There are no set rules for what you need to study to become a fashion designer. Many of the most successful designers started out in a different industry or as interns and apprentices to others. This being said, it is recommended to take courses or a degree to get started in the industry.
Fashion design is extremely multifaceted, you need to know how to design, yes, but you also need to know how to cut and sew fabrics, know how to use CAT and Adobe software to create your designs digitally, need to understand the industry and the market, connect with your clients, and have a network in the fashion business.
So while all of these can be learned by doing, it is advisable to take at least technical courses, for example, to learn the technology behind digital design, as well as skills related to sewing and fabrics.
Meanwhile, it is also important to remember that a degree in fashion will not only teach you the various aspects of design, it will give you four years to practice and hone your skills while exploring the type of designer you want to become. On the other hand, it will help you build a network, which is potentially the most important part of the business.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A FASHION DEGREE?
Many schools offer programs in fashion design, these are some of the top ones both in the US and around the world.
- Parsons, The New School for Design
Located in New York, Parsons offers a number of programs, including associates degrees in fashion design and marketing, a BFA in fashion design, and masters level studies. All these take slightly different approaches. Due to it’s location, Parsons has the advantