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Top 15 Fashion Schools in the South

Written by FS StaffMay 21, 2013

Each day we receive emails from aspiring fashion designers asking us for advice as to which fashion design schools are the “best” in the US, a given state, or in a particular area of the country.  As such advice is difficult to provide on an individual basis, we have instead created this list of the Top 15 Fashion School Programs in the South. For the record, we define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas. 

In preparing this list, we considered over 200 schools in the US that offer fashion programs. Our goal with this list is to give fashion design students a starting point to identify programs of interest and to provide some insight as to the quality and quantity of fashion design programs available to them. In the end, choosing a college is one of life's biggest decisions and we endeavor to help students make an informed decision about the school they choose to attend. 

The criteria we used in making this list consists of the following, in no particular order: academic reputation, admission selectivity, depth and breadth of the program and faculty, and geographic location as it relates to cities considered to be fashion industry "meccas".  More info on our criteria.

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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Like any list, ours is not perfect and is open for debate. There is no single opinion that trumps all when it comes to which school is the “best”. Ultimately every student has different needs regarding the type and academic rigor of a fashion design program, campus culture, as well as cost, lifestyle, and career focus. Our hope is that this list is a starting point for students to discover the schools that are the best fit for them. 

1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to a large collection of impressive programs from Architecture and Interior Design to Fashion Design. SCAD’s Fashion Program is so impressive, that it ranked number one by readers of Huffington Post in a poll of the top fashion colleges and universities in the U.S. In addition, the Fashion Program partners with ELLE Magazine for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC, and many SCAD students have been chosen for mentoring by renowned designers such as Zac Posen, Chris Benz, and Catherine Malandrino.

Established in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design is a private, nonprofit institution that houses nine schools, offering more than 40 majors, 60+ minors, and seven degree types. SCAD is home to more than 11,000 students and it has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school also offers a number of programs online such as a BFA in Graphic Design, a MFA in Illustration, and an MA in Motion Media Design and Interior Design. 

One of SCAD’s top five programs, however, is the Fashion Program. The program is available at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. Students may enroll in a BFA, MA, or MFA degree program in Fashion, a BFA in Fashion Marketing and Management, or an MA or MFA in Luxury and Fashion Management. Students may also Minor in Fashion or Fashion Marketing and Management. All programs offer internship opportunities with major designers and companies such as Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein BCBG, Betsey Johnson, Bergdorf Goodman, Juicy Couture, Martha Stewart, Helmut Lang, and many others.

2. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Auburn University was established in 1856 as East Alabama Male College. The school underwent several name changes beginning in 1872, when it became Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, and again in 1899 when the school became Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Alabama Polytechnic Institute became Auburn University in 1960. Today, Auburn University is home to 13 schools and more than 25,000 students, enrolled in over than 140 degree programs.

The Auburn University College of Consumer and Design Sciences offers several undergraduate and advanced degrees for students interested in the world of Fashion. The College offers a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design, and Production Management (BS-AMDP) with options in Apparel Merchandising and Apparel Design and Production Management. Also offered are a Master of Science in Consumer and Design Sciences Apparel and Interiors (MS-CADS), a Doctor of Philosophy in Consumer and Design Sciences (PhD-CADS), and a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design (BS-INDS).

All Apparel and Design programs include a ten-week professional internship during the final year of study. Fashion and Interior Design students also have access to the Joseph S. Bruno - Auburn Abroad in Italy program. This semester-long program is based in the small town of Ariccia, Italy located in the Alban Hills near Rome.

3. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
In 1785, Georgia became the first state to charter a state-supported university—the University of Georgia. Situated on the banks of the 220-mile long Oconee River, the University of Georgia (UGA) was officially established in 1801 and graduated its first class in 1804. Today, UGA consists of seventeen colleges and schools, with a student body of more than 34,475 students, enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and 137 graduate fields of study.

The College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors (TMI) is home to UGA’s Fashion Program. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Merchandising with an optional Global Soft Goods Merchandising and Manufacturing emphasis, a BS in Furnishings and Interiors, and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. Students may also earn a Master’s Degree in Merchandising, International Trade, Historic Dress, Textile Science, or Sustainable Interior Environments. A Ph.D. in International Trading and Textile Sciences is also on the menu.

