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Top 10 Fashion Merchandising Schools and Colleges on the East Coast - 2016

Written by FS StaffJune 1, 2016

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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Our 2016 rankings of the top 10 fashion merchandising programs on the East Coast.

We define the East Coast as Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) was founded in 1944. The school is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system and it is home to more than 9,500 students enrolled in 37 majors and 12 certificate programs across five schools including the School of Art and Design, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, School of Liberal Arts, the School of Graduate Studies, and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The School of Business and Technology and the School of Art and Design offer several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.

The Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology is home to the “the largest and oldest degree program of its kind in the country,” says FIT. Degree options include BS and AAS degrees in Fashion Business Management. The program prepares students for a career in fashion merchandising and features opportunities to learn about global merchandising strategies in classes in New York “and see them come to life in study abroad programs” in Australia, Florence, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Rome. Students also have the opportunity to complete a five-week summer internship in London or complete one year of the BS program at FIT and one year at the Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design and Marketing in Florence, Italy.

In addition to study abroad opportunities, all students may participate in the Internship program and the Annual FIT Fashion Show. Students have completed internships at major companies such as Ralph Lauren, Guess, Liz Claiborne, Nike, Macy's, Jones Apparel Group, Ann Taylor, JC Penney, Perry Ellis, Ross Stores, and Saks. Others have been hired by Ann Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Coach, GAP, Liz Claiborne, Louis Vuitton, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria's Secret, and many others.

The School of Art and Design offers a BFA in Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and an MA in Exhibition Design. Noncredit Certificate programs include Fashion Styling. The Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design degree program is “the first and only one of its kind in the country,” according to FIT. Highlights include projects with industry partners such as Macy’s, Sony, Target, and Vespa, opportunities to work with Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Wildlife Conservation Society, New-York Historical Society, and many other nonprofit and corporate organizations, and the opportunity to display their work in major campus exhibitions.

All students have the chance to join the Merchandising Society, which operates the on-campus Style Shop. According to FIT, “students manage all store operations, including buying and developing products, visual merchandising, customer service, and sales.” 

2. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Drexel University was established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. The school is home to 25,595 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the Department of Fashion, Product and Design & Merchandising, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.

Offerings include a BS in Design & Merchandising with Concentrations in Retail Buying & Merchandising, Fashion Product Development, Fashion Promotion & Special Events, Merchandising Technologies, and Design Management for Design & Merchandising. A Minor in Retail is also on the menu and “provides basic foundations in retail operations, buying and merchandise planning and e-commerce.” 

Program highlights include access to “studios and specialized labs” in the school’s URBN Center, access to the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, Florence, Prague, Reykjavik, Australia, Greece, Ireland, Spain and countries in Asia and Africa, and participation in the Annual Drexel Fashion Show. Students also have the opportunity to contribute to D&M Magazine and the recently launched online D&M Shop—a retail learning laboratory.   

3. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

The University of Delaware (UD) was chartered by the State of Delaware in 1833. It is home to 22,852 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across seven schools. The College of Arts & Sciences is home to the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Merchandising, an Honors BS in Fashion Merchandising, and a 4+1 program that allows undergraduate Fashion Merchandising majors interested in graduate study to complete the MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies in half the time. A Minor in Fashion History and Culture is also on the menu for students who would like to enhance their degree. 

Fashion merchandising program highlights include the opportunity to complete an internship at home, overseas, or both. Past students have completed internships in New York, Hong Kong, and other fashion capitals. In addition, the University of Delaware has a Visiting Student Program. This “cooperative arrangement between the University of Delaware (UD) and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)” allows students to attend FIT for one year and apply coursework towards the BS program at UD. In addition, the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies introduced its very first Fashion Week this year. Students have the opportunity to participate in Fashion Week as well as the annual Synergy Fashion Group Student Fashion Show. 

4. LIM College, New York, New York 

Founded in 1939 as the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM), Lim College is home to more than 1,500 students enrolled in associates and bachelor’s degree programs in five subject areas across four departments. The Departments of Fashion Merchandising and Visual Merchandising offer a variety of programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include AAS, Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS), and Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) degrees in Fashion Merchandising.

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees in Fashion Merchandising and Visual Merchandising are also on the menu. The Fashion Merchandising BBA offers a Retail Buying & Planning Track. Concentrations are available for any major and include Cosmetics, Digital Business Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Event Planning, Fashion Media, Fashion Publishing, Home Fashions, International Business, International Marketing, Responsible Business Practices, Retail and Merchandise Management, and Styling. 

Program highlights include participation in the Annual Fashion Show, optional membership in the Fashion Show Production Club, the Fashion Styling Club and other organizations, and study abroad opportunities. Just a few past locations include France, Italy, Spain, Australia, China, and England. 

5. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York 

Founded in 1929, Marist College was is home to 6,474 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs and minors across seven schools. The School of Communication and the Arts offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Merchandising with a Concentration in Fashion Promotion, Product Development, or Business. A Minor in Fashion Merchandising is also on the menu. 

