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

Written by FS StaffJuly 1, 2015

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

We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State University (OSU) is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 280 degree programs. Founded in 1868, Oregon State houses 13 colleges and schools. OSU’s College of Business is home to the School of Design & Human Environment, which offers a BS in Merchandising Management.

Fashion merchandising 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, 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.

2. 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. The School of Fashion offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers including AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Fashion Merchandising, and AA and BFA degrees in Visual Merchandising.

According to the Academy, all 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 by major companies such as Adidas, Chanel, Gap, Kate Spade, Levi Strauss & Co., Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and many others.

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

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) was founded in 1969. It is home to 7,000 students, 500 faculty members, and an advisory board that includes “industry giants” such as Emanuel Ungaro, Fred Segal, Diane von Furstenberg, and Tim Gunn of Project Runway. The show is also filmed at FIDM, along with Project Runway: Under the Gunn.

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising consists of four campuses spread across the State of California. Locations include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine. The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS degree. Degree programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers include AA and AA, Professional Designation degrees in Merchandise Marketing, Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing.

Program highlights include the opportunity to participate in the annual DEBUT Runway Show, which is streamed online and televised, annual study tours of fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, and internship opportunities. Students have completed internships with Anthropologie, Giorgio Armani, Warner Bros., Cartier, Chloé, Van Cleef & Arpels, and other major companies. 

4. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California

California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona) was founded in 1938 and it is home to nearly 24,000 students enrolled in hundreds of programs through eight academic colleges. The College of Agriculture, Department of Apparel Merchandising and Management offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in Apparel Merchandising and Management (AMM) with an option in Fashion Retailing or Apparel Production. A Minor or Certificate in AMM are also on the menu. 

Program highlights include hands-on lab activities, industry tradeshows and visits, industry internships and field and study abroad opportunities. Students have completed internships at major companies such as BCBG, GUESS, Nordstrom, Bebe, Forever 21, Quicksilver, Lucky Brand jeans, Disney, Hurley, True Religion, and many others. New York, London, Paris, Milan, Rome, and Florence are just a few of the places past AMM students have studied.

AMM students also have the opportunity to participate in industry competitions, the Annual Fashion Show, AM2—the product line developed by Apparel Production students, and ApparelScapes—AMM’s retail microbusiness established in 2001. According to Cal Poly, ApparelScapes “retails AM2 and BLDG45 branded clothing through its own retail venues on the campus.

5. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington

Washington State University (WSU) was founded in 1890. It is home to nearly 29,000 students enrolled in 200+ undergraduate fields of study, 66 masters and 47 doctoral programs, and a variety of professional programs across 11 colleges. The school’s main campus is located in Pullman, Washington, and it has regional campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland), Vancouver, and Everett.

The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) at WSU is home to the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT). The Department offers a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles with a Merchandising option. 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 and student chapters of two major industry associations—the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). Students also have the opportunity to participate in several campus events including exhibitions, design and merchandising competitions, and the popular Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show.

6. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California

San Francisco State University (SFSU) is home to 30,500 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs and 38 certificate programs. Founded in 1899, SFSU houses seven colleges, including the College of Health and Social Sciences. The College is home to the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics, which offers a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising with a Fashion Merchandising Emphasis.

Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Italy, London, and Sydney.

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) is home to the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Department houses 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 Forecaster, 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. A Minor in Merchandising is also on the menu.

8. California State University - Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

California State University – Los Angeles (Cal State LA or CSU LA) was founded in 1947. The school is home to 21,000 students enrolled in more than 60 degree programs through eight colleges. The College of Arts & Letters is home to the Department of Art, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BA in Art with an Option in Fashion and Textiles/Specialization Fashion Merchandising, MA and MFA degrees in Art with an Option in Fashion and Textiles, and undergraduate Certificates in Fashion Merchandising and Retail Professional Development.

Program highlights include internship opportunities at the Getty Center, Alternative Apparel Los Angeles and more, participation in the Annual Senior Fashion Show, access to International Programs with more than 50 universities in 18 countries, and participation in the Fashion Association of Design Students.

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

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

Program highlights include the Annual Spring Fashion Show (coordinated by Fashion  Merchandising Students), Fashion Study Tours of New York City and Paris, and seminars at a variety of apparel manufacturing companies, retailers, textile design companies, and apparel design businesses. Fashion merchandising students also have the opportunity to visit museums and other “culturally unique sites.”

10. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington

Seattle Pacific University was founded in 1891. It is home to more than 4,200 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, minors, concentrations, certificate, and graduate programs through seven colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS): Division of Sciences is home to the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS).

The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers including a BA Merchandising or Interior Merchandising and/or Interior Design. A Minor in all areas is also on the menu. Students may also apply to the liaison program with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. FIT Specializations include Fashion Buying and Merchandising, Accessories Design, Advertising and Communication, Advertising Design, Manufacturing Management, Fashion Design, Jewelry Design, Textile/Surface Design, and Textile Development and Marketing.

Merchandising program highlights include travel abroad opportunities to places such as London, Paris, Florence, and Milan; possible internship opportunities at nearby companies such as Nordstrom Product Group, REI, Eddie Bauer, and Union Bay, and optional membership in Fashion Group. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Fashion Show.