All fashion students have access to the Department's Historic Clothing and Textile Collection, which consists of more than 1,500 garments, accessories, and textiles dating from the 1800s to the 1900s. Students are also eligible for internship opportunities with local and out-of-state companies, as well as study abroad opportunities in Australia, China, Ghana, Japan, London, and more. The University of Georgia ranks 5th nationally by short-term duration of study abroad.

44. University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
Established in 1865 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky is home to two schools, 16 colleges, and a graduate school. This public university is home to 28,928 students, enrolled in more than 200 academic programs.

The College of Agriculture, School of Human Environmental Sciences is home to the Department of Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles. The Department “offers the Bachelor of Science in Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles” and “the graduate program offers either a Master of Science (MS) in Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles.” All undergraduate majors must take MAT 490—the Department’s undergraduate internship course. This required 6-credit hour summer course must be taken at end of the junior or senior year.

Internship opportunities are available at top companies such as Guess (corporate), Gap, Dillard’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Nordstrom, The Limited, Talbots, Victoria’s Secret, White House Black Market, Anthropologie, and many others. In addition to exciting internship opportunities, UK recently announced its New Delhi Internship Program, which allows students to earn 10 credit hours overseas.

5. University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) was established in 1891. The school opened in 1892 with just 198 students and 15 faculty members. Situated on 10 acres, around 28 miles from Winston-Salem, the University of North Carolina had just three departments: Commercial, Domestic Science, and Pedagogy.

Today, the University is home to seven academic schools, two colleges, and a graduate school along with more than 18,600 students and 2,500 faculty and staff. The campus has grown to 210 acres, the number of offerings stands at 145+, and the school is now the largest state university in the Piedmont Triad.

The Bryan School of Business and Economics is home to UNCG’s Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS). The Department offers undergraduate concentrations in Retailing and Consumer Studies (BS), Apparel Product Design (BS), and Global Apparel and Related Industry Studies (BS). Advanced programs include a Master of Science (MS) and a PhD in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies.

During the final years of study, undergraduate students must complete an internship. The Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies sponsor’s opportunities at many North Carolina textile and apparel companies, as well as companies in major metropolitan cities across the U.S. The Department also offers opportunities to study abroad in Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe. Past opportunities, both locally and internationally, include Polo Ralph Lauren, Hanesbrands, VF, the International Textile Group, and Kayser Roth.

6. East Carolina University-Greenville, Greenville North Carolina
Established in 1907, East Carolina University (ECU) is part of the University of North Carolina system consisting of 17 schools. The University of North Carolina system has a total enrollment of more than 200,000 students, with more than 28,000 enrolled at East Carolina University-Greenville.

In addition to having the third largest student body in the UNC system, East Carolina University has three campuses including a 530-acre Main Campus (Greenville), a 206-acre Health Sciences Campus, and a 650-acre West Research Campus. The school offers 103 Bachelor's Degree programs, 72 Master's Degree programs, 18 Doctoral Degree programs, one educational specialist degree program, first-professional degree programs in medicine and dentistry, one certificate of advanced study program, and 71 departmental certificates.

East Carolina University’s College of Human Ecology offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising, Interiors Merchandising, and Interior Design. The Fashion Merchandising program requires a minor in Business Administration, Communication, Hospitality Management, or Art. Like the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (also part of the UNC system), East Carolina University offers a variety of impressive internship opportunities. Polo Ralph Lauren, Hanesbrands, VF, the International Textile Group, and Kayser Roth are just a few. Students may choose to study abroad as well in Europe, Africa, South America, Australia, or Asia.

77. West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
Founded in 1867, West Virginia University (WVU) sits on 1,456 acres in Morgantown, West Virginia—the country’s 7th best small place for business and careers (Forbes). The school is home to nearly 30,000 students (a record for WVU) and it ranks among the Top 100 Public Universities by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ranks WVU as a Research University (High Research Activity).

While West Virginia University is known as one of the nations best research universities, it is also influential in the world of art and design. In addition, WVU ranks high among the nation’s most progressive schools. The school is one of a growing number of post-secondary institutions that offer Sustainable Design programs.

The West Virginia State University, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Design is home to the Division of Design & Merchandising. Degree offerings include a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (with a Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising track), a BS in Interior Design, and a MS in Fashion Design and Merchandising. 

