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Top 10 Fashion Merchandising Schools in the West - 2014

Written by FS StaffMay 20, 2014

Our 2014 rankings of the Top 10 schools on the West Coast for fashion merchandising. 

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

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.


1. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
The Oregon State University College of Business-School of Design and Human Environment (DHE) offers several impressive undergraduate and graduate degree programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Programs include a BS in Merchandising Management and MA, MS, and PhD degrees in Design and Human Environment (DHE). A Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) with a Concentration in Merchandising Management or Textiles is also on the menu.

Fashion Merchandising program highlights include access to the Historic and Cultural Textile and Apparel Collection, internship opportunities at local, regional, national, and international (London) retailers, and OSU’s prized Study Tour program. The Study Tour program features trips to New York City and MAGIC Market Week in Las Vegas. Also part of the program is the Architecture, Interiors, and Dress of Western Europe Tour where students explore the art, architecture, design, and fashions of London and Bath, England; Paris, and Florence and Rome, Italy.

Established in 1868, Oregon State University (OSU) is home to 27,925 students from 50 states and 100 countries. OSU offers more than 200 degree programs across 12 colleges, 15 Agricultural Experiment Stations, 35 county Extension offices, the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center in Newport, and OSU-Cascades in Bend, Oregon. The school, which sits on a 400-acre campus, is less than 90 miles from quirky Portland, and within 62 miles of the city centers of Eugene and Salem—the second and third largest cities in Oregon.

2. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
The Academy of Art University is home to the University’s dynamic School of Fashion. Offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Merchandising and Fashion Styling, and AA and BFA degrees in Visual Merchandising. The Merchandising, Fashion Styling, and Visual Merchandising programs are available online as well and lead to an Online Award of Completion.

Program highlights include participation in the Biannual Fashion Show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Annual Graduation Fashion Show in San Francisco, and the production of the School’s magazine projects. Students also contribute to the Fashion School Daily Blog, international publications, and fashion websites.

Established in 1929, the Academy of Art University opened its doors to just 50 students. Today, the school is home to more than 18,000 students enrolled in dozens of  Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Associate of Arts (AA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Architecture (MArch) programs. Majors range from Acting to Illustration to Textile Design. Also on the menu are Certificate programs and a large collection of Continuing Art Education courses.

3. Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles, California
Established in 1969, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) is home to 8,000 students enrolled in 22 creative majors leading to an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Students have four campuses to choose from including Los Angeles (home of the famous LA Fashion District which features the largest selection of textiles and notions in the United States), San Francisco, Orange County (Irvine, America’s most fashionable city for 2012), and San Diego.

A favorite with aspiring fashion professionals of all kinds, FIDM-Los Angeles has been the setting for Project Runway and it is currently the home of the latest Project Runway fashion competition Under the Gunn. Several FIDM graduate students became contestants and finalists on Project Runway, and one—Leanne Marshall, became a winner (season five). In addition, several FIDM graduates have appeared on TV shows such as NBC’s Fashion Star and The Bachelorette. Considered the “first fashion college of its kind on the West Coast,” FIDM’s list of offerings for fashion merchandisers is impressive as well.

Majors include Merchandise Product Development, Beauty Industry Merchandising and Marketing, Merchandise Product Development, and Merchandise Marketing. These programs lead to an Associate of Arts (AA) or an AA Professional Designation. The AA Professional Designation is a 51-unit program for students that already hold a college degree. Also on the menu are a BS in Business Management and a BA in Professional Studies for students on the path to business ownership.

FIDM Merchandising program highlights include the Annual DEBUT Runway Show, domestic and international Study Tours to fashion capitals such as New York City, Paris, London, Rome, and Milan, and an excellent employment outlook. According to FIDM, “of the eligible graduates actively seeking work, over 90% of graduates in all majors and programs found employment within six months of graduation.”

4. California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, Pomona, California
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) is part of the 23-campus California State University System. Established in 1938, the school sits on a 1,438-acre campus
just 30 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles. One of only two polytechnic universities in the State of California, Cal Poly Pomona is home to more than 23,000 students enrolled in more than 130 degree programs across eight academic colleges.

Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Agriculture-Department of Apparel Merchandising and Management offers several competitive programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Apparel Merchandising and Management (AMM) with a Fashion Retailing or Apparel Production Option. Emphasis areas include Fashion Design Management and International Apparel Management.

Program highlights include participation in the Annual Fashion Show, access to more than 4,000 apparel companies in the LA area (through relationships with the Department), and access to the latest high-performance materials, equipment, studios, software, and more. Students may also compete for a slot in optional (but highly recommended) Study Abroad Program. Each year, the Department sends a group of students to study in London. During the trip, students have the opportunity to intern at a variety of local studios, retailers, boutiques, and more.

5. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California
The College of Health and Human Services-Department of Family & Consumer Sciences at California State University-Long Beach offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. The Department offers a BA in Fashion Merchandising, a Double Major in Fashion Merchandising and Textiles & Clothing, an MBA with a Specialization in Fashion Merchandising and Design, and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. The Department also offers an MA in Family and Consumer Sciences (MA FCS*) with a Specialization in Fashion Merchandising.

Fashion program highlights include the Annual Fashion Show, Fashion Tours of New York City, Los Angeles and Europe, and Study Abroad experiences at more than 70 overseas universities. Just a few destinations include Australia, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, and Zimbabwe.

California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) dates back to 1949, when it operated under the name Los Angeles-Orange County College. Better known today as CSULB, CSU Long Beach or Cal State Long Beach, the school sits on a 322-acre campus just 22 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles and 15.9 miles from Huntington Beach (Orange County). Home to 35,592 students, CSU Long Beach offers more than 150 programs at all degree levels.

