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Top 20 Private Fashion Merchandising Schools in the US - 2018 Rankings

Written by FS StaffJune 19, 2018 is excited to bring you our 2018 Fashion Merchandising School rankings. Each year, we compile a list of the top list of the Top Fashion Merchandising Schools and Colleges in the United States. Our definitive ranking of the top merchandising design schools in the U.S. is based on factors like the schools’ admission data, graduation success, reputation and an extensive proprietary survey conducted with school & industry stakeholders.  In addition to our overall National rankings, we're happy to provide category rankings as well. Below you'll find the Top 20 Private Fashion Merchandising Schools in the U.S.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.


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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1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 5% of schools considered)

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. The school, which is home to nearly 11,000 students from close to 50 states and 115 countries, offers 40 majors and 60-plus minors. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong, SCAD offers a variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Accessory Design, Fashion, Fibers, and Jewelry. The Fashion BFA, MA and MFA are offered at both the Savannah and Atlanta campuses, and the BFA is also offered at SCAD’s Hong Kong campus.

Students are regular participants in national design contests like Walt Disney Imagineering’s 27th Imaginations Design Competition. In 2018, at the 27th annual competition, out of 270 qualified submissions SCAD students took home the top two prizes.
Students may also earn their MA in Fashion online. According to the school, “SCAD is the first art and design university to receive the Instructional Technology Council’s award for Outstanding Distance Education Program and the rank of Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning from the Sloan Consortium.” Other Fashion Program highlights include participation in the Annual SCAD Fashion Show, and internships and study opportunities at local, national, and international fashion companies.

2. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 5% of schools considered)

Drexel University was established in 1891 by Philadelphia financier and philanthropist Anthony J. Drexel. The school, which began as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, is home to 25,595 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the Department of Fashion, Product and Design & Merchandising.

The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS and an MS in Fashion Design. Students may enhance their degree by opting for a Minor in Retail. Administered by the Design & Merchandising (D&M) program, the Minor “provides basic foundations in retail operations, buying and merchandise planning and e-commerce.” A BS in D&M is also on the menu.

Fashion design students also have access to “studios and specialized labs” at the school’s URBN Center, they have access to the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), and students may enroll in the study abroad program which may take them places such as London (London College of Fashion), England, and Florence. In addition, students may submit their creations to national and international competitions each year, and upon completion of the program, they have the opportunity to show their final collections in the Department’s Annual Fashion Show.

The 2018 show will be held at the headquarters for Urban Outfitters. The show runs to two separate audiences and features designs this year from 34 separate designers; and the show is collaboration with several other Drexel University departments.

3. LIM College, New York, New York (top 10% of schools considered)

LIM College was founded by Maxwell F. Marcuse in 1939 as the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM). The school, which became LIM College in 2009, is home to ~1,700 students enrolled in associates, bachelor’s & master's degree programs in several fashion-focused majors.

There are a variety of programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS), Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS), and Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) and Bachelor of Business Administration degrees (BBA) in Fashion Merchandising, and Bachelor of Science degree (BS) in International Business & Fashion Media. Bachelor of Business Administration BBAs in Visual Merchandising, Marketing & Management are also available.

Graduate offerings include Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degrees in Fashion Merchandising & Retail Management, the Business of Fashion, and Global Fashion Supply Chain Managemnt.

Concentrations are available for all majors and include Cosmetics, Digital Business Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Event Planning, Fashion Media, Fashion Publishing, Home Fashions, International Business, International Marketing, Responsible Business Practices, Retail and Merchandise Management, and Styling.

Program highlights include participation in the Annual Fashion Show, optional membership in the Fashion Show Production Club, the Fashion Styling Club and other organizations, and study abroad opportunities. Just a few past locations include France, Italy, Spain, Australia, China, and England.

4. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, California (top 10% of schools considered)

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) was founded in 1969. It is home to 5,300 students, 300 faculty members, and an advisory board that includes “industry giants” such as Fred Segal, Diane von Furstenberg, Tim Gunn (of Project Runway, Filmed at FIDM), and Emanuel Ungaro.  Four Southern California campus locations, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine make the school an attractive place to study fashion as well.

The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS in the areas of fashion, graphics, interior design or entertainment.  Degree programs for aspiring fashion designers 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) programs 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, fashion students can collaborate on special ‘Industry Partner Projects’ with brands like Nike, Murad, Athleta, Signal Snowboards, Lacoste, GUESS, and TOMS. Part-time work and internships with companies like J Brand Jeans, Stila, Topshop, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, and Adidas are an integral part of the curriculum.   There are also annual study tours that will take students to fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, and more. Students may also participate in the annual DEBUT Runway Show.

