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Top 20 Fashion Design Schools on the East Coast - 2014

Written by FS StaffMay 13, 2014

Our 2014 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), State University of New York (SUNY) offers a wide variety of Associate and Bachelor’s degree programs for aspiring fashion designers. Unique offerings include a BFA in Fabric Styling, AAS and BFA degrees in Accessories Design, and AAS and BFA degrees in Fashion Design with Concentrations in Children’s Wear, Intimate Apparel, Knitwear, Special Occasion, and Sportswear.

Also on the menu are a BS in International Trade and Marketing for the Fashion Industries, a BS in Textile Development and Marketing, and AAS and BFA degrees in Textile/Surface Design.
BS degrees in Technical Design and Jewelry Design are on the menu as well as an AAS in Menswear and a BS in Entrepreneurship that prepares students to start their own design studios, boutiques, or other businesses. A number of Master’s degree programs are also available and include Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice (MA), Illustration (MFA), and Global Fashion Management (MPS). FIT also offers the country’s only Certificate programs in Performance Athletic Footwear and Millinery.

FIT students have the opportunity to enroll in FIT’s International BFA program, which features 1 year of fashion design study in New York and the other in Milan, Italy. FIT also offers Study Abroad summer programs at the London College of Fashion (one of the world’s leading cities for fashion), as well as experiences in Barcelona, Florence, Shanghai, and more.

FIT also offers plenty of opportunities to work with some of the biggest names in fashion through the school’s celebrated internship program. Students have completed internships at companies such as Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, Guess, Liz Claiborne, Nike, Macy's, Jones Apparel Group, Ann Taylor, Nine West, Perry Ellis, Saks, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Marc Jacobs, and Helmut Lang. Many students have accepted full-time positions at other companies such as Michael Kors, Steve Madden, and Liz Claiborne.

Established in 1944, Fashion Institute of Technology started with just 100 students on the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades. By 1951, the school was home to 400 day students and 1,000 evening students. Today, FIT covers an entire city block, and it is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in more than 30 programs from Menswear to Toy Design.

2. Parsons The New School For Design, New York, New York
Parsons The New School for Design is home to The School of Fashion, which offers several renowned programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include AAS and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, an MFA in Fashion Design and Society, and an MA in Fashion Studies. Students looking to enhance their education and career opportunities may opt for the Design Business Certificate or the BA/BFA Dual degree. The Dual degree highlights trendy areas of interest such as Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Design.

In 1921, Parsons became the first art and design school in the U.S. to found a campus in the magical City of Paris. The Paris campus offers a BFA in Fashion Design, a BBA in Strategic Design and Management, and an MA in History of Decorative Arts and Design. Students may be selected to study abroad in Paris for a year or a semester. In addition, Parsons offers study experiences in Scandinavia.

Established in 1896, Parsons The New School for Design attracts working artists and faculty from New York and around the world. Also called “The New School” or “Parsons,” the school is home to 5,000 students enrolled in more than 40 degree programs across five schools including the Schools of Fashion, Art and Design History and Theory, Design Strategies, Constructed Environments, and the School of Art, Media, and Technology.

3. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, New York
Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design is home to the Fashion Department which offers
the globally recognized BFA in Fashion Design. This interdisciplinary program combines Fashion Education and Design with Illustration, Photography, Film, Performance, Visual Studies, and Material Culture. Pratt students have the opportunity to participate in annual design competitions sponsored the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, along with companies such as Cotton Incorporated and Supima Cotton. These events offer exposure to the fashion world and the opportunity to compete for scholarships and other support.  

All design programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship in New York’s famous fashion district. Students have completed internships at Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Zero Maria Cornejo, and Rag & Bone. Students are also encouraged to participate in the Study Abroad program, which features study experiences in London (one of the world’s leading cities for fashion), Rome and Venice (fashion capitals), Copenhagen (home to Scandinavia's largest fashion week), South Africa, and many other places. 

Besides the BFA in Fashion Design, Pratt offers a BFA in Fine Arts with an Emphasis in Jewelry or Drawing, an Associate degree program (AOS) in Illustration, and an AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration.

Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute sits on a 25-acre campus in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn—a lively art community, and just 30 minutes from Manhattan. The Institute, which is home to 4,627 students from 48 states and 80 countries, offers more than 60 programs, across several departments and schools.

4. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the school’s celebrated fashion program. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design and a BS in Design & Merchandising. Fashion program highlights include the Drexel Undergraduate Co-op and an annual fashion show. The Drexel Undergraduate Co-op gives students the opportunity to gain six to 18 months of paid career-related work experience at places such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach, and Neiman Marcus. The Drexel Fashion Show attracts media and industry professionals, giving students to opportunity to display their best work and network with successful designers and brands.

All students have the opportunity to participate in Drexel’s internship program, which offers both local and nationwide opportunities, as well as the Study Abroad program. The school offers both short- and long-term experiences in fashion meccas such as London and France, as well as Iceland, Prague, Australia, and Greece.

Founded in 1891, Drexel University sits on a 74-acre campus just minutes from Downtown Philadelphia (Center City). Home to around 21,912 students from 50 states and 100 foreign countries, Drexel University has nine campuses, and it offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across more than dozen colleges and schools.

5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD or RIZ-dee) offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in 19 majors. The most popular undergraduate degree is the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA). Fine Arts offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA in Apparel Design, BFA and MFA degrees in Textiles, and Jewelry + Metalsmithing, and a BFA in Illustration. BFA and MFA program highlights include mandatory internships that often lead to employment in the industry, seminar speakers, field experiences, visiting critics, interaction with experts in the field, and an annual runway show.

Although not mandatory, students are encouraged to participate in RISD’s enriching Study Abroad program. The program offers access to 45 participating institutions in 26 countries. Study Abroad experiences last a full semester. Past destinations include Copenhagen, Rome, Mexico, France, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland, Cuba, Russia, Paris, Bali, Ghana, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

Established in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design is one of the nation’s oldest schools of art and design. It has a population of 2,420 students and more than 500 faculty members. The school sits on a 51-acre urban campus, and it houses several of the region’s most popular attractions including RISD Museum of Art, the Nature Lab, and Fleet Library at RISD. The Fleet Library features more than 150,000 volumes of art, design, architecture, and photography. Nature Lab features more than 80,000 natural history objects, and RISD Museum of Art houses 86,000 works of fine and decorative art from ancient times to the present.

6. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell University's College of Human Ecology, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) offers several esteemed programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BS in Fiber Science & Apparel Design with Specializations in Apparel Design, Fashion Design Management, and Fiber Science. The Fashion Design Management program offers three options including Management and Marketing, Product Development, and Communications. A Minor in Fiber Science is also on the menu.

FSAD is also home to an immersive Graduate Studies program that offers 5 degrees for fashion designers. Options include MS and PhD programs in Fiber Science, an MA and PhD in Apparel Design, and a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Human Ecology. MPS Concentrations include Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

FSAD highlights include internship and Study Abroad opportunities in Italy, Australia, England, Israel, and Spain. The Department even offers an unheard of Semester at Sea. Students also have access to the school’s elaborate National Textile Center and Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, and The Cornell Fashion Collective. The Collective is a student-run organization that produces a professional runway show that displays student designs and fashion management skills.

Established in 1865, Cornell University is one of the nation’s top Ivy League schools. Home to more than 14,000 undergraduate students and 7,000+ graduate students from across the U.S. and 120 countries, Cornell University houses 14 colleges and schools offering more than 80 formal major fields, 70 minors, and dozens of graduate and professional degrees. The school, which sits on a large 2,300-acre campus, has graduate and professional units in New York City and Doha, Qatar. In addition, Cornell recently opened the Cornell NYC Tech Campus in New York City—less than 200 miles from the Ithaca campus.

7. Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia University’s Kanbar College of Design, Engineering, and Commerce houses the prominent Fashion and Textile programs. Offerings include BS degrees in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising and Management, Textile Design, and Textiles Materials Technology. The Fashion Merchandising and Management program offers 10 Clusters. Some may be suitable for aspiring fashion designers looking to enhance their education and career opportunities.  

Clusters include Fashion Technology, Fashion Material Insight and Innovation, Fashion Entrepreneurship, and Global Brand Marketing, to name a few. The College also offers MS degrees in Textile Design, Textile Engineering, Global Fashion Enterprise, and Surface Imaging. A rare PhD in Textile Engineering and Sciences is also on the menu.

Philadelphia University “houses more than 20 laboratories and studios for hands-on experience” in all areas of design, including Fashion Design and Textile Design. In addition to laboratories and studio space, other program highlights include the Annual Fashion Show, a successful internship program, career discovery workshops, and Study Abroad experiences. Just a few Study Abroad destinations include Italy, Hong Kong, Manchester, and New Zealand.

