Colorado might not come to mind when you think of fashion, but several cities in the Centennial State have made their mark in the fashion industry. Head over to Colorado Springs where you will find everything from high-end designer boutiques to outlet malls such as Promenade at Briargate, the Outlet Shops at Castle Rock, and the Citadel. In Denver, you’ll find one of the state’s busiest retail venues—Cherry Creek Shopping District. Cherry Creek is home to 169 shops from Burberry to Ralph Lauren and Downtown Denver is home to more than 300 retailers from Ann Taylor to H&M.
Denver, the state’s largest city, is also home to a number of popular fashion events such as the Denver Style Expo (which features multiple runway shows), the Denver Style Awards, and Colorado Fashion Week. In addition to a growing fashion scene, Colorado is home to a number of schools that offer programs for aspiring fashion designers and other artists. Just a few of the state’s top schools for fashion and related careers include Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD)—host of the Paper Fashion Show competition, the Art Institute of Colorado, and Emily Griffith Technical College.
Colorado Fashion Schools
Colorado is home to 86 Title IV degree-granting universities as of 2013. The state’s small, but impressive collection of schools consists of traditional colleges and universities, technical schools, community colleges, art and design schools, and extension centers that offer everything from enrichment courses and certificates to design degrees.
Scroll through the list below to review Colorado’s best options for aspiring fashion designers and what they have to offer.
Art Institute of Colorado – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.A. Fashion Retailing, Fashion Retailing Diploma
Emily Griffith Technical College - Degrees Offered: Fashion Designer Certificate, Apparel Alterations Certificate, and Apparel Pattern Drafting Certificate
Johnson & Wales University – Degrees Offered: B.S. in Fashion-Retailing with concentrations in The Business of Fashion, Fashion Promotion, and Fashion Forecasting, and a BS in Retailing or The Business of Fashion with concentrations in Retail Industry Seminar, Merchandise Buying, and Comparative Retail Strategies
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design – Degrees Offered: M.A. in Design Strategy & Innovation, B.F.A. Interior Design (Online), B.F.A. Illustration (on campus and online), B.F.A. Fine Art (Alternative Materials coursework)
Colorado State University – Degrees Offered: B.S. Apparel and Merchandising with a focus in Apparel Design and Production, B.S. in Apparel Merchandising with a focus in Merchandising, B.S. Interior Design, M.S. Design and Merchandising with a focus in Apparel and Merchandising, M.S. Design and Merchandising with a focus in Interior Design, Minor in Merchandising
More Programs to Consider:
Employment and Salary Trends for Colorado Fashion Designers
As of 2012, Colorado was home to 60 salaried fashion designers. In 2006, the state was home to 40 salaried designers and in 2008, the state was home to 100 salaried fashion designers. While the number of salaried fashion designers has fluctuated over the years, earnings have dipped. In 2006, the average salary for Colorado fashion designers was $58,690. At one time, the average salary was as high as $65,910 per year. In 2012, the average salary was $55,620.
The good news is, the Bureau projects a 10.4 percent increase in employment for fashion designers nationwide for the 2010-2020 decade. Average 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.
It is important to keep in mind that many fashion designers are self-employed. However, the Bureau does not collect data for these individuals. That said, self-employed designers might earn much less or much more than the national average. Some of nation’s top designers earn anywhere from the high six figures to tens of millions of dollars.
Many aspiring fashion designers often work in other related careers while developing their own lines, searching for that perfect design job, or just to get their foot in the door. Aspiring fashion merchandisers may do the same. A promising place to start is in the merchandise display industry. The U.S. is home to 73,490 salaried merchandise displayers, up from 62,580 in 2006. They earn an average mean 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.
With a population of 1,050 displayers today, up from 920 in 2006, Colorado also has a growing merchandise display industry. Salaries are rising as well. In 2006, Colorado-based merchandise displayers averaged $23,820 per year. Today, the average salary is $27,650 per year.
Some of the most lucrative positions for Colorado-based designers can be found in Denver. In fact, in addition to housing most Colorado fashion schools, Denver is home to around 75 percent of the state’s fashion designers. Colorado Springs has the next highest population followed by Aurora, Fort Collins, and Lakewood.