5. Baylor University, Waco, Texas (top 10% of schools considered)

Chartered in 1845, Baylor University is currently home to 16,787 students enrolled in more than 250 degree programs across nine colleges and schools. The Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences houses the Department of Family & Consumer Sciences, which offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BS in Apparel Design & Product Development as well as a BS in Apparel Merchandising.

The Apparel Design program provides a “diversified educational experience, encompassing academic excellence in a Christian environment that prepares students to enter the apparel industry profession.”  The program also offers the opportunity to participate in the Annual Baylor Fashion Show, which takes place at the end of spring semester each year. Field experiences are on the menu as well and may include trips to Dallas Market, Studios of Apparel Designers, Apparel Manufacturing Firms, and FGI Dallas Career Day, which is held at the Apparel Mart.

The Apparel Merchandising program at Baylor focuses on developing skills, including communication, analytical thinking, teamwork, and ethical behavior. These skills help graduates as they apply management, marketing theory and business principles to the global apparel industry.

6. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (top 15% of schools considered)

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school, which had a 2016 fall enrollment of 7,959 students, offers dozens of programs in the areas of art and design. The School of Fashion at Academy of Art offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Undergraduate offerings include 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. A BA degree in Fashion Journalism is also offered. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Fashion, Costume Design, Fashion Product Development, Knitwear Design, Textile Design & Fashion Merchandising and Management.

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.

7. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York (top 15% of schools considered)

Marist College was founded in 1929. It is home to more than 6,500 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs and minors across seven schools. The School of Communication and the Arts offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design and a BS in Fashion Merchandising with a Product Development Concentration. The Marist College Fashion Program is pleased to offer a Masters of Science degree in Global Fashion Merchandising in collaboration with Mod-Spe Paris, the Fashion Business School.

Short-term studies to Europe and Asia, and full semester abroad studies in London, Paris, Florence & Hong Kong round out the students education. Fashion Design majors may also earn their degree in Florence, Italy or choose a Minor in Merchandising or Product Development.

Marist's strength in internship placement, and unusual depth of internship opportunities, derives from our close proximity to New York City. In the fashion capital of the world, students have access to a wide variety of work environments. Fashion students have completed internships at companies such as Michael Kors, BCBG, Chanel, Harpers Bazaar, Macy's, Nordstrom, Ross Stores and Ralph Lauren and the Silver Needle Runway Show.

The School of Communication and the Arts encourages all students to complete two internships, which will give them a strong advantage when it comes to job opportunities. Fashion Program alumni have been hired by companies such as Ann Taylor, BCBG, Chanel, Donna Karan, GAP, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, MTV, Perry Ellis, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tahari, Tory Burch, and many more.

8. Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia University), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 15% of schools considered)

In 2017 Philadelphia University leadership decided to merge with Thomas Jefferson University (PhilaU), another local Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Institution.  The new combined school is simply called Jefferson.  Thomas Jefferson University was founded in 1824 and Philadelphia University was founded in 1884. Both were ahead of their time and focused on the importance of experiential learning. The new Jefferson was established on July 1, 2017 as a result of the merger of these two renowned universities.

Within Jefferson, remains the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce,  Kanbar was retained as a legacy college from the days of PhilaU, and still is home to two schools — the School of Design and Engineering and the School of Business. The School of Design and Engineering offers a number of undergraduate and advanced degree programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BS degrees in Fashion Design, Textile Design, and Textile Materials Technology, MS degrees in Global Fashion Enterprise, Textile Design, and Textile Engineering, and a PhD in Textile Engineering and Sciences.

Program highlights include internships with companies such as Vogue, Betsey Johnson, Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch, and study abroad opportunities in London, Rome, Hong Kong, Seoul, Melbourne, Dominican Republic, Scotland, New Zealand, and Denmark. Students also have access to PhilaU’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection as well as “specialized space for individual programs including, engineering labs, fashion design studios, textile studios with state-of-the-art machinery, and industrial design studios.” The Textile and Costume Collection features “museum-quality garments, accessories, and textiles as sources of design inspiration for the modern-day design and product-development process.”

9. Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered)

Dominican University is a private, not-for-profit institution that was established in 1901.  It is home to more than 3,470 students enrolled in more than 100 programs. The school, which consists of 939,000 square feet of buildings, 5 residence halls, 2 theaters and a 70,000+ square-foot library, is just 10 miles from Downtown Chicago—home of the famous Magnificent Mile.

