Our 2014 rankings of the top 15 fashion merchandising schools in the South.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Auburn University was established in 1856 as East Alabama Male College. It is home to more than 25,000 students, enrolled in 140+ degree programs across 13 colleges and schools, and a graduate school. The College of Human Sciences-Department of Consumer and Design Sciences (CADS) offers several undergraduate and advanced degree programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Many of these programs combine elements of Fashion Design, Merchandising, and Management, but students may choose to focus in an area specific to their education and career goals.
Offerings include a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design, and Production Management (BS-AMDP), a Master of Science in Consumer and Design Sciences Apparel and Interiors (MS-CADS), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Consumer and Design Sciences (PhD-CADS). Focus areas for the BS-AMDP include Apparel Merchandising and Apparel Design and Production Management.
Program highlights include Study Tours of Atlanta, New York and other cities, speaking events featuring professionals from the textile, apparel, and retailing fields, and a mandatory internship. Speakers include corporate CEO’s, internationally recognized designers, product developers, store managers, merchandisers, and industry representatives. The mandatory ten-week professional internship occurs during the final year of study.
This semester-long program takes place in the small town of Ariccia, Italy located in the Alban Hills near Rome. AU Study Abroad opportunities give students “a global perspective on international trade laws, fashion trends, and the impact of culture and economics on consumer preferences,” says AU. Study Abroad opportunities are available as well and may include destinations such as Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, Rome, Venice, Chile, New Zealand, and more.
2. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
The College of Family and Consumer Sciences-Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors (TMI) is home to the University of Georgia Fashion Program. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Merchandising with an optional Global Soft Goods Merchandising and Manufacturing Emphasis, a Minor in Fashion Merchandising and a unique Master’s program in Merchandising or International Trade. A Ph.D. in International Trading and Textile Sciences is also on the menu.
Program highlights include access to state-of-the-art-labs, internship with local companies such as Nicole Milles, Macy’s, Escada, and Marc Jacobs, Study Abroad experiences in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Ghana, and access to the Historic Clothing and Textile Collection. The Collection consists of more than 1,500 garments, accessories, and textiles dating from the 1800s to the 1900s.
Graduates of UGA’s TMI program have found employment with top companies such as Bloomingdales, Gap Inc., Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Ralph Lauren, Talbots, Bergdorf Goodman, Atlanta Apparel Mart and more.
Established in 1785, the University of Georgia (UGA) sits on a 759-acre main campus along the banks of the 220-mile long Oconee River. The school is home to the Peabody Awards, Georgia's State Museum of Art, the State Botanical Garden, the State Museum of Natural History, and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. UGA is also home to 34,536 students enrolled in well over 200 fields of study, across 17 colleges and schools.
3. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Established around 1851, Florida State University (FSU) is one of largest and oldest universities in the State of Florida. The school, which sits on 1,550 acres, including the 451.6-acre main campus in Downtown Tallahassee, is home to more than 40,000 students enrolled in 275+ programs across 16 colleges. The College of Human Services-Department of Retail, Merchandising & Product Development (RMPD) offers nearly 800 majors making it one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S.
Degree options for fashion merchandisers include a BS in Retail Merchandising and Product Development (RMPD), an MS in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising with a Major in Global Merchandising and Product Development, and a Graduate Certificate in Retail Merchandising.
Highlights include access to Florida’s second largest employment industry—retailing, access to cutting-edge industry technology, and membership in valuable student organizations such as the Collegiate Merchandising Association (CMA) and Fashion Inc.
Thanks to Department ties with more than 200 companies, agencies, and trade organizations, students also have access to hundreds of internship opportunities. Past internships include Dillard’s, Macy’s, Chico’s, American Eagle, Burberry, Escada, Marie Claire, AmericasMart, the Home Shopping Network, and more. Study Abroad opportunities are also on the menu through Florida State University’s International Programs (FSU IP). The school has permanent study centers in the fashion capitals of London and Florence as well as Valencia and Panama. Students may also have the opportunity to study in China, France, Peru, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and many other exciting places.
