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Top 10 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges on the West Coast – 2017

Written by FS StaffMay 22, 2017

Our 2017 rankings of the Top 10 fashion design schools on the West Coast. 

We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California 

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) offers a BFA in Fashion Design with options in Sustainability or Costume Design. The Costume Design Emphasis focuses on “new directions in character development for film, television, live performance, concept art, and video,” according to OTIS. The Sustainability Minor helps students “develop strategies and systems, as applicable to art and design, which can meet the needs of current generations without compromising those of future generations.” The Continuing Education Department offers a number of single courses for aspiring fashion designers as well. Offerings include Fashion Design, Textile/Surface Design, Jewelry Design, and Illustration.  

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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OTIS Fashion students are mentored by major brands and designers such as Ruben & Isabel Toledo, A|X, Halston, Billabong, Nike, BCBG, Hurley, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Patagonia, and Johnny Was. Internship opportunities with major brands such as Tahari, GAP, Bob Mackie, Armani Exchange, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and many others provide real world experience, while fashion show events and other prospects offer the opportunity for students to display their designs. The Annual Scholarship and Benefit Fashion Show and the Nieman Marcus window in Beverly Hills are just a few options. 

About OTIS: Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was founded in 1918 when General Harrison Gray Otis—publisher of the Los Angeles, “bequeathed his L.A. home to the city for the advancement of the arts.” The school is home to nearly 1,100 students from 43 states and 24 countries, enrolled in more than a dozen art and design programs. 

2. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California 

The School of Fashion at the Academy of Art University offers the following programs for aspiring fashion designers: an AA in Fashion, a BFA in Fashion with an Emphasis in Fashion Design, Textile Design, or Knitwear Design, BFA degrees in Fashion Product Development and Costume Design, a Certificate in Fashion, and an Online Award of Completion in Fashion Design. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Fashion and Costume Design. 

According to the Academy, fashion students have access to facilities that feature “the same leading-edge equipment and resources that top fashion houses enjoy.” Internship opportunities are also available as well as the opportunity to participate in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City and the Annual Graduation Fashion Show in San Francisco. According to the Academy, “the show has been heralded as the ‘Fashion Week of San Francisco’ by both local and national members of the fashion industry. 

Graduates of the Academy of Art University have been hired at major companies such as Gap, Kate Spade, Levi Strauss & Co., Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, and many others. 

About Academy of Art University: Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school had a 2016 fall enrollment of 7,959 students. Degree programs are available in all areas of areas of art and design. 

3. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California 

California College of the Arts (CCA) offers BFA degrees in Fashion Design, Jewelry/Metals Arts, and Textiles. Program highlights include CCA’s internship program, which offers the opportunity to work at San Francisco Bay Area companies such as Levi Strauss & Co, Athleta, and TEA Collection, the opportunity to participate in the Annual Fashion Show, and unique study abroad opportunities in places such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Italy. 

Many CCA graduates have found success in the world of design. Some have started their own businesses, while others have landed positions with major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, Athleta, Forever 21, John Varvatos, Michael Kors, GUESS, Kate Spade, and many others. 

About CCA: California College of the Arts was founded in 1907. The school is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in 30-plus degree programs. 

4. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, California 

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) offers a variety of unique programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BA in Design, a BS in Apparel Technical Design, and AA degrees in Fashion Design, Fashion Knitwear Design, Jewelry Design, Merchandise Product Development, and Textile Design. Associate of Arts Advanced Study Programs (ADV) include Advanced Fashion Design, Film and TV Costume Design, Footwear Design, International Manufacturing & Product Development, Menswear, and Textile Production and Development.  

In addition to a wide variety of program offerings, FIDM fashion students have the opportunity to participate in the internship program as well as annual study tours that will take them to fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, and more. Students may also participate in the annual DEBUT Runway Show, which is streamed online and televised. 

About FIDM: Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) was founded in 1969. It is home to 5,300 students across four campuses in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine, California. The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS in the areas of fashion, graphics, interior design or entertainment.  

5. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 

Oregon State University (OSU) is home to the College of Business, which houses the School of Design & Human Environment (DHE). DHE has several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a BS in Apparel Design with Specializations in Active Sportswear, Protective Clothing for Industry, Functional Apparel (for people with physically challenging conditions) and Costuming for the Theater. Graduate options include a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) and an MS or MA in Design with Concentrations in Textiles or Human Behavior in the Near Environment (Apparel and Housing). The MS and MA programs also offer a Concentration in Design and the Near Environment (Apparel Design and Interior Design). 

Fashion design students have the opportunity to learn from the DHE Historic and Cultural Textile and Apparel Collection, which includes approximately 2,000 Euro-American and ethnic apparel pieces and other textile products. In addition, teaching and assistantships are offered to graduate students, and all undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in the internship program. Students have interned with major designers, brands and retailers such as Anna Sui, Columbia Sportswear, Nordstrom, and Fred Meyer. 

About OSU: Oregon State University was founded in 1868. The school is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 280 degree programs. Programs are available through 11 academic colleges. 

6. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) is home to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Here, the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences manages the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) Program. Degree options include a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising with a Fashion Design or Merchandising Emphasis. 

According to the school, “the curriculum teaches cutting-edge skills in computer 2-D and 3-D fashion design; apparel product development; entrepreneurship; retailing; and consumer behavior, attitudes, and consumption of textile and apparel products around the world.” Program highlights include optional membership in the Fashion Club and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. Graduates of the program are prepared to compete for positions such as Textile and Fashion Designer, Technical Designer, Visual Merchandiser, Costume Designer, Curator, and Fashion Forecaster. 

About UH Manoa: The University of Hawaii at Manoa was founded in 1907. The school is home to 13,689 undergraduate students and 5,176 graduate students enrolled in more than 230 programs. Degree programs are offered through 14 colleges and schools. 

7. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California 

San Francisco State University (SFSU) is home to the College of Health and Social Sciences, which houses the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics. Program options here include a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising with an Emphasis in Apparel Design and an MA in Family & Consumer Sciences that can be developed around Apparel studies. Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Italy, London, and Sydney. 

About SFSU: San Francisco State University was founded in 1899 as San Francisco State Normal School. According to the school’s most recent enrollment report, SFSU is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs, and 38 certificate programs. Programs are available through seven colleges. 

8. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 

Washington State University (WSU) is home to the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Science (CAHNRS). The CAHNRS Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT) has several program options for aspiring fashion designers. They include a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles with a Specialization Track in Apparel Design and an MA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles offered in collaboration with the Department of AMDT and the Graduate School. 

Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in more than 70 countries, access to the third largest apparel and textile industry in the country, and optional membership in student chapters of two major industry associations—the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). Study tours to places such as Los Angeles are also on the menu as well as the opportunity to contribute to Cougar Couture—WSU’s AMDT Newsletter. Students may participate in several campus events including exhibitions, design and merchandising competitions, and the popular Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show. 

About WSU: Washington State University was founded in 1890 as Washington’s original land-grant university. The school’s main campus is located in Pullman, Washington, and it has regional campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland), Vancouver, and Everett. WSU-Pullman is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in 95 undergraduate majors and 85 minors, 120 graduate and professional programs, and 100-plus certificates and in-major specializations across 11 colleges. 

9. Beverly Hills Design Institute, Beverly Hills, California 

Beverly Hills Design Institute (BHDI) is the only institution in the U.S. that offers AA and BS degrees in Pattern Design and 1/3 of its curriculum in TRENDS, “to learn how to recognize them, know their cycles and predict them.” In addition to Pattern Design, BHDI offers AA and BA degrees in Fashion Design. On its website, the school also lists a BA in Pattern Design. Per BHDI, Pattern Design and Fashion Design are taught separately (like in Europe) “to fulfill the fashion industry’s demand for highly specialized professionals.” Both programs end with a fashion show and a Gala. 

About BHDI: Beverly Hills Design Institute is the only French Haute Couture academy in the U.S. It is located near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Rodeo Drive. This offers easy access to LA’s art and luxury design scenes, including shops such as Gucci, Versace, Prada, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and others. 

10. California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 

California State University – Los Angeles (Cal State LA or CSULA) is home to the College of Arts and Letters. The College houses The ART Department, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BA or MA in Art with a Fashion, Fiber, and Materials Option or a Fashion and Textiles Option. Students may select one of three Specializations within the options: Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, or Textiles. 

A Certificate in Fashion, Fiber and Materials is also on the menu.  Students in all programs have access to internship and study abroad opportunities as well as participation in a number of fashion show events. For example, the student organization Made at CSULA sponsors a fashion show every spring quarter and the Department hosts an Annual Student Fashion Show and other events. 

About Cal State LA: California State University – Los Angeles was founded in 1947. The school is home to nearly 28,000 students enrolled in hundreds of programs across seven colleges and The Honors College.