* The MA FCS program is not available for the 2014-2015 school year.

 6. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California
California State University-Northridge (CSUN or Cal State Northridge) is home to the Department of Family & Consumer Services, which offers one of the region’s top fashion programs. Offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include BS and MS degrees in Family and Consumer Sciences–Apparel Design and Merchandising. Program highlights include domestic fashion industry tours, access to the Historic Costume Collection, and membership in the Apparel and Merchandising Student Organization—TRENDS. This organization is responsible for the Departments Annual Fashion Show.

Other program highlights include internship and networking opportunities through association and professional organizations such as International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) and California Fashion Association (CFA), and the opportunity to enter career fields such as Apparel Design, Fashion Consulting, Textile Analysis, Textile Design, Fashion Journalism, Historic Costume and Textile Preservation, Retail Buying, Wardrobe Stylist, and many others.

Established in 1958, California State University-Northridge is home to 36,208 students. The campus sits on 353 park-like acres in the San Fernando Valley—just 16 miles from Los Angeles and the famous LA Fashion District. CSUN offers 64 baccalaureate degrees, 58 master's degrees, 2 professional doctorate degrees, and 55 teaching credential programs across eight academic colleges.

7. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Washington State University (WSU) dates back to 1890 when it was known as Washington Agricultural College and School of Science. The school, which opened with just 59 students, is now home to 27,642 students, four traditional campuses, and a Global Campus (online). Campuses include Pullman (main), Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and WSU Online. WSU offers more than 200 fields of study across 10 colleges and a graduate school.

Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences houses the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT) —home of WSU’s Fashion program. The Department offers the only state-supported 4-year Apparel and Textiles program. Options include BA and MA degrees in Apparel, Merchandising and Textiles with Specialization Tracks in Merchandising and Apparel Design. Just a few required courses for the Merchandising Specialization include Visual Merchandising and Promotion, Merchandise Buying and Planning, Advanced Retail Management, Globalization, Environmental and Ethical Issues in the Fashion Industry, and Business Management Economics.

Program highlights include access to the #3 ranked apparel and textile industry in the U.S. (the State of Washington), Design and Merchandising Competitions, Exhibitions, Guest Speakers, the Annual Moms Weekend Fashion Show, and Internships with Macy’s, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, and more. Students may also become members of the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and/or the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC).  Study Tours to New York and 1,400+ Education Abroad programs are also on the menu. Destinations include fashion centers such as London, Italy, China and many others.

Graduates of Washington State University’s AMDT programs have accepted positions at a number of top companies. Just a few include Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Michael Kors, Juicy Couture, Eddie Bauer, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kenneth Cole, Old Navy, Kohl’s, and many others.

8. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
Established in 1907, The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) is the flagship campus of the 10-campus University of Hawaii System. Established in 1907, UH Manoa opened with just
10 students and 13 faculty in Honolulu’s Thomas Square. Today, the school sits on a 300-acre campus in Mānoa Valley (just 4 miles from Downtown Honolulu and 2.5 miles from Waikiki), and it has a population of more than 20,000 students. UH Manoa offers 200 degree programs across 19 colleges and schools.

The UH Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is home to the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. The Department manages the school’s well-respected Apparel Product Design & Merchandising Program (APDM). Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising and a Minor in Merchandising. The APDM curriculum covers areas such as Retail Buying and Merchandise Management, Merchandise Planning & Control, Design Aesthetics, Small Business Start Up, and International Trade Issues.

Other program highlights include both local and national internship opportunities, as well as a Study Abroad experiences in fashion capitals such as Paris, London, and Rome. APDM graduates have gone on to establish themselves in the world of fashion as Visual Merchandisers, Fashion Buyers, Retail Managers, Customs Brokers, Fashion Promotion and Forecasting Specialists, and more.

9. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
The College of Health and Social Sciences (CHSS) at San Francisco State University is home to the Department of Consumer & Family Studies/Dietetics. The Department offers a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising. Program highlights include internship opportunities at local, regional, and nationwide companies, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and Study Abroad experiences in Paris, Milan, London, Florence, Germany, Australia, China, and more.

Established in 1899 as the San Francisco State Normal School, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is one of 23 campuses in the California State University (CSU) System. It is home to 30,500 students making it one of the largest schools in the U.S. The school sits on a 141-acre campus in a residential area of the city and it has an additional campus in Downtown San Francisco. San Francisco State University houses nine colleges and departments that offer more than 200 academic programs.

10. California State University-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Established in 1947, California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA or CSU Los Angeles) is part of the 23-campus California State University System (CSU), which consists of 447,000 students and 45,000 faculty and staff. The school, which sits on a 200-acre hilltop campus at the eastern edge of Los Angeles, is home to 20,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 6 colleges and 50 academic departments.

CSULA’s College of Arts & Letters-Department of Art-Fashion & Textile Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a four-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a Fashion and Textile Option. Specializations include Fashion Merchandising, Textiles, or Fashion Design. The Department also offers a Master of Arts with a Fashion and Textiles Option and Certificates in Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Design.

Program highlights include participation in the Annual CSULA Fashion Show and other Department-produced fashion shows, membership in the Fashion Association of Design Students, and the opportunity to contribute to the CSULA Fashion Blog. Students also have access to numerous internship opportunities at local, regional, and national fashion companies, and an amazing opportunity to work at The Getty Center.

The Center features graduate and multicultural undergraduate internships. CSU Los Angeles is also in the ideal location for aspiring fashion merchandisers, thanks to unlimited access to the world-famous LA Fashion District and the city’s exceptional fashion scene.

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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