4. University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
Founded in 1801, the University of South Carolina (USC) sits on a 570-acre main campus and it is home to 31,964 students. USC offers 324 unique degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) offers one of the largest Retailing Programs in the nation. Home to 2,346 students, the College also offers 11 other programs across four departments and seven centers and institutes.
The Department of Retailing offers a BS in Retailing with Specializations in Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management. A Minor in Retailing is also on the menu as well as a competitive Master of Retailing. Program highlights include participation in USC Fashion Week, Field Study in New York, Study Abroad in Paris, Florence, Venice, London, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and paid Retail Management and Fashion Merchandising internships. Nearly all students receive permanent placement offers at the end of the internship.
5. University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (UKAg) is home to the School of Human Environmental Sciences. The School houses the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion design. Options include a BS and an MS in Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles (MAT). Program highlights include industry-focused (IF) coursework in Brand Management, Consumerism, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Market Trends, Retailing, Sourcing, Textiles and Visual Merchandising.
Students may also take IF courses such as Electronic Retailing, Merchandise Planning and Control, and Merchandising Strategy Analysis. MAT Students have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Fashion Show, in experiential education projects such as The Kentucky Plaid Project, and they may join the MAT Club. Students also have access to the Betty D. Eastin Historic Costume Collection, which consists of 2,500 artifacts from 1870 to the 1970s, the Textile Testing Lab, and a mandatory 8-week internship at a national or international firm.
Study Abroad opportunities are also on the menu. MAT students have studied in fashion capitals such as Paris, London, and Florence, as well as Panama and Scotland. The program also sponsors domestic study experiences in New York.
Established in 1865, the University of Kentucky (UK) is home to 29,385 students. The school, which sits on an 800-plus acre campus, is just 78.2 miles from the state’s largest city—Louisville.
UK offers more than 150 programs across 19 colleges and schools.
6. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The Fashion Program at Louisiana State University is part of the College of Agriculture-School of Human Ecology. Offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Textiles, Apparel, & Merchandising with a Concentration in Merchandising, Textile Science or Apparel Design. A Textiles, Apparel, & Merchandising Minor is also on the menu. All students will complete an internship at a local company or retailers in New York or Los Angeles and most will participate in the Study Abroad Program.
The program offers access to study experiences in unique destinations such as Ecuador, China, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and many others. Upon completion of the merchandising program, the internship, and an optional Study Abroad experience, students will be prepared to work with textile and apparel manufacturers, retailers, media firms, testing laboratories, or government agencies. Many graduates go on open their own boutiques, studios, or other businesses.
Established in 1853, Louisiana State University (LSU) sits on a 2,000-acre campus in the City of Baton Rouge—just a few miles from historic Downtown Baton Rouge and 80 miles from festive New Orleans. The school is home to than 29,000 students enrolled in more than 200 majors across 15 colleges and schools.
7. Miami International University of Art & Design, Miami, Florida
Miami University of Art & Design (MIU) Fashion Merchandising graduates are routinely hired for positions such as Buyer, Stylist, Visual Merchandiser, Retail Management, Fashion Show and Event Producer, Trend Reporter, Marketing Director, Product Developer, Designer Representative, and many more. Many of these students have earned an AA or a BA in Fashion Merchandising at MIU.
Program highlights include access to Miami’s thriving fashion scene and campus amenities such as state-of-the-art computer labs and studios, a library and media center, an 800 square foot Main Gallery and a top-rated Career Services Department. The Department, which hosts a quarterly job fair, attracts some of the best local, regional, and nationwide companies.
Established in 1965, Miami International University of Art & Design offers several dozen programs in the areas of Design, Media Arts, Culinary Art, and Fashion. Home to more than 2,000 students from 60+ countries, MIU has additional branches in Tampa and Jacksonville.