Established in 1884 as the Philadelphia Textile School, Philadelphia University (PhilaU) sits on a 100-acre campus in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, just 8 miles from historic Center City Philadelphia, just 30 miles from Trenton, New Jersey, and around 145 miles from New York. Home to nearly 3,000 students enrolled in 60+ areas of study, PhilaU houses 3 colleges—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.

8. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
The University of Delaware College of Arts & Sciences is home to the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies. The Department offers a variety of unique programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BS in Apparel Design, an MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies, a Graduate Certificate in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business, and a Minor in Fashion History and Culture. Also on the menu is the popular 4+1 program. This program allows undergraduate Fashion Merchandising majors to complete the Master's degree in Fashion and Apparel Studies in half the time.

All fashion programs offer the opportunity to participate in field study experiences in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and California. One of the most highly desired experiences is The Visiting Student program. This cooperative arrangement between the University of Delaware (UD) and the famed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) allows students to complete courses at FIT and apply them to the BS in Apparel Design or Fashion Merchandising. Upon successful completion of course requirements at both schools, students qualify for an Associate's degree from FIT and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware.

Internship opportunities with top designers such as Marc Jacobs International are also on the menu as well as Study Abroad experiences. Hong Kong and Glasgow, Scotland are just a few popular destinations.

The University of Delaware (UD) opened in 1743 as a small private academy. Today, the school is a Land Grant, Sea Grant and Space Grant institution, with a student body of more than 17,000 undergraduates, 3,600+ graduates, and 800 students in professional and continuing studies. The former home of Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, UD offers nearly 350 programs across seven colleges.

9. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York
The School of Communications and the Arts at Marist College offers a several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Fashion Design and a Minor in Fashion Product Development. Program highlights include Marist in Manhattan: Internships in Art, Fashion, and Media (MinM), participation in the Silver Needle Fashion Show, membership in the student club—Fashion Inc., and an exceptional Study Abroad program. 

Fashion students have the option to spend a semester or academic year abroad in one of more than 50 locales such as Chine (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and France (Marist-Mod’Spe Paris). The School of Communication and Arts also features short-term Study Abroad options during winter and spring break. Programs include France: Paris Fashion program: From Atelier to Market Place (winter), Italy and France: Fashion Merchandising: Florence and Paris (spring) and Italy and Spain: Global Fashion Trends: Barcelona and Florence (spring).

Marist College began offering college courses in 1929 and it received a 4-year charter by the State of New York in 1946. The College, which sits on a stunning 210-acre campus overlooking the Hudson River, is located just 80 miles from New York and Albany. A leader in fusing technology and teaching to “enhance” the learning process, Marist College is “One of the 25 Most Connected Campuses in America.” Home to more than 6,300 students, Marist College offers more than 75 programs across seven schools.

10. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to VCUarts—one of the nation’s best schools of art and design. VCUarts houses the Department of Fashion Design & Merchandising. Offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA in Fashion Design and BFA and MFA degrees in Fine Arts with a Specialization in Fiber Arts or Jewelry/Metalworking. Program highlights include participation in the Annual Fashion Show, field trips to New York and the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas, and short-term international trips to Paris, London, Florence, Rome, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Students also have the option to attend VCUQatar where they may earn a BFA in Fashion Design and/or an MFA in Design Studies. Study Abroad opportunities are also on the menu and last one semester. Florence or Guinea, West Africa are just a few past Study Abroad destinations.

Graduates of VCU’s Fashion, Fiber and Material Studies programs hold positions at Nordstrom, GUESS, Harper’s Bazaar, Burberry, Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Cotton Incorporated, Williams-Sonoma, Li and Fung, Calvin Klein, Nautica, Jonathan Saunders, Avia, A/X Armani Exchange, Tracy Reese, Perry Ellis, Macy’s and more.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838 as the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). Today, the school is home to 13 schools and one college offering a broad range of programs in all areas of study. VCU offers more than 215 programs at all degree levels across multiple campuses and satellite locations—including overseas in Doha, Qatar. Sixty-six programs are unique to VCU. The school, which sits on a 144-acre main campus in Downtown Richmond, is home to 31,288 students from across the U.S. and 100 countries—with Saudi Arabia, India, China, and Kuwait leading the pack.