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Detroit Fashion Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Career Options, & Training Programs for Fashion Designers and Merchandisers

Written by FS StaffOctober 13, 2011

The Detroit Fashion Scene

Michigan is home to quaint towns, beautiful beaches, and one of the largest cities in America, Detroit. Detroit is the state’s most fashionable, and most progressive city. Art, design, and culture are alive and well here, despite what the media says! Detroit is home to Detroit Fashion Week—Michigan’s only fashion industry event, as well as the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and the International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT).

Detroit is also home to a number of shopping and entertainment districts from Downtown Detroit to Trapper’s Alley. You’ll find plenty of independent boutiques here as well as popular retail stores selling fashions from trendy to classic to professional. The city’s fashion, shopping, and art and culture scenes make it a great place to start a career in fashion. Having an IADT campus here sweetens the pot.

Detroit Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Schools and Programs

The state of Michigan is home to 105 colleges and universities. This is slightly higher than the national average of 88. The schools here are a mix of traditional universities, technical schools, and art and design schools. The most popular school for aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers is the International Academy of Design & Technology - Detroit
(IADT). IADT offers degrees in fashion design, fashion design & merchandising, and retail merchandise management.

Several nearby schools also offer fashion degrees and these programs may be well worth the commute. The Art Institute of Michigan, Detroit in Novi is around 32 miles from Detroit. It offers an Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Merchandising, a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Marketing & Management, and a diploma in fashion retailing. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti is around 35 miles from Detroit. It offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising. Eastern Michigan also offers a PhD concentration in textiles.

Detroit Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Employers

Most Michigan fashion designers and fashion merchandisers live in Detroit. Fashion designers typically work in apparel design, technical design, technical production, pattern making, administration sales, and retail. Fashion merchandisers work in areas such as retail, promotions, buying, and visual merchandising. Employment opportunities can be found in department stores, retail shops, textile manufacturing facilities, production studios, design studios, and corporate offices. While it is possible to find employment anywhere in the city, Downtown Detroit is a great place to begin your search.

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Careers at a Glance

As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported employment or salary figures for Detroit fashion designers. Based on the number of retail venues, fashion events, and production facilities here, it’s safe to assume that Detroit is home to a sizable population of salaried and self-employed fashion designers. Employment of fashion designers across the nation is expected to grow by 1 percent between 2008 and 2018. Nationwide, fashion designers average around $61,160. The lowest paid fashion designers average $32,150, and the highest paid salaried designers average $124,780 per year.

Figures for fashion merchandisers have not been reported either, but a significant part of the job involves creating window displays and managing the overall look and feel of stores. There are 1,530 merchandise displayers in the state of Michigan. More than 500 live in Detroit.

For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industry, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at