8. O’More College of Design, Franklin, Tennessee
Established in 1970, O’More College of Design is home to around 200 students enrolled in BFA Programs in five areas including Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, and Interactive Design. Program highlights include the Eloise Student Fashion Show, O’More Design Week, and exciting internship and Travel Opportunities to New York, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, and Spain.
Internship opportunities run the gamut from Vera Wang, Otis James, Kay Unger, Christian Siriano, and Gustavo Cadile, to publications such as Esquire Magazine, and companies and studios such as Teresa Hays Textile Studio, TJX Companies, Inc. (the brains behind TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and more), and VF Imagewear. In addition to many of the companies listed above, O’More Fashion Merchandising graduates have accepted positions at companies such as Dolly Parton Enterprises, Disney Event Group, and Fossil.
9. Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Fashion Merchandising and a Fashion Retailing Diploma. Students wishing to enhance their education and career opportunities have several additional options to consider. Students may choose the AS or BS in Fashion Design or take additional courses offered through these programs.
Fashion and Merchandising program highlights include access to state of the art software, equipment, and studios, membership in the Fashion Club, the Illustration Club or the Photography Club, quarterly internship and job fairs, and more. Upon completion of AI’s Fashion and Merchandising programs, many graduates have found employment with major designers and companies such as Perry Ellis, Pavlik Design Team, and Patty Daniels Photography.
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (AI Fort Lauderdale) opened in 1968 with Diploma programs in Interior Design, Commercial Art, and Fashion Illustration. Today, the school is home to more than 3,000 students and it offers several dozen AS and BS degrees in Design, Media Arts, Culinary Arts, and Fashion, as well as Diplomas in selected areas.
10. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University’s College of Human Ecology-Department of Interior Design and Merchandising offers several impressive programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Merchandising with a Fashion or Interiors Concentration and a Minor in Merchandising. Program highlights include student resources such as state-of-the-art design studios, textile labs, and a computer-aided-design (CAD) lab, Study Trips to fashion companies and apparel markets, and Study Abroad in places such as Paris, Argentina, Tokyo, Italy, Germany, and Mexico.
Merchandising graduates have accepted positions with major companies and publications such as Vogue, Valentino NY, Ann Taylor, Burberry, Kate Spade, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, H&M, Crate and Barrel, Gap, J. Crew, and more.
Established in 1907, East Carolina University (ECU) is one of 17 universities in the North Carolina State University System. When it opened, the school sat on just over 40 acres and it was home to just 174 students. Today, ECU is sits on more than 1,400 acres and it is home to 26,887 students enrolled in more than 150 programs across 20 colleges and schools.
11. Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia
Georgia Southern University’s School of Human Ecology-College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS) is home to the popular Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design program. Offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include a BS in Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design. Program highlights include participation in field experiences, the GSU Fashion Internship Program, and Study Tours to fashionable cities such as Atlanta and America’s fashion capital—New York City. Students also have the option to enroll in GSU’s Study Abroad program. Past Study Abroad locations include fashion capitals such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid. Students have also studied in Scotland, Ireland, and Russia.
The Fashion Merchandising program at GSU prepares students for a variety of careers such as Merchandising Analyst or Researcher, Visual Merchandiser, Stylist, Fashion Forecaster, Buyer, Apparel Product Engineer, Fashion Consultant, Department Manager and More. Students looking to become fashion entrepreneurs might consider the GSU MBA Program, which is available on-campus or online.
Established in 1906, Georgia Southern University (GSU) sits on a 900-acre campus just 55 miles from Savannah, Georgia. The school is home to more than 19,000 students enrolled in
100+ degree programs across more than a dozen colleges.
12. West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
Founded in 1867, West Virginia University sits on a 1,456-acre campus in the 12th overall “Hottest Small City” by Inc. Home to 29,466 students from across the U.S. and 113 nations, WVU offers 191 degree programs across 17 colleges and schools. This includes Potomac State College of WVU and WVU Institute of Technology.
