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Top 20 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges on the East Coast– 2015

Written by FS StaffJune 11, 2015

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 2015 rankings of the top fashion design 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

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY). Founded in 1944, FIT is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in more than 40 majors and certificate programs through five schools. The School of Art and Design offers a large number of programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Offerings include AAS degrees in Accessories Design, Fashion Design, Illustration – Fashion and General Illustration options, Jewelry Design, Menswear, Textile Development and Marketing, and Textile/Surface Design. BFA and BS degree programs include Accessories Design, Fabric Styling, Fashion Design (Children’s Wear, Intimate Apparel, Knitwear, Special Occasion, and Sportswear, and Knitwear options), Technical Design, Textile Development and Marketing, and Textile/Surface Design. An international option in Florence is on the menu for fashion design students pursuing an AAS degree, and an option in Milan/New York is available for knitwear and sportswear students pursuing a Baccalaureate degree.

Graduate programs for aspiring fashion designers include an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice and credit Certificate programs include CAD for Fashion Design - Art, Draping, Gemology, Haute Couture, Ladies Tailoring, Leather Apparel, Millinery, Patternmaking, and Performance Athletic Footwear. Non-credit Certificates include Computer Essentials for Fashion Design, Fashion Styling, Wardrobe Technician and Costume Design Specialist, and Certified Technical Designer.

All FIT Fashion Design students have the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, London, Milan, Nottingham, England, Melbourne, Australia, or Hong Kong. Students also have the opportunity to intern at local, national, or international companies, and all students may participate in the Annual FIT Fashion Show.

2. Parsons School of Design at the New School, New York, New York

Parsons School of Design at the New School was established in 1896. It is home to nearly 5,000 students enrolled in 27 degree programs across five schools. The School of Fashion offers a variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include AAS and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA Integrated Studies, an MA in Fashion Studies and an MFA in Fashion Design and Society.

Fashion Program highlights include the opportunity to study at Parsons Paris, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and the opportunity to work with 560—the Magazine of Parsons’ School of Design.

AAS students study Accessories Design, Drawing, Fashion, Materials and Fabrication,  Sustainable Design, and Textiles. BFA students will also study Accessories Design, Drawing, Fashion, and Sustainable Design as well as Fashion History, Theory, and Criticism; Materials and Fabrication, and Textiles. BFA Fashion students also have the opportunity to complete the program at Parsons Paris.

BFA in Integrated Studies students can study everything from Fashion and Textiles to Urban Design, and MA in Fashion Studies students can study everything from Branding, Fashion and Textiles to Materials and Fabrication. The MFA in Fashion Design and Society highlights Fashion, Fashion History, Materials and Fabrication, Physical Computing/Wearable Technology, Sustainable Design, Textiles, Design Research, and more.

3. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, Rhode Island

Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is home to 2,449 students enrolled in a variety of art and design programs. Programs for aspiring fashion designers are offered through several departments and divisions. The Department of Apparel Design offers a BFA in Apparel Design and The Fine Arts Division offers BFA and MFA degrees in Textiles and Jewelry + Metalsmithing.

Apparel Design students will have the opportunity to participate in RISD's Annual Runway Show. COLLECTION 2015 featured “selections from seniors’ year-long thesis collections, pieces from juniors’ men’s and women’s tailored jacket looks and cut/sew knitwear project, and sophomores’ projects that used prints from Nicole Miller (RISD Apparel ’73).”

4. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York

Pratt Institute was founded in 1887. It is home to 4,556 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Programs for aspiring fashion designers are offered through the School of Design and the School of Art – Department of Fine Art. School of Design offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design. The School of Art offers a BFA in Jewelry.

According to the school, Fashion Design students have the opportunity to participate in “annual design competitions sponsored by the CFDA and YMA FSF and competitions sponsored by companies such as Cotton Incorporated and Supima Cotton.” In addition, students have access to internship opportunities with major designers such as Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan.

5. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Established in 1891, Drexel University is home to more than 26,000 students enrolled in 200 degree programs through 15 colleges and schools. The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design is home to the Department of Fashion, Product and Design & Merchandising. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS and an MS in Fashion Design.

Fashion design students have access to “studios and specialized labs” in the school’ URBN Center, the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), and study abroad opportunities in fashion capitals such as London, England and Florence, Italy. In addition, students have the chance to submit their creations to national and international competitions each year and upon completion of the program, they have the opportunity to show their final collections in the Department’s Annual Fashion Show.

6. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Cornell University was founded in 1865. It is home to 21,593 students enrolled in 80 undergraduate majors, 90 minors, and 108 graduate fields of study across 14 colleges and schools. The College of Human Ecology, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Fashion Design, Fiber Science, Fashion Design Management, and a Dual Degree. The Dual Degree Program allows students to earn a BFA and a BA from the College of Arts and Sciences, a BS from the College of Human Ecology or a BS from the College of Engineering. A Minor in Fiber Science is also on the menu. Graduate offerings include an MA and PhD in Apparel Design, an MS and PhD in Fiber Science, and an MPS in Human Ecology. The MPS program offers a Focus (graduate field) in Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The Department of FSAD maintains the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, which features “more than 10,000 items of apparel dating from the eighteenth century to the present, as well as a substantial collection of ethnographic textiles and costume.” The Department is also home to the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation (CIFFI), which was established to “advance knowledge and foster collaborations between academia and industry in the areas of fashion design, marketing and culture, fiber science, technology, and materials testing.”

In addition to access to the Textile Collection and CIFFI, FSAD students have the opportunity to compete for the Cornell Design Award and display their collections at the Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show.

7. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

The University of Delaware (UD) was chartered in 1833. It is home to 22,680 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 designers. Offerings include a BS in Apparel Design, an MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies, and a 4+1 program that allows undergraduate Fashion Merchandising majors 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.

Fashion students have the opportunity to complete an internship at home, overseas, or both. Past students have completed internships in New York, Hong Kong, and many 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.

8. Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia University (PhilaU) was founded in 1884. It is home to 3,200 students enrolled in more than 60 areas of study across four colleges including 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 Design and Engineering offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design, an MS in Textile Design, an MS in Textile Engineering, and a PhD in Textile Engineering and Sciences.

Design students have the opportunity to intern with companies such as Vogue, Betsey Johnson, and Tommy Hilfiger and study abroad opportunities are available in fashion centers such as London and Rome. Students also have access to PhilaU’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection as well as “specialized space for individual programs including engineering labs, fashion design studios, textile studios with state-of-the-art machinery, and industrial design studios,” according to PhilaU. The Textile and Costume Collection features “museum-quality garments, accessories, and textiles as sources of design inspiration for the modern-day design and product-development process.”

9. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Marist College was founded in 1929. It is home to 6,365 students enrolled in 77 programs through seven schools. The School of Communication and the Arts offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design and a BS in Fashion Merchandising with a Product Development Concentration. Fashion Design majors may also choose a Minor in Merchandising or Product Development.

Fashion design 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.

10. Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Moore College of Art & Design was founded in 1848. It is home to more than 450 students (Fall 2014) enrolled in 10 majors leading to a BFA, 11 minors, and five graduate programs. The school also offers Certificate and Post-Baccalaureate programs. Offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA and a Minor in Fashion Design, and a Certificate in Fashion Studies with two tracks including Apparel Construction and Technical Design.

Program highlights include both paid and unpaid internships at major companies such as Ana Sui, Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston, Marc Jacobs, Nordstrom, Rag & Bone, and more. An annual fashion show is also part of the program as well the “Fashion Critic Program.” The Program gives students the opportunity to work with a designer from the fashion industry to ensure that the students’ creations are “professional and marketable.”

Graduates of the Fashion Program at Moore College of Art have worked for major designers and companies such as Adrienne Vittadini, Anne Klein Studio, Badgley Mischka, Fila, Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Outfitters, and many others.

11. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838. It is home to 31,163 students enrolled in around 226 certificate and degree programs across 13 schools and one college. The School of the Arts is home to the Department of Fashion which offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a 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.

12. University of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island (URI) was chartered in 1888. It is home to 16,571 undergraduate and graduate students (Fall 2014) enrolled in more than 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 offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include an MS, BS and a Minor in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design (TMD) and a Master Seamstress Certificate (Providence Campus).

Fashion students will have the opportunity to complete Textile Science, Apparel Design/Development, and Historic Textiles and Costume 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 will also have the opportunity to study abroad in London, Paris (at Mod’Spe), Firenze, Italy (at Accademia Italiana), Barcelona, and other fashion capitals. Students also have the option to participate in Summer Study at the Universite de la Mode in Lyon, France, the New York Experience, or a Winter Fashion Study Tour of London and Paris. 

Other program highlights include access to the Historic Textile and Costume Collection, the opportunity to earn a degree in a “fashion language” such as French or Italian, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.

13. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. It is home to approximately 21,492 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 12 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), Department of Design offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA in Fashion Design.

Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in London, Florence, and Strasbourg, France, visiting artists and designers (past guests have included Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Kate and Andy Spade and more), access to the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, and the Annual Fashion Show, to name a few.

14. Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia

Marymount University was founded in 1950. It is home to 3,441 students enrolled in more than 60 programs through four schools including the School of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education & Human Services, the School of Business Administration, and the Malek School of Health Professions. The School of Arts & Sciences offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA and a Minor in Fashion Design.

