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Fashion Schools in Virginia

Written by FS StaffAugust 14, 2013

The state of Virginia has a growing population of more than 8.1 million residents that pump well over $105 million a year into the state’s retail industry. Virginia’s casual but stylish fashion scene features upscale brands ranging from Gucci, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton to hip, but affordable retailers such as Express and H&M. Virginia is also home to hundreds of independent boutiques, consignment stores, resale shops, and more. Some of the best places for fashion finds are Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, Richmond, Alexandria, Hampton, Vienna, McLean, and Newport News—home of the famous Newport News catalog.

The Old Dominion State is home to eight cites with a population over 100,000. Most of these cities (and several smaller cities and towns) host Fashion Week events. Just a few include Virginia Fashion Week (Williamsburg), RVA Fashion Week (Richmond, VA), Virginia Full-Figured Fashion Week (Virginia Beach), and Northern Virginia Fashion Week (NOVAFW). Set in Alexandria, the 2010 NOVAFW event featured collections by talented students of the Art Institute of Washington, Marymount University, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Including VCU and Marymount University, Virginia is home to 129 Title IV degree-granting schools, which is higher than the national average of 90. Many of these schools offer excellent programs for aspiring artists and designers, including fashion designers. Continue reading to learn more about Virginia’s fashion schools and what they have to offer.

Virginia Fashion Schools

Virginia’s fashion schools offer programs ranging from Fashion Design to Product Development to Retail Management. Some schools offer a certificate or two-year degree, while others offer bachelor’s degrees and even advanced degrees in fashion. They can be found all over the state from Arlington to Blacksburg to Virginia Beach. Scroll through the list below to review Virginia’s most popular options for aspiring fashion designers and where to find them.

Marymount University – Degrees Offered: B.A. Fashion Design, B.A. Fashion Merchandising, B.A. Interior Design

The Art Institute of Washington, Arlington – Degrees Offered: B.A. Fashion & Retail Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma, B.F.A. Interior Design

Virginia Tech University – Degrees Offered: B.S. with options in Apparel Product Development or Merchandising Management

Radford University – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Design Culture, B.S. Design Management, B.S. Merchandising for Design, Minor Design Appreciation, M.F.A. Design Thinking, B.F.A. Interior Design

Virginia Commonwealth University – Degrees Offered: B.A. Fashion Merchandising, B.F.A. Fashion Design, M.F.A. Fine Arts with Specializations in Fibers and Jewelry & Metalworking

The Art Institute of Washington, Northern Virginia – Degrees Offered: B.A. Fashion & Retail Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma, B.F.A. Interior Design

Virginia Beach
The Art Institute of Virginia Beach – Degrees Offered: B.A. Fashion & Retail Management, Fashion Retailing Diploma, B.F.A. Interior Design

Northern Virginia Community College
Degrees Offered: Retail Management Career Studies Certificate, A.A.S. Interior Design

More Programs to Consider:

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Quick Fact
In 2017, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma*.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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Employment and Salary Trends for Virginia Fashion Designers

In 2012, Virginia was home to 50 salaried fashion designers. This figure hasn’t changed much since 2006, but the average salary has. In 2006, Virginia-based fashion designers averaged $54,150 per year. Today the average salary is $45,540. It is important to keep in mind that many fashion designers are self-employed. However, the Bureau does not collect data for these individuals. This means, Virginia likely ahs a higher population of fashion designers that may be independent contractors (for one company), freelancers, boutique owners, studio owners, and other entrepreneurs. These individuals may earn more, the same, or less than national average. However, some of nation’s top designers earn millions of dollars per year.

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.

Many aspiring fashion designers often work in other related careers during their undergraduate years, while developing their own lines or starting a business, or while searching for that perfect position. Some use other related careers to get a foot in the door. A popular related career is 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.

Virginia has a growing merchandise display industry. In 2006, the state was home to 1,140 merchandise displayers, averaging $23,910 per year. Today, the state is home to 1,770 merchandise displayers averaging $27,830 per year. Some of the best Virginia cities for aspiring merchandise displayers and fashion designers are principal cities such as Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, Richmond, Newport News, Alexandria, and Hampton. Roanoke, Portsmouth, Vienna, and McLean are well worth exploring as well.