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Design at WVU is home to the Division of Design & Merchandising (DDM). The Division offers a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) with a Fashion Design Track and an MS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM). Also on the menu are Minors in Fashion Merchandising and Family and Consumer Science (FCS). The Minor in FCS offers the opportunity to study Merchandising, Fashion Design, and Interior Design.
West Virginia University’s Study Abroad program is a requirement for Interior Design students and optional for Fashion Merchandising students. However, the Division encourages all design students to participate. Disegno Italia is WVU’s signature 4-week, 6-credit summer program in the fashion capital of Milan and Tuscany. Students in their sophomore, junior, or senior year are eligible to apply.
13. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Established in 1911, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) began with 100 acres, 125 students and 19 instructors. Today, MTSU sits on a 1,000-acre campus that accommodates a population of 24,000 students and 900+ faculty. The oldest and largest public university in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, MTSU also houses nine colleges that offer more than 240 programs.
Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Human Sciences offers several respected programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS or a Minor in Textiles, Merchandising, & Design (TMD or TXMD) with a Concentration in Fashion Merchandising. A Minor in TXMD is also on the menu. Program highlights include internship opportunities with major worldwide brands and local retailers, participation in fashion shows and other fashion events, and Study Abroad in China, Egypt, Italy, and Paris.
Fashion Merchandising students also have their pick of short (but valuable) Study Tours.
TXMD Study Tours feature exploration of fashion capitals such as New York, London, and Paris. Tours typically last 5 to 10 days or more, depending on the destination and program.
14. Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina
Meredith College is home four schools including the School of Arts & Humanities, the School of Business, the School of Education, Health & Human Sciences, and the School so Natural and Mathematical Science. The School of Education, Health & Human Sciences houses the Human Environmental Sciences Department—home of the Fashion Merchandising program. Offerings include a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Fashion Merchandising and Design with a Concentration in Merchandising or Design. Minors in Merchandising and Fashion Design are also on the menu.
Program highlights include internship opportunities with top designers, retailers, and publications such as Michael Kors, Vogue Magazine, Ella Moss, and America’s Mart, frequent trips to the Garment District in New York, the Apparel Mart in Atlanta, and the National Fashion Job Fair in Dallas, and Study Abroad experiences in Paris, Italy, the UK, Africa, East Asia, South America, and more.
Recent Meredith graduates hold a variety of positions in the fashion industry and many are entrepreneurs. Graduates have accepted positions at places such as Belk Store Services, Cato Fashions, Bloomingdales New York, Findings Wholesaler and Meg’s Place in Burlington, NC (owner).
Chartered in 1891 as an independent, private women’s college, Meredith College began with just 200 students. Today, the school is home to a co-ed population of 1,872 students enrolled in more than 85 academic programs. Situated on a 225-acre campus in the heart of Raleigh, Meredith College is conveniently located just 21 miles from Durham, 68 miles from Greensboro and 129 miles from Charlotte.
15. Brenau University, Gainesville, Georgia
The College of Fine Arts & Humanities-Art & Design Department at Brenau University offers a BA and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. Merchandising students may also choose a Minor in Fashion Design to enhance their education and career opportunities. Program highlights include internship opportunities at local, regional, and national companies, participation in design events and competitions, and an exciting Study Abroad Program.
Study Abroad experiences are optional, but the Department highly recommends participation. These experiences will help enhance the Fashion Program and students’ career opportunities. Past locations include France, Belgium, China, Spain, the UK, and Greece. Graduates of the Fashion Merchandising program will be prepared to pursue careers as Buyers, Retail Managers, Visual Merchandisers, Marketers, Stylists, and many others.
Established in 1878, Brenau University sits on a 43-acre campus just 45 miles northeast of Atlanta. The school has a population of 2,777 students enrolled in more than 100 academic programs. The main campus in Gainesville houses four colleges and a Graduate school. Brenau has additional campuses in Norcross (North Atlanta Campus), Fairburn (South Atlanta Campus), Martinez (Augusta Campus), and Kings Bay (Kings Bay Campus).