Although WVU’s Study Abroad Program is not a requirement for Fashion students, (it is for Interior Design students), the College encourages all design students to participate. Disegno Italia is WVU’s signature four-week, six-credit, summer program in Tuscany and Milan. Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors in good standing are eligible to apply.

88. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University (LSU) was founded in 1853 as Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. It is one of only 30 institutions nationwide designated as a land, sea, and space-grant university. Originally located near Pineville, Louisiana, Louisiana State University uprooted three times before moving to a 2,000-acre campus in Baton Rouge, where it sits today.

The former home of Hubert Humphrey, Shaquille O’Neal, and Harry J. Longwell (former Executive Vice President and Director of ExxonMobil), is now home to 10 senior colleges and schools and more than 26,000 students, enrolled in more than 200 fields of study. Aspiring Fashion Designers, Managers, and Merchandisers may earn a degree at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels.

LSU offers BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Textiles and Apparel with Concentrations in Merchandising, Textile Science, and Apparel Design. Internship opportunities are available at local companies and retailers in New York and Los Angeles. Study Abroad experiences are available as well. Students have their pick of unique locales such as Ecuador, China, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and many others.

99. Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia
Established in 1906, Georgia Southern University (GSU) is one of the state’s most prized possessions. The school was named one of the nation's top eco-friendly campuses by the Princeton Review and the U.S. Green Building Council (2011), it made The Presidents Honor Roll for Higher Education Community Service for logging 368,000 hours of community service (by students), and for two consecutive years, Georgia Southern University has been ranked one of the top 10 most popular universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Georgia Southern tied with Yale for the number seven spot on the 2012 list.

Georgia Southern University sits on a 900-acre campus and it is home to more than 20,000 students. The school offers more than 100 programs, throughout more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate colleges. Georgia Southern University’s School of Human Ecology, College of Health and Human Sciences, is home to the Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design program. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Merchandising & Apparel with an Emphasis in Fashion Merchandising or an Emphasis in Apparel Design.

All fashion students may participate in field experiences, the Fashion Internship Program, and Study Tours in Atlanta and New York City. Students also have the option to enroll in a Study Abroad Program. Past Study Abroad locations include London, Paris, Berlin, Scotland, Madrid, Waterford, and St. Petersburg Russia.

10. Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina
Meredith College was established in 1891 as an independent, private women’s college. Today, the school is home to more than 1,900 students (including graduate students) and male students make up around 30 percent of the MBA student body. The school offers 32 majors, 46 minors, and nine graduate programs.

Meredith College has received numerous awards and top rankings over the years. The school was named one of the 20 most popular liberal arts colleges in the United States by U.S. News & World Report (2011), it was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and Meredith College Fashion Design Instructor Eunyoung Yang won first place in an international design competition held at the International Textiles and Apparel Association in Philadelphia.

In addition to award-winning instructors, the Meredith College Human Environmental Sciences Department offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Fashion Merchandising and Design with Concentrations in Merchandising or Design. The Department also offers a BS in Interior Design. Internship opportunities are available and Study Abroad experiences take place in Paris, Italy, the UK, Africa, East Asia, and South America.

1111. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) offers around 200 majors. Among them is the Textiles, Merchandising & Design major (BS) with Concentrations in Fashion Merchandising or Apparel Design. The major, offered by the Department of Human Sciences, also offers a Minor in Textiles, Merchandising & Design with an option in Fashion Merchandising or Apparel Design. Department highlights include internship opportunities with major worldwide brands and local retailers as well as Study Abroad experiences in places like China, Egypt, Italy, and of course, Paris.

Middle Tennessee State University was established in 1911, with just 125 students and 19 instructors. At the time, MTSU was housed on a 100-acre campus. Today, Middle Tennessee State University is the oldest and largest public university in Middle Tennessee. The school has grown to 500 acres and it is now home to more than 26,000 students and a faculty of over 900.

Middle Tennessee State University offers Bachelor’s Degrees in the Arts, Business Administration, Fine Arts, Music, Science, Science in Nursing, Social Work, and University Studies. The College of Graduate Studies offers Master's and Doctorate degrees in 13 areas. 

