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Top 5 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in California – 2017

Written by FS StaffMay 22, 2017

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

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was founded in 1918. The school is home to nearly 1,100 students from 43 states and 24 countries, enrolled in more than a dozen art and design programs. Programs for aspiring fashion designers include BFA in Fashion Design with options in Sustainability or Costume Design. The Sustainability option (Minor) helps students “develop strategies and systems, as applicable to art and design, which can meet the needs of current generations without compromising those of future generations.” 

The Costume Design option (Emphasis) focuses on “new directions in character development for film, television, live performance, concept art, and video,” per OTIS. 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, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Patagonia, and Johnny Was. Internship opportunities with major brands such as Tahari, GAP, Bob Mackie, Armani Exchange, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and many others provide real world experience, while fashion show events and other prospects offer the opportunity for students to display their designs. The Annual Scholarship and Benefit Fashion Show and the Nieman Marcus window in Beverly Hills are just a few options. 

2. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California 

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school is home to nearly 8,000 students enrolled in dozens of programs in all areas of areas of art and design. The School of Fashion here offers an AA in Fashion, a BFA in Fashion with an Emphasis in Fashion Design, Textile Design, or Knitwear Design, BFA degrees in Fashion Product Development and Costume Design, a Certificate in Fashion, and an Online Award of Completion in Fashion Design. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Fashion and Costume Design. 

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 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. 

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

California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907. The school is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in 30-plus degree programs. Options for aspiring fashion designers include BFA degrees in Fashion Design, Jewelry/Metals Arts, and Textiles. Program highlights include CCA’s internship program, which offers the opportunity to work at San Francisco Bay Area companies such as Levi Strauss & Co, Athleta, and TEA Collection, the opportunity to participate in the Annual Fashion Show, and unique study abroad opportunities in places such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Italy. 

Many CCA graduates have found success in the world of design. Some have started their own businesses, while others have landed positions with major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, Athleta, Forever 21, John Varvatos, Michael Kors, GUESS, Kate Spade, and many others. 

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

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) was founded in 1969. It is home to 5,300 students across four campuses in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine, California. The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS in the areas of fashion, graphics, interior design or entertainment. Options 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) are also on the menu. Options include Advanced Fashion Design, Film and TV Costume Design, Footwear Design, International Manufacturing & Product Development, Menswear, and Textile Production and Development.  

Program highlights include the FIDM internship program, annual study tours to New York, Paris, London, Rome, and Milan, and participation in the Annual DEBUT Runway Show. In addition to showing their creations to a large in-house audience at DEBUT, the show is televised and it streams online to possibly millions around the world. 

5. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California 

San Francisco State University (SFSU) was founded in 1899 as San Francisco State Normal School. According to the school’s most recent enrollment report, SFSU has a population of more than 30,000 students enrolled in 140-plus undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs, and 38 certificate programs. Programs are available through seven colleges, including the College of Health and Social Sciences. 

The College houses the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics. Program options here 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 places such as Italy, London, and Sydney.