The Department of Fashion Design & Merchandising offers majors or minors in either Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising.  The fashion design program includes primary study in design, pattern making, research, appropriate fit and fabric selection, fashion trending, and illustration. It prepares students to work in the fashion design industry or as entrepreneurs in the design field.  The fashion merchandising program appeals to the business oriented student that is interested in the fashion industry.  Courses focus on retail buying, visual display, and other merchandising courses, students take coursework in business administration, economics, and art.

One of the Fashion Design program highlights, according to their website, is access to the latest computer-aided technology that is used to create textile prints, visualize them on garment designs in 3-D, and print on fabric.  On the Fashion Merchandising side, the Retail Buying course gives students an opportunity to work at Style Max, a women’s apparel trade show at the Chicago Merchandise Mart.

10. Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas (top 25% of schools considered)

Texas Christian University (TCU) was founded in 1873 as AddRan Male and Female College. It is home to 10,394 students, enrolled 118 undergraduate areas of study, 53 master’s level programs, and 25 areas of doctoral study across eight colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts is home to the Department of Interior Design & Fashion Merchandising. The Department offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising.

Program highlights include off-campus study programs in Paris, New York, and Dallas, access to the TCU Costume Collection, which features more than 2,500 items dating back to the 1850s, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. In addition, students will complete a full-time 10-week supervised internship with companies such as Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, JCPenney, Pier 1 Imports, Fossil, Zale Corporation, Nordstrom, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Tom Ford, Donna Karan, and Kenneth Cole.

11. Immaculata University, Immaculata Pennsylvania (top 30% of schools considered)

Founded in 1920, Immaculata University (IU) sits on a 375-acre campus overlooking historic Chester County, Pennsylvania. Located just 20 miles from Philadelphia, the school is home to 3,600 students enrolled in more than 60 programs. One of the most popular programs is the Fashion Merchandising program. Part of the Fashion/Family & Consumer Sciences Department, the program leads to a BS in Fashion Merchandising.

This “customizable” BS program has eight Minors to choose from including Visual Merchandising, Buying, Marketing, Product Development, Entrepreneurship, Graphic Arts for Fashion, Communication, and Public Relations & Journalism. Other program highlights include field experiences at QVC, GAP, Carolina Apparel, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbots, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and many others, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and trips to fashion capitals such as New York City. Students may also join a variety of organizations such as the IU Fashion Group and Kappa Chi Chapter of Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society. 
Depending on the students customized curriculum, career options include (but are not limited to) Account Executive, Merchandise Manager, Purchasing, Senior Buyer, Visual Merchandiser, Fashion Forecaster, Fashion Marketing Coordinator, Technical Designer, Product Line Developer, Fashion Magazine Editor, and Product Campaign Specialist.

12. Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio (top 30% of schools considered)

Founded in 1871 by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, Ursuline College is home to 1,175 students enrolled in more than 25 majors through the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Professional Studies, and Breen School of Nursing. The School of Professional Studies offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers including a BA, a Minor, and a Certificate in Fashion Merchandising.

The BA program offers a F.I.T. Track that allows students to spend their third year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The F.I.T. Track leads to an AAS. Other program highlights include access to the Historic Costume Study Collection, which features more than 3,500 pieces of 20th century American apparel and accessories, internship opportunities, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. 

13. Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (top 30% of schools considered)

Founded in 1913, Mount Mary University is a women’s college with a student population of just over 1,400 students. The school offers more than 30 undergraduate majors, nine graduate programs, and a variety of certificate programs across four schools including the School of Arts & Design, the School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, the School of Natural & Health Sciences, and the School of Business. Programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers are offered through the School of Arts & Design.

Offerings include a BA and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion Merchandise Management. Many fashion merchandising students choose the Minor in Entrepreneurship to enhance their degree or to develop the skills they need to start their own fashion business. The Minor is available through the School of Business.

Program highlights include internship opportunities, the chance to compete in regional, national and international competitions, access to workshops by global designers and retailers, volunteer opportunities with Fashion BOOT Camp for high school students, and the opportunity to participate in the New York-style Fashion Runway Show—CREO: Fashion, Art and Design Show. The show takes place each spring.

14. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington (top 30% of schools considered)

Founded in 1891 by the Free Methodist Church of North America, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) is home to 4,061 students enrolled in 219 academic programs across six colleges and schools and Seattle Pacific Seminary. The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) houses the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), which offers a BA in Apparel Merchandising and a Minor in Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising.

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. 

15. Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania (top 30% of schools considered)

Albright College dates back to the founding of Union Seminary in 1856. The school, which is home to more than 2,000 students, offers over 60 programs of study. The Fashion Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers including a BA in Fashion with Tracks in Fashion Merchandising or Design and Merchandising. A Combined Fashion Major with a Fashion Merchandising Track is also on the menu.

Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in Italy, France, the UK and South Korea as well as internship opportunities at companies such as Donna Karan, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Tiffany’s, and more. Fashion merchandising students also have the opportunity to participate in the Department’s Annual Fashion Showcase & Runway Show. Graduates of the Fashion and Costume programs at Albright have been hired by companies such as DKNY, Macy’s, Berkshire Theater Festival, David’s Bridal, Anthropologie, and many others.

16. University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas (top 30% of schools considered)

The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) was established in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Home to nearly 11,000 students, UIW is the largest Catholic university in Texas and the fourth-largest private university in the state. The school houses nine colleges and schools that offer more than 100 majors.

UIW is home to the School of Media and Design, which houses the Juren Sullivan Center for Fashion Management (FMGT). Program options include a BFA degree in Fashion Design a BA in Fashion Management with concentrations in either Fashion Merchandising or Fashion Product Development.  Both concentrations allow students to obtain a minor in Business Administration.  Another alternative is BA in Fashion Studies.

FMGT highlights include internship opportunities in San Antonio and the surrounding areas, study abroad experiences at sister schools such as London College of Fashion, Tainan Fashion School in Taiwan, and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and participation in the annual fashion show—The Cutting Edge (est. 1980).

17. O’More College of Design, Franklin, Tennessee (top 30% of schools considered)

O’More College of Design offers BFA degrees in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising. Program highlights include internship opportunities at area designers and retailers, and participation in the O’More Student Fashion Show.

About O’More: O’More College of Design was founded in 1970 as O'More School of Interior Architecture and Design. The school is home to around 200 students enrolled in several programs across three schools. They include the School of Fashion, the School of Visual Design, and the School of Interior Design. 

18. Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia (top 30% of schools considered)

Founded in 1950, Marymount University Marymount is the only Washington, DC-area university offering a Fashion Merchandising program. The school is home to 3,369 students enrolled in 60-plus programs across four schools including the School of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education & Human Services, the School of Business Administration, and the Malek School of Health Professions. The Fashion Merchandising Program is part of the School of Arts & Sciences. Options include a BA and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. Some students choose to pursue a Minor in Business Administration, Communication, or Fashion Design to enhance their degree.

Program highlights include study abroad experiences in places such as France, Italy, Japan, China, Australia, participation in Fashion Club and the Annual Portfolio In Motion Fashion Show, and the opportunity to work on “Real World Projects” that allow students to complete projects for major companies such as Cotton Inc., Top Shop, and Nordstrom. Internship opportunities abroad or with local companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Theory, Burberry, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s are also on the menu as well as the chance to compete in both national and international design competitions.

19. Mount Ida College, Boston, Massachusetts (top 30% of schools considered)

Mount Ida College was founded in 1899. It is home to approximately 1,430 students enrolled in more than 30 areas of study through four schools including the School of Applied Sciences, the School of Design, the School of Social Sciences & Humanities, and the School Business. The School of Design offers a BS in Fashion Industry Marketing & Management, which prepares aspiring fashion professionals for careers in the marketing, communication, promotion, merchandising, and visual design aspects of the fashion industry.

Program highlights include the opportunity to participate in Boston Fashion Week and Mount Ida’s Annual Spring Fashion Show; internship opportunities at a variety of local and New York-based companies; an annual trip to New York City, and the opportunity to study abroad in fashion capitals such as Paris, London, Barcelona, and Milan.

20. Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pennsylvania (Top 30% of schools reviewed)

Established in 1926, Mercyhurst University is a private Catholic college with ties to the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. The school began with just 75 acres of farmland and a few students. Today Mercyhurst University (MU) averages between 3,000 and 4,000 students annually, the school has added an 84-acre site—the 100-year-old Redemptorist Seminary in North East), and the school is set to add 405 additional acres as the future site of Mercyhurst West (now in operation in a temporary facility in Girard). 

Mercyhurst University offers more than 50 majors with 67 concentrations and a wide variety of minors. The Walker School of Business & Communication is home to Mercyhurst University’s Fashion Merchandising program. The program offers the option to study, live, and learn in New York City through the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Visiting Student Program. Upon the completion of both programs, students will receive a Bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst and an Associate degree from FIT.

In addition to the FIT program, students will have the opportunity to travel to New York City's Garment District every other year. Fashion Merchandising students may choose to study abroad when they are not touring NYC. Past locations have included London, Paris, Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome.