Our 2016 rankings of the Top 10 schools on the West Coast for fashion merchandising.
We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
Founded in 1868, Oregon State University (OSU) is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 280 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 11 academic colleges. The College of Business houses the School of Design & Human Environment (DHE), which offers a BS in Merchandising Management and a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS).
Fashion merchandising 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, all undergraduates may participate in the internship program. Students have interned with major designers, brands and retailers such as Anna Sui, Columbia Sportswear, Nordstrom, and Fred Meyer.
2. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University had a 2015 fall enrollment of 8,813 students enrolled in dozens of art and design programs across several schools. The School of Fashion offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers including AA and BFA degrees in Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Visual Merchandising.
According to the Academy, all 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 at Lincoln Center 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 by major companies such as Adidas, Chanel, Gap, Kate Spade, Levi Strauss & Co., Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and many others.
3. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California
Founded in 1938, California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona) is home to nearly 24,000 students enrolled in hundreds of programs through eight academic colleges and the College of the Extended University. The College of Agriculture, Department of Apparel Merchandising and Management (AMM) offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in AMM with an option in Apparel Production and Fashion Retailing. A Minor and Certificate in AMM are also on the menu.
The AMM degree is one of 12 colleges that have been endorsed by the industry trade association American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). Other program highlights include hands-on lab activities, industry tradeshows and visits, industry internships, and field and study abroad opportunities. Students have completed internships at major companies such as BCBG, GUESS, Nordstrom, Bebe, Forever 21, Quicksilver, Lucky Brand jeans, Disney, Hurley, True Religion, and many others. New York, London, Paris, Milan, Rome, and Florence are just a few of the places past AMM students have studied.
AMM students also have the opportunity to participate in industry competitions, the Annual Fashion Show, AM2—the product line developed by Apparel Production students, and ApparelScapes—AMM’s retail microbusiness established in 2001. According to Cal Poly, ApparelScapes “retails AM2 and BLDG45 branded clothing through its own retail venues on the campus.”
4. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
San Francisco State University (SFSU) was founded in 1899 as San Francisco State Normal School. According to the school’s most recent enrollment report, SFSU is home to 30,500 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs, and 38 certificate programs across seven colleges. The College of Health and Social Sciences is home to the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics, which offers a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising (ADM) with a Fashion Merchandising Emphasis.
Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Italy, London, and Sydney.
5. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Founded in 1890 as Washington’s original land-grant university, Washington State University (WSU) is home to 28,686 students enrolled 95 undergraduate majors and 85 minors, 120 graduate and professional programs, and 100-plus certificates and in-major specializations across 11 colleges. The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) is home to the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT), which offers a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles with a Merchandising option. In collaboration with WSU’s Graduate School, the Department also offers an MA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles.
In addition to study abroad opportunities in more than 70 countries around the world, students have access to the third largest apparel and textile industry in the country and student chapters of two major industry associations—the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). Students also have the opportunity to participate in several campus events including exhibitions, design and merchandising competitions, and the popular Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show.
6. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is the third largest member of the 23-school California State University system. Established in 1949 and home to nearly 37,500 students, CSULB offers more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), Department of Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS), and the College of Business Administration offer several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.
Options include a BA in Family and Consumer Sciences with an Option in Fashion Merchandising, an MBA with a Specialization in Fashion Merchandising and Design, and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. The MBA is a self-paced, 48-unit evening program designed for part-time, full-time, domestic or international students. An undergraduate degree in business is not required to enter this program.
Merchandising program highlights include the Annual Spring Fashion Show (coordinated by Fashion Merchandising Students), Fashion Study Tours of New York City and Paris, and seminars at a variety of apparel manufacturing companies, retailers, textile design companies, and apparel design businesses. Study Tours of New York City offered every January and July and tours of Paris luxury fashion industries offered every June. Fashion merchandising students also have the opportunity to visit museums and other “culturally unique sites.”
7. California State University Northridge, Northridge, California
Founded in 1958 as San Fernando Valley State College, California State University Northridge (CSUN) is home to 38,310 students enrolled in 175 programs across nine colleges. The College of Health and Human Development, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences houses the Apparel Design and Merchandising program. Degree offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include a BS in Family and Consumer Sciences with an Option in Apparel Design and Merchandising-Emphasis Apparel Merchandising.
Program highlights include access to the Historic Costume Collection, internship opportunities at The California Merchandise Mart, design showrooms, textile and apparel manufacturers, major department stores, museums, and textile testing labs, and networking opportunities through the student organization TRENDS. Students also have the opportunity to develop professional relationships through domestic fashion industry tours and organizations such as the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the Fashion Industry Association (FIA).
8. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
Founded in 1907, the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) is home to 18,865 students enrolled in more than 230 programs across 14 colleges and schools. The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Department of Family and Consumer Sciences houses the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) Program, which leads to a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising with a Merchandising or Fashion Design Emphasis. A Minor in Merchandising is also available. Program highlights include optional membership in the Fashion Club and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.
9. California State University - Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Founded in 1947 as Los Angeles State College, California State University – Los Angeles (Cal State LA or CSU LA) is home to 24,488 students enrolled in more than 60 degree programs across eight colleges. The College of Arts & Letters is home to the Department of Art, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BA in Art with an Option in Fashion and Textiles/Specialization Fashion Merchandising, MA and MFA degrees in Art with an Option in Fashion and Textiles, and undergraduate Certificates in Fashion Merchandising and Retail Professional Development.
Program highlights include internship opportunities at the Getty Center, Alternative Apparel Los Angeles and more, participation in the Annual Senior Fashion Show, access to International Programs with more than 50 universities in 18 countries, and participation in the Fashion Association of Design Students.
10. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington
Founded in 1891 by the Free Methodist Church of North America, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) is home to 4,175 students enrolled in 164 undergraduate majors, minors and concentrations, and 65 masters programs and concentrations, doctoral degrees, and graduate certificates across seven colleges schools. The College of Arts and Sciences: Division of Sciences houses the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), which offers BA degrees in Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and/or Interior Merchandising. A Minor in Merchandising is also available.
Program highlights include easy access to a number of apparel company headquarters such as Nordstrom Product Group, REI, Eddie Bauer, and Union Bay, “strong connections” with the apparel industry, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) dual degree program, and study abroad opportunities in 15 countries.