1212. Brenau University, Gainesville, Georgia
Brenau University was established in 1878 as Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. The school is a private, Non-sectarian Liberal Arts institution with a student body of 2,777 students. The university’s main campus in Gainesville sits on 43 acres and it offers 100 academic programs. The school also has campuses in North Atlanta (Norcross), South Atlanta (Fairburn), Augusta, and Kings Bay, Georgia. Brenau University ranks 30 in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges Regional Universities (South) by U.S. News & World Report.

The College of Fine Arts & Humanities at Brenau University offers programs such as a BFA in Art Education, Studio Art, and Fashion Design, and a BA in Fashion Merchandising (BA). As part of the Fashion Program, all students must complete an internship at an approved retailer, fashion magazine, house of fashion, or other related company. Although Study Abroad experiences are optional, the College encourages students to participate, which can help enhance the program. Past study abroad locations include Belgium, France, China, the UK, Spain, Greece, and Mexico.

13. Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia
Clark Atlanta University (CAU) was founded in 1865 as Atlanta University—the nation’s first African-American graduate school. In 1988, Atlanta University joined forces with the nation’s first private, liberal arts college for African-Americans—Clark College (1869). The name was changed to Clark Atlanta University and the school became the nations oldest graduate institution serving a predominantly African-American student body.

Clark Atlanta University is now home to nearly 4,000 students, enrolled in 38 academic programs. CAU awards Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral Degrees, and it is the largest and only coeducational undergraduate institution in the Atlanta University Center to grant Doctoral Degrees. Clark Atlanta University’s Department of Art is home to several Bachelor’s Degree programs for aspiring fashion designers and merchandisers. Department offerings include a BA in Fashion Merchandising with Concentrations in Design and Merchandising.

All fashion students will take Retail Management, Fashion Show Production, and CFAS 480—the Internship Program. Although not required, the Department “encourages students to consider studying in a foreign country as part of an overall education experience.” The Study Abroad option is available during the third year of study (Fall semester). Students can take up to 15 credit hours abroad in places such as Milan, London, Paris, Florence, and Provence.

1414. Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky
Established in 1906, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is a regional, coeducational, public institution located in Richmond, Madison County Kentucky. The campus is just 23 miles from Lexington-Fayette, KY, 87 miles from Louisville, KY, and 98 miles from Cincinnati, OH. The school is home to nearly 16,000 students, enrolled in more than 100 undergraduate degree programs. The school has one main campus, seven regional campuses, and five colleges.

The Eastern Kentucky University, College of Health Sciences, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences offers a BS in Apparel Design & Merchandising (BS ADM). Program highlights include studio and lecture courses, the opportunity to gain co-op experience, and participation in the Spring Fashion Show. The BS ADM program prepares students for careers in Fashion Marketing, Clothing Design, Retail Promotions, Merchandise, Buying, Quality Assurance, Visual Merchandising, and more.

In addition to the program highlights listed, students have a variety of study abroad options such as exchange opportunities, joint programs, and third party providers. EKU has partnerships with Daegu Haany University in South Korea, Pontifica Universidade Catolica de Minas Gerais (Brazil), and University of Yamanashi in Japan, to name a few. 

1515. Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Appalachian State University dates back to 1899, when it was named Watauga Academy. At the time, the school was home to just 53 students, enrolled in three grades. Watauga Academy became a four-year, degree-granting institution named Appalachian State Teachers College in 1929, with more than 1,300 students enrolled. In 1967, Appalachian State Teachers College became Appalachian State University (ASU), and shortly after, enrollment expanded to 9,500.

Today, Appalachian State University is home to around 17,000 students, enrolled in more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. Located in Boone, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian State University is one of the nations “greenest” colleges and one of the best colleges in the Southeast (by Princeton Review). In addition, ASU, one of 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system, ranks No. 10 on SIERRA Magazine’s annual ranking of the nation’s “Coolest Schools.”

One of many “cool” things about Appalachian State University is the Fashion Program. Offered at ASU’s Reich College of Education, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences, the BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising offers the opportunity to become a member of the Appalachian Fashion Group, field study trips to the New York City fashion district and the Atlanta Merchandise Mart, and study abroad experiences in London, Paris, and Bath. Students enrolled in the Minor in Apparel & Textiles program have access to many of the same opportunities as students enrolled in the BS program.