Our 2015 list of the Top 25 Private Fashion Design School Programs in the US.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Parsons School of Design at the New School, New York, New York
Parsons School of Design at the New School was established in 1896. The school is home to nearly 5,000 students enrolled in 27 degree programs across five schools. The School of Fashion offers a variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include AAS and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA Integrated Studies, an MA in Fashion Studies and an MFA in Fashion Design and Society.
Fashion Program highlights include the opportunity to study at Parsons Paris, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and the opportunity to work with 560—the Magazine of Parsons’ School of Design.
AAS students study Accessories Design, Drawing, Fashion, Materials and Fabrication, Sustainable Design, and Textiles. BFA students will also study Accessories Design, Drawing, Fashion, and Sustainable Design as well as Fashion History, Theory, and Criticism; Materials and Fabrication, and Textiles. BFA Fashion students also have the opportunity to complete the program at Parsons Paris.
BFA in Integrated Studies students can study everything from Fashion and Textiles to Urban Design, and MA in Fashion Studies students can study everything from Branding, Fashion and Textiles to Materials and Fabrication. The MFA in Fashion Design and Society highlights Fashion, Fashion History, Materials and Fabrication, Physical Computing/Wearable Technology, Sustainable Design, Textiles, Design Research, and more.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. It is home to more than 11,000 students enrolled in 40+ areas of concentration in art and design, more than 60 minors, and three certificate programs. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong, SCAD offers a wide 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 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.
3. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was founded in 1877. It is home to 2,449 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. The Department of Apparel Design offers a BFA in Apparel Design and The Fine Arts Division offers BFA and MFA degrees in Textiles and Jewelry + Metalsmithing.
Apparel Design students will have the opportunity to participate in RISD's Annual Runway Show. COLLECTION 2015 featured “selections from seniors’ year-long thesis collections, pieces from juniors’ men’s and women’s tailored jacket looks and cut/sew knitwear project, and sophomores’ projects that used prints from Nicole Miller (RISD Apparel ’73).”
4. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute was founded in 1887 and it is home to 4,556 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Programs for aspiring fashion designers are offered through the School of Design and the School of Art – Department of Fine Art. School of Design offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design. The School of Art offers a BFA in Jewelry.
According to the school, Fashion Design students have the opportunity to participate in “annual design competitions sponsored by the CFDA and YMA FSF and competitions sponsored by companies such as Cotton Incorporated and Supima Cotton.” In addition, students have access to internship opportunities with major designers such as Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan.
5. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University was established in 1891. It is home to 26,359 students enrolled in 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and 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.
Fashion design students have access to “studios and specialized labs” in the school’ URBN Center, the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), and study abroad opportunities in fashion capitals such as London, England and Florence, Italy. In addition, students have the chance to 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.
6. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was founded in 1918. It is home to 1,100 students enrolled in more than a dozen art and design programs. OTIS offers one degree program for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA in Fashion Design. Students may select an Emphasis in Costume Design which focuses on “new directions in character development for film, television, live performance, concept art, and video,” according to OTIS.
A Minor in Sustainability is another popular option and the Continuing Education Department offers a number of single courses for aspiring fashion designers as well. Offerings include Fashion Design, Textile/Surface Design, Jewelry Design, and Illustration.
OTIS Fashion students are mentored by major brands and designers such as Ruben & Isabel Toledo, A|X, Halston, Billabong, Nike, BCBG, Hurley, and Johnny Was. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their designs at the Annual Scholarship and Benefit Fashion Show. Student designs are also displayed in the Nieman Marcus window in Beverly Hills.
7. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell University was founded in 1865. It is home to 21,593 students enrolled in 80 undergraduate majors, 90 minors, and 108 graduate fields of study across 14 colleges and schools. The College of Human Ecology, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs for aspiring fashion designers.
Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Fashion Design, Fiber Science, Fashion Design Management, and a Dual Degree. The Dual Degree Program allows students to earn a BFA and a BA from the College of Arts and Sciences, a BS from the College of Human Ecology or a BS from the College of Engineering. A Minor in Fiber Science is also on the menu. Graduate offerings include an MA and PhD in Apparel Design, an MS and PhD in Fiber Science, and an MPS in Human Ecology. The MPS program offers a Focus (graduate field) in Fiber Science and Apparel Design.
The Department of FSAD maintains the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, which features “more than 10,000 items of apparel dating from the eighteenth century to the present, as well as a substantial collection of ethnographic textiles and costume.” The Department is also home to the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation (CIFFI), which was established to “advance knowledge and foster collaborations between academia and industry in the areas of fashion design, marketing and culture, fiber science, technology, and materials testing.”
In addition to access to the Textile Collection and CIFFI, FSAD students have the opportunity to compete for the Cornell Design Award and display their collections at the Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show.
8. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866. It is home to 3,519 students enrolled in more than 25 art and design programs across 40 academic departments. The Department of Fashion Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Fashion Design and a Master of Design (MDes) and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion, Body and Garment.
Undergraduate SAIC Fashion students have the opportunity to participate in study tours of fashion capitals such as Antwerp, London, New York, and Paris as well as showcase their collections at the SAIC Fashion Show. The show is open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.
The “intensive” two-year graduate program highlights the Fashion Design Studio. Taken each semester, the Studio “provides a place for an expansive investigation of fashion, body, and garment and for deeper individual investigation of fashion within the broader context of community, sustainability, technology, and the industry,” says SAIC. The program also encourages study in other areas such as Fiber and Material Studies, Writing, and Performance.
9. Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia University (PhilaU) was founded in 1884 as Philadelphia Textile School. It is home to 3,200 students enrolled in more than 60 areas of study across four colleges including the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, and the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts. The Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce houses two schools—the School of Design and Engineering and the School of Business. The School of Design and Engineering offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design, an MS in Textile Design, an MS in Textile Engineering, and a PhD in Textile Engineering and Sciences.
Design students have the opportunity to intern with companies such as Vogue, Betsey Johnson, and Tommy Hilfiger and study abroad opportunities are available in fashion centers such as London and Rome. 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,” according to PhilaU. 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.”
10. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University was established in 1929. It is home to more than 18,000 students enrolled in dozens of art and design programs across several schools. The School of Fashion offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Fashion Design, Knitwear Design, and Textile Design. A Certificate in Fashion Design is also on the menu.
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 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 at major companies such as Gap, Kate Spade, Levi Strauss & Co., Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, and many others.
11. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University was chartered in 1845. It is home to more than 16,000 students enrolled in 250+ degree programs across nine colleges and schools. The Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences houses the Department of Family & Consumer Sciences. The Department offers six different majors including one for aspiring fashion designers—the BS in Apparel Design & Product Development.
The BS program features access to the Parker Design & Technology Center which “provides students with the latest state-of-the-art software, equipment, and technology,” as well as access to internship opportunities both within the states and internationally. Students have interned at Betsey Johnson - NY, Anna Sui - NY, Quick Silver – Los Angeles, XOXO and Rampage – Los Angeles, and Haggar - Dallas. Internships abroad have included Ann-Louise Roswald - London, UK, Amanda Wakeley - London, UK, Christopher & La Lou - Paris, France, and others.
The program also offers the opportunity for fashion students to show their collections at the Annual Baylor Fashion Show, which takes place at the end of spring semester each year. Field experiences are on the menu and may include trips to Dallas Market, Studios of Apparel Designers, Apparel Manufacturing Firms, and Fashion Group International (FGI) Dallas Career Day, which is held at the Apparel Mart.
12. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York
Marist College was founded in 1929. It is home to 6,365 students enrolled in 77 programs through 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. Fashion Design majors may also choose a Minor in Merchandising or Product Development.
Fashion design students may participate in the School’s internship program, which offers the opportunity to work at companies such as Armani A/X, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Chanel, DKNY, Escada, MTV, Nordstrom, Polo and many others. Students may also participate in Marist in Manhattan (NYC Internship Experience), Fashion Inc. (club), Marist Fashion Magazine, 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.
13. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907. It is home to 1,968 students enrolled in 21 undergraduate and 13 graduate degree programs. Several programs are available for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design, a BFA in Jewelry/Metals Arts, and a BFA in Textiles.
All fashion students have the opportunity to participate in CCA’s internship program. Students may intern at San Francisco Bay Area companies such as Levi Strauss & Co, Athleta, and TEA Collection. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their designs at the Annual Fashion Show and many find success in the world of design after the show. Many CCA fashion graduates have started their own businesses or found employment at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, Athleta, Forever 21, John Varvatos, Michael Kors, GUESS, Kate Spade and more.
14. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, California
Founded in 1969, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) is home to 7,000 students across four campuses including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Irvine. The school offers 26 creative majors leading to an AA, BA or BS 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, FIDM fashion students have the opportunity to participate in the internship program as well as annual study tours that will take them to fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, and more. Students may also participate in the annual DEBUT Runway Show, which is streamed online and televised.
15. Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri
Stephens College was founded in 1833. It is home to around 800 students enrolled in more than 25 programs across four schools including the School of Design, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the School of Performing Arts. The School of Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Apparel Studies and a BFA in Fashion Design & Product Development.
Fashion design students have the opportunity to take study trips to international fashion capitals, they may participate in the annual fashion show—The Collections, and they have the opportunity to intern at companies such as Escada, Cosmopolitan, Baby Phat, and WWD. Student also have access to the School of Design’s Historic Costume Museum and Research Library which consists of more than 13,000 pieces and designer garments. Bill Blass, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino are just a few.
16. Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas
Founded in 1901 as The Girls Industrial College, Texas Woman's University is home to more than 15,000 students enrolled in over 150 programs across four colleges and a graduate school. The College of Arts & Sciences is home to the School of Management which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include s BA in Fashion Design, a BA/BS Dual Degree in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising, a BA/BBA Dual Degree in Fashion Design and General Business-Entrepreneurship, and a BA/BS in Fashion Design and Marketing. All programs have design components and a Minor in Fashion Design is also on the menu.
In addition to a variety of programs that teach students how to design, produce and sell their own products, the School of Management offers internship opportunities at companies such as Aldo, BCBG Max Azria, Coach, Express, Michael Kors, and Nordstrom. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Montage Senior Fashion Show.
17. Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Moore College of Art & Design was founded in 1848. It is the first and only visual arts college for women in the U.S. The school is home to more than 450 students (Fall 2014) enrolled in 10 majors leading to a BFA, 11 minors, and five graduate programs. Moore also offers Certificate and Post-Baccalaureate programs. Offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA and a Minor in Fashion Design, and a Certificate in Fashion Studies with two tracks including Apparel Construction and Technical Design.
Program highlights include both paid and unpaid internships at major companies such as Ana Sui, Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston, Marc Jacobs, Nordstrom, Rag & Bone, and more. An annual fashion show is also part of the program as well the “Fashion Critic Program.” The Program gives students the opportunity to work with a designer from the fashion industry to ensure that the students’ creations are “professional and marketable.”
Graduates of the Fashion Program at Moore College of Art have worked for major designers and companies such as Adrienne Vittadini, Anne Klein Studio, Badgley Mischka, Fila, Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Outfitters, and many others.
18. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College was founded in 1890. It is home to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 100+ academic majors or programs. The School of Fine and Performing Arts, Department of Fashion Studies offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design.
Program highlights include a Semester in LA, internship opportunities and access to the school’s Fashion Lab, the Fashion Study Collection (FSC), and the Fashion Study Collection Research Center (workspace and archive). Students also have the opportunity to display their creations in the Fashion Studies Exhibition Windows on campus.
19. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. It is home to approximately 21,492 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 12 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), Department of Design offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA in Fashion Design.
Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in London, Florence, and Strasbourg, France, visiting artists and designers (past guests have included Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Kate and Andy Spade and more), access to the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, and the Annual Fashion Show, to name a few.
20. Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mount Mary University is a women’s college that was founded in 1913. It has a student population of 1,475 enrolled in more than 30 undergraduate majors, 9 graduate programs (coed), and a variety of certificate programs through four schools. The School of Arts & Design offers a BA and a Post-baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion Design. Some fashion students choose the Minor in Entrepreneurship to enhance their degree and prepare them to start their own fashion design business. The Minor is offered through the School of Business.
Fashion students have access to the latest industry technology in the classroom and labs, they have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Student Designer Fashion Show, and internship opportunities are available. Past fashion students have had the opportunity to exhibit work at the Villa Terrace Museum, Gallery Night & Day and Harley-Davidson Museum, and they have also competed in regional, national and international competitions.
Workshops by global designers and retailers are also on the menu as well as volunteer opportunities with Fashion BOOT Camp for high school students.
21. Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) was established in 1879. It is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in more than 35 majors, minors and concentrations. Programs for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA and a Minor in Fashion Design.
Just a few program highlights include internship opportunities at companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Justice, and Victoria’s Secret (all headquartered in Ohio), participation in the Annual CCAD Senior Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Chile, China, England, and Italy. CCAD fashion students also have the opportunity to study in a New York studio for one term through CCAD’s New York Studio Residency Program.
22. O’More College of Design, Franklin, Tennessee
Founded in 1970, O’More College of Design is home to more than 150 students enrolled in several programs across three schools including the School of Fashion, the School of Visual Design, and the School of Interior Design. The School of Fashion offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA in Fashion Design. Program highlights include internship opportunities at area designers and retailers, and participation in the O’More Student Fashion Show.
23. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University was founded in 1884. It is home to more than 1,700 students attending its Burbank and San Diego locations. The school offers degrees in several dozen fields in the School of Business, the School of Media Culture & Design, the School of Architecture, and the College of Transdisciplinarity. The School of Media Culture & Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BFA in Fashion Design and a new Costume Design Track. Fashion students may also explore other design categories such as Shoes or Children’s Wear.
According to the Department, the Fashion Design program focuses on “classic illustration methods, cutting-edge design, and world-class construction techniques.” The Costume Design Track “encompasses stage and screen with a concentrated emphasis on character development, period construction, digital and manual sketching, as well as an on-set production lab.” Both programs feature internship opportunities with major fashion companies and participation in the Woodbury Runway Show and Costume Runway.
24. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington
Seattle Pacific University (SPU) was founded in 1891. It is home to 4,217 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, minors, graduate programs, concentrations, and certificate programs across six colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) houses the Division of STEM and Social Sciences. Division departments include STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and Social Sciences. Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) is a member of the Social Sciences Department. FCS offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers.
Offerings include a BA in Apparel Design and a Minor in Apparel Design and Merchandising. FCS also has a liaison program with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. This program allows fashion students to specialize in areas such as Accessories Design, Jewelry Design, Textile/Surface Design, Textile/Surface Design, and more.
Other Fashion Program highlights include possible internship opportunities at companies such as Nordstrom, REI, Eddie Bauer, and Union Bay (all headquartered in Downtown Seattle), study abroad opportunities in fashion capitals such as Paris, London, and Milan, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.
Editor's note: On 7/28/15 we discovered that we had incorrectly labeled the Fashion Institute of Technology as a private school rather than as a public school. FIT is in fact a member of the State University system of New York. We have adjusted the rankings accordingly and we regret the error.