Program highlights include the opportunity to work on “Real World Projects” that allow students to design for major companies such as Cotton Inc., Top Shop, and Nordstrom, the opportunity to study abroad in places such as France, Italy, Japan, China, Australia, optional membership in Fashion Club, and participation in the Annual Portfolio In Motion fashion show. Students also have the opportunity to complete an internship and compete in both national and international design competitions.  

15. Stevenson University, Owings Mills, Maryland

Founded in 1947, Stevenson University is Maryland’s third largest independent university. It is home to more than 4,400 students enrolled in more than 50 programs through six schools. The School of Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS and a Minor in Fashion Design. The program prepares students a variety of careers from Fashion Designer to Technical Designer to Fashion Writer.

Program highlights include participation in the program’s Gallery Student Fashion exhibits locally and in New York City, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, tours of the major fashion capitals of the world, and travel to New York’s Garment District. Internship opportunities are also on the menu as well as local opportunities such as Artscape, Baltimore Fashion Alliance, and Baltimore Fashion Week.

16. Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Boston, Massachusetts

Massachusetts College of Art & Design (MassArt)was founded in 1873. It is home to more than 2,000 students enrolled in well over 50 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. MassArt’ Fashion Design Department offers a variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design, a BFA in Fibers, a BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing, and an MFA in 3D (General, Fibers, and Metals). The school also offers Fashion Design Certificate.

Design program highlights include the opportunity to create a signature line, participation in design competitions and team projects, internship opportunities, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. Students have participated in Council of Fashion Designers of America competitions and completed team projects with the  Italian Trade Commission, Chadwick's and Karmaloop.

Students have completed internships or obtained positons with Anna Sui, Armani AX, Betsy Johnson, Boston Ballet, Boston Conservatory, DKNY, Fossil, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, Nautica, Nicole Miller, Puma, Rag and Bone, Reebok, Talbots, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, Victoria's Secret, Zac Posen, and may others.

17. Framingham State University, Framingham, Massachusetts

Framingham State University was founded in 1839. It is home to 6,499 students enrolled in more than 70 majors, minors, concentrations and other programs through more than 20 academic departments. Programs for aspiring fashion designers are offered through the Department of Fashion Design and Retailing. The Department offers a BS in Fashion Design and Retailing with a Concentration in Apparel Design.

Program highlights include possible study tours of places such as Milan, Florence, and Rome, access to the Framingham State University Costume and Textiles Resource Center which houses approximately 4,000 costumes, accessories, textiles, books and periodicals, and internship opportunities with companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Chico’s, Express, GAP, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Rugby-Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Talbots, and may others.

Fashion students also participate in the Annual Fashion Show and student organizations such as Fashion Club, Design and Development Club, and Style Magazine Club.

18. Lasell College, Auburndale, Massachusetts

Lasell College was founded in 1851 as the Auburndale Female Seminary. Today, the school is home to a co-ed population of more than 1,600 undergraduate students and more than 300 graduate students enrolled in more than 60 degree programs through more than a dozen departments. The Department of Fashion offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BA in Fashion Design & Production.

Program highlights include internship opportunities at major companies such as Ann Taylor, Bebe, Gucci, Liz Claiborne, access to the Lasell Fashion Collection (LFC) which contains more than 1,000 items of clothing and accessories dating between the 19th & 20th centuries, and participation in the Annual Lasell Fashion Show: Runway. Design students may also have the opportunity to study abroad in Paris.

19. Mount Ida College, Newton, Massachusetts

Mount Ida College was founded in 1899. It is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than 30 areas of study across four schools including the School of Applied Science, the School of Design, the School of Sciences & Humanities, and the School of Business. The School of Design offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BS in Fashion Design.

Program highlights include internship opportunities in New York, Boston, and other cities, study abroad opportunities in places such as the UK, participation in the Annual Spring Fashion Show, and Boston Fashion Week.

20. Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania

Albright College dates its beginning to the founding of Union Seminary in 1856. The school is home to more than 2,000 students enrolled in more than 60 academic majors and programs. The Fashion Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Fashion with Tracks in Fashion Design and Costume Design. Students may also choose a Fashion Design Combined Major and a Costume Design Combined Major.

Fashion Program highlights include study abroad opportunities Italy, France, the UK and South Korea, internship opportunities at companies such as Donna Karan, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Tiffany’s, and more, and participation in the Department’s Annual Fashion Showcase & Runway Show.

Graduates of the Fashion and Costume programs at Albright have been hired by companies such as DKNY, Macy’s, Berkshire Theater Festival, David’s Bridal, Anthropologie, and many others.