Thanks to having one of the most temperamental climates in the country, outerwear is Washington’s signature style. We’re talking print, bold color, military, safari-style—you name it, Washington’s fashion scene has it. You’ll also see plenty of trendy printed dresses, distressed jeans and screenprint tees, eighty’s-esque garb, and more. And the state’s vibrant fashion scene isn’t limited to just Seattle. Cool fashions can be spotted on the streets of other cities like Redmond, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, and many others.
Diverse shopping venues and annual fashion events are plentiful across the state, starting in Seattle where you’ll find Seattle Fashion Week and hundreds of thrift stores, consignment shops, and vintage boutiques. The city of Seattle has a swanky side too, so if that’s what you’re into, look no further than Downtown Seattle where you’ll find more than 1,000 retailers—many of them high-end. The surrounding area is home to a dozen neighborhoods that offer even more shopping for seasoned boutique lovers.
Head to Spokane where unique boutiques, high-end department stores, and large shopping centers can be found at every turn. You can also travel to pedestrian-friendly Tacoma, where more than a dozen shopping districts welcome thousands of visitor’s daily. Go to Vancouver where shopping venues are endless. Popular Vancouver shopping spots include Downtown Vancouver where you'll find chic boutiques and consignment shops, Uptown Village (local and independent shops), Westfield Vancouver Mall (120+ stores), Downtown Camas (upscale shops), Battle Ground Village (outdoor marketplace), and Battleground Old Town (filled with jewelers, consignment shops, and more)
Besides an exciting statewide fashion scene, Washington is home to a number of top art and design schools that offer everything from certificate programs in fashion to advanced degrees in all areas of the fashion industry. Just a few popular options are Central Washington University in Ellensburg and top-ranked Washington State University. Continue reading to learn more about Washington’s best fashion schools and what they have to offer.
According to the latest report by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Washington is home to 85 Title IV degree-granting universities. Although slightly smaller than the national average, Washington has a diverse collection of schools including large four-year universities, small colleges, technical schools, and top-tier art and design schools. Just a few art and design schools include Cornish College of Arts (Seattle), the University of Washington School of Art (Seattle), and independent art schools such as Gage Academy of Art—an extended learning art center.
Scroll through the list below to review Washington states best options for aspiring fashion designers and where to find them!
Central Washington University – Degrees Offered: B.S. Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising; Apparel Textiles and Merchandising Minor, Apparel Design Minor
Washington State University – Degrees Offered: B.S. Apparel and Textiles with an option in Apparel Design or Merchandising, M.A. Apparel and Textiles with an option in Apparel Design or Merchandising
International Academy of Design & Technology - Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, A.A.S. Fashion Design, B.F.A. Fashion Merchandising, A.A.S. Fashion Merchandising, B.S. Retail Merchandise Management, A.S. Retail Merchandise Management, B.F.A. Interior Design
New York Fashion Academy - Degrees Offered: 18-month Certificate Program in Design and Construction, "the only comprehensive high-fashion curriculum in the Northwest" according to the Academy.
Seattle Central Community College - Degrees Offered: A.A.S. Apparel Design & Development
Seattle Pacific University – Degrees Offered: B.S. Clothing and Textiles with a Fashion Merchandising or Apparel Design Emphasis, Clothing and Textiles Minor, B.S. Interior Design
The Art Institute of Seattle – Degrees Offered: B.F.A. Fashion Design, B.S. Fashion Marketing, A.A. Fashion Design, A.A. Fashion Marketing, Fashion Retailing-Diploma, A.A. Interior Design, B.F.A. Interior Design
More Programs to Consider:
Employment and Salary Trends for Washington State Fashion Designers
Washington State University reports that the state’s fashion and apparel industry is a major contributor to the Washington’s economy, and it is well positioned for future growth. In 2009, the industry here generated revenues of $8.3 billion and employed 34,460 people, mainly in the Seattle area. Of this figure, 220 are salaried fashion designers (up from 120 in 2008) and hundreds more are self-employed.
The state’s salaried fashion designers average $62,020 per year, down from $70,130 in 2008. However, Washington-based fashion designers are still among the highest paid in the country and the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metro Division has the country’s seventh highest employment level for fashion designers and the eighth highest concentration of jobs and location quotients for fashion designers.
Further, Washington is home to 1,940 merchandiser displayers, averaging $31,310 per year. Washington-based merchandise displayers are among the highest paid in the country and salaries are on the rise. In 2008, the state’s 1,560 merchandise displayers earned an average salary of $30,560.
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.
In the state of Washington, jobs in the fashion industry are quite easy to come by—even in smaller cities such as Redmond, Renton, Yakima, Federal Way, and Spokane Valley. However, based on population and the number of businesses, the state’s larger cities (100,000+ population) offer the biggest variety of opportunities. The state’s seven largest cities include Seattle (largest), Spokane (second), Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Kent, and Everett.