Fashion merchandising students may participate in the School’s internship program, which offers the opportunity to work at companies such as Armani A/X, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Chanel, DKNY, Escada, MTV, Nordstrom, Polo and many others. Students may also participate in Marist in Manhattan (NYC Internship Experience), Fashion Inc. (club), Marist Fashion Magazine, and the Silver Needle Runway Show. 

The School of Communication and the Arts encourages all students to complete two internships, which will give them a strong advantage when it comes to job opportunities. Fashion Program alumni have been hired by companies such as Ann Taylor, BCBG, Chanel, Donna Karan, GAP, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, MTV, Perry Ellis, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tahari, Tory Burch, and many more.

6. Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Founded in 1884 as the Philadelphia Textile School, Philadelphia University (PhilaU) is home to 3,200 students enrolled in more than 60 areas of study through the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, and the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts. The Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce houses two schools—the School of Design and Engineering and the School of Business. 

The School of Business offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management (FMM). Students choose two specializations from the following options: Buying & Merchandising, Fashion Apparel Production, Fashion Entrepreneurship, Fashion Material Insight & Innovation, Fashion Product Management, Fashion Retail Experience, Fashion Technology, Global Brand Marketing, and Integrated Fashion Communication. 

Program highlights include internships with major companies such as Coach, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Tommy Hilfiger, Macy’s, Under Armour, The Limited Brands, and QVC, study abroad experiences in places such as London, Rome, Hong Kong, Seoul, Melbourne, Dominican Republic, Scotland, New Zealand, and Denmark, and collaborative projects for companies such as Cotton Inc., Maidenform, Toys R Us, and Target. Students may also participate in the Annual Philadelphia University Fashion Show.

7. University of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island (URI) was chartered as the state's agricultural school in 1888. The school became the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1892, and the first class of 17 members graduated two years later. Today, URI is home to more than 16,600 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled over 80 majors across nine colleges and The Graduate School of Oceanography.

The College of Human Science and Services, Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design offer several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include MS and BS degrees in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design (TMD), a Certificate in Fashion Merchandising, and Minor in TMD. A double major in TMD and a “fashion” language (either French or Italian) are also on the menu.

Program highlights include internships with major companies and brands such as Gucci (New York), Nordstrom (Providence, RI), Donna Karan (New York), Marc Jacobs (New York), Rhode Island Design Center (Warwick, RI) and Green Envy (Newport, RI). Students also have the opportunity to study abroad in London, Paris (at Mod’Spe), Firenze, Italy (at Accademia Italiana), Barcelona, or other fashion capitals.

Summer Study at the Universite de la Mode in Lyon, France is also on the menu as well the New York Experience, the Winter Fashion Study Tour of London and Paris, access to the Historic Textile and Costume Collection and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.

8. Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia 

Virginia Tech University (Virginia Tech) was founded in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. It is home to 32,663 students enrolled in 240 degree programs through eight colleges and a graduate school. The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management (AHRM) offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Design (FMD) major.

Program highlights include internship opportunities with past companies such as Nordstrom and Anna Sui, the New York Fashion Study Tour, and the European Study Abroad program featuring stops in London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and other European fashion capitals. Students also have access to the Oris Glisson Historic Costume Collection and Textile Collection, which features 5,000 items of historic significance dating from 1840 to the present, they may join the Fashion Merchandising and Design Society, and students may participate the Annual FMDS Fashion Show. 

Virginia Tech Fashion Merchandising graduates have been hired by major companies and designers such as Oscar de la Renta, rue21, Lord and Taylor’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Michael Kors, and Jimmy Choo, HomeGoods, Haute Look, Victoria’s Secret, Target, and more.

9. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 

Established in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to 31,242 students enrolled in around 226 degree and certificate programs across 15 colleges and schools. The School of the Arts is home to the Department of Fashion and Merchandising which has over 300 students enrolled in two educational tracks: the BA in Fashion Merchandising and the BFA in Fashion Design. 

Program highlights include optional membership in The VCU Stiletto Club, internship opportunities in the U.S. and overseas, and study abroad opportunities including Fashion in Florence, VCU Qatar, and options in Paris, London, Scotland, and more. Fashion students also have the opportunity to participate in the VCU Annual Fashion Show. 

10. Framingham State University, Framingham, Massachusetts 

Framingham State University (FSU) was founded in 1839 as the first public teacher’s college in the country. Today, the school is home 6,400 students enrolled in 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, and professional fields. The Fashion Design and Retailing Department offers one program for aspiring fashion merchandisers—a BS in Fashion Design and Retailing with a Concentration in Merchandising. 

Program highlights include small class sizes and individual attention, state-of-the-art computer technology, “dynamic” merchandising and design opportunities, study tours, and business and industry partnerships. Students also have the opportunity to complete an internship.