitals such as  New York, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, and more. Students may also participate in the annual DEBUT Runway Show, which is streamed online and televised.

6. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington

Washington State University (WSU) was founded in 1890. It is home to nearly 29,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate fields of study, 66 master’s and 47 doctoral programs, and a variety of professional programs across 11 colleges.

The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Science (CAHNRS) is home to the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT). The Department offers several a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles with a Specialization Track in Apparel Design. The Department and WSU’s Graduate School offer an MA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles.

In addition to study abroad opportunities in more than 70 countries around the world, students have access to the third largest apparel and textile industry in the country, student chapters of two major industry associations—the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), and the opportunity to participate in several campus events including exhibitions, design and merchandising competitions, exhibitions, and the popular Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show.

7. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) was founded in 1907. The school is home to more than 19,500 students enrolled in 230+ programs across 14 colleges and schools.

The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Department of Family and Consumer Sciences is home the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) Program.

The FDM Program prepares students for careers such as Textile and Fashion Designer, Technical Designer, Visual Merchandiser, Costume Designer, Curator, Fashion Forecasting, and more.

Program highlights include optional membership in the Fashion Club and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. The FDM Program leads to a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising with a Fashion Design or Merchandising Emphasis. 

8. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California

California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. The school is home to 35,592 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), Department of Family & Consumer Sciences offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Family and Consumer Sciences with an Option in Fashion Design and a Minor in Textiles.

Program highlights include the Annual Spring Fashion Show and Fashion Study Tours of New York City offered every January and July, and tours of Paris luxury fashion industries offered every June.

9. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California

San Francisco State University (SFSU) was founded in 1899. It is home to 30,500 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs and 38 certificate programs across seven colleges. The College of Health and Social Sciences is home to the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Offerings include a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising with an Emphasis in Apparel Design and an MA in Family & Consumer Sciences that can be developed around Apparel studies. Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in fashion capitals such as Italy, London, and Sydney.

10. Woodbury University, Burbank, California

Founded in 1884, Woodbury University is home to more than 1,700 students. The school has two locations (Burbank and San Diego) and it offers degrees in several dozen fields across three schools and one college. The School of Media Culture & Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design and a new Costume Design Track. Fashion students may also explore other design categories such as Shoes or Children’s Wear.

According to the Department, the Fashion Design program focuses on “classic illustration methods, cutting-edge design, and world-class construction techniques.” The Costume Design Track “encompasses stage and screen with a concentrated emphasis on character development, period construction, digital and manual sketching, as well as an on-set production lab.” Both programs feature internship opportunities with major fashion companies and participation in the Woodbury Runway Show and Costume Runway.