With more than 38 million residents, California is the nation’s largest state by population. The Golden State is famous for having some of the world’s most breathtaking beaches and even the best view of the world from Mount Diablo State Park (summit 3,849'). More of the earth's surface can be seen from here than any other peak in the world—except Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. The state is also home to the two tallest trees in the world—one in Redwood National Park (379 and 4 inches), the other in Humboldt Redwoods State Park (369 feet tall).
We could go on and on about how spectacular California is when it comes to nature, but the Golden State has a lengthy list of other attractions to its credit. The state of California has one of the world’s top (and most envied) fashion scenes. In fact, the nation’s most populous state is home to a staggering 650,000 retailers, across 58 counties and 480 cities, but the buck stops in Los Angeles. The LA fashion scene is so fierce, it is in the top ten among the Top 25 Most Fashionable Cities in the World.
Although Orange County, California is home to the third largest mall in the U.S.—South Coast Plaza (250 boutiques), Los Angeles is home to one of the world's largest and most desirable fashion districts. The LA Fashion District spans 110 blocks in downtown Los Angeles and features apparel, accessories, textiles, live/work lofts, design studios, and more. The district is home to more than 2,000 independent wholesalers alone, and it is considered the “hub of the apparel industry on the West Coast.”
The California/Los Angeles fashion scene isn’t just for the established shopper or designer either. It is one of the top states for aspiring fashion designers, merchandisers, and marketers. The state is home to the largest number of NASAD-accredited fashion schools in the U.S. and many are dedicated exclusively to design. Just a few of the state’s top fashion schools include the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), Los Angeles; Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS), Los Angeles; California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and The Academy of Couture Art, Los Angeles.
According to the most recent Institute of Education Sciences (IES) report (2013), California is home to 454 Title IV degree-granting institutions. More than 2.3 million students are enrolled in the state’s public postsecondary institutions, with more than 420,000 enrolled in the state’s private schools, and thousands attending California’s top fashion schools alone. Below is a list of 20+ top California fashion schools and what they have to offer.
Woodbury University - Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design
Freemont College - Degrees Offered: A.A.S. Multimedia Design, emphasis in Fashion Design or Marketing
University of California, Davis – Degrees Offered: B.S. Textiles and Clothing, B.S. Fiber & Polymer Science, Minor in Textiles and Clothing
Art Institute of California, Hollywood – Degrees Offered: A.S. Fashion Design, A.A. Fashion Marketing, B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
Art Institute of California, Inland Empire – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion & Retail Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
California State University, Long Beach – Degrees Offered: B.A. Family and Consumer Sciences with an option in Fashion Merchandising or Textiles and Clothing, Minor in Fashion Merchandising, Minor in Textiles
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) - Degrees Offered: A.A. degrees in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Apparel Industry Management, Merchandise Marketing, Fashion Management, Merchandise Product Development, Footwear Design, Menswear, Theater Costume Design, Jewelry Design, Fashion Knitwear Design, Textile Design, Textile Production & Development, Beauty Industry Management, Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing
Academy of Couture Art - Degrees Offered: A.A. Fashion Design, B.A. Fashion Design, Creative Fashion Design Laboratory Certificate (CFLC), Professional Fashion Design Laboratory Certificate (PFLC)
Art Institute of California, Los Angeles - Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, B.S. Interior Design
Otis College of Art and Design – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design
California State University, Northridge – Degrees Offered: B.S./M.S Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Apparel Design and Merchandising, B.S./M.S. Interior Design
Art Institute of California, Orange County – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
California Polytechnic University, Pomona – Degrees Offered: B.S. Apparel Merchandising and Management with an option in Apparel Production or Fashion Retailing
Art Institute of California, Sacramento - Degrees Offered: Fashion Retailing Diploma
California State University, Sacramento – Degrees Offered B.A. in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Apparel Marketing and Design
Point Loma Nazarene University – Degrees Offered: B.A. in Fashion and Interiors with a concentration in Fashion Merchandising, B.A. in Fashion and Interiors with a concentration in Fashion Interior Design
Art Institute of California, San Diego – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
Academy of Art University, San Francisco – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. and A.A. degrees in Fashion, Fashion Styling, Fashion Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, Knitwear Design, Menswear Design, Textiles, Jewelry & Metal Arts (J&MA online), and Fashion Journalism; M.F.A. in Fashion Design, Merchandising, Knitwear, Textiles, Jewelry & Metal Arts (J&MA online); B.A. and M.A. in Fashion Journalism; M.F.A. B.F.A., AA. and O.A.C. (Online Award of Completion) in Fashion (Online)
Art Institute of California, San Francisco – Degrees Offered: A.S. Fashion Design, A.A. Fashion Marketing, B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
California College of the Arts - Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.F.A. Interior Design, B.F.A. Jewelry/Metal Arts, B.F.A. Textiles
San Francisco State University - Degrees Offered: B.S. Apparel Design and Merchandising, B.S. in Interior Design
Art Institute of California, Sunnyvale-Silicon Valley - Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing & Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma
More Programs to Consider:
Employment and Salary Trends for California Fashion Designers
According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report (April 8, 2013), California is now home to 5,020 fashion designers. In 2006, the Bureau reported that 3,550 fashion designers worked in design, consulting, and apparel manufacturing in the state of California.
For the 2010-2020 decade, the Bureau projects a 10.4 percent increase in employment for fashion designers nationwide. Salaries are on the rise as well. In 2006, the annual mean wage for fashion designers nationwide was $69,270. A news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics dated March 29, 2013 states that the average mean wage for fashion designers today is $72,620 per year. Salaries for California designers are rising too. The average mean salary for California fashion designers is $70,490, up from $68,290 in 2006.
Employment opportunities for fashion designers are highly concentrated in California and New York. In fact, as of May 2010, almost 75 percent of all salaried fashion designers worked in these two states. While aspiring fashion designers can find jobs throughout the state of California, the best opportunities can be found in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Orange County.
Aspiring fashion designers and fashion merchandisers might be interested in another growing area of fashion—merchandise displaying. Working in this area of fashion can serve as a stepping stone, a learning experience, or a way to make connections while in school, searching for the perfect position or even while starting a new line or business. The U.S. is home to 73,490 salaried merchandise displayers, up from 62,580 in 2006. They earn a mean average annual salary of $28,860, up from $26,550 in 2006. The highest paid merchandise displayers earn an average salary of $43,940 yearly and the lowest paid displayers average $17,940 per year.
Although the population decreased between 2006 and today, California is still home to the nation’s second largest population of merchandise displayers. Texas has the highest population. California was home to 8,040 merchandise displayers in 2006 averaging $29,180 per year. Today, the state is home to 7,810 salaried merchandise displayers, earning an average salary of $32,340 per year. Some of the best opportunities for merchandise displayers can be found in department stores and clothing stores, as well as in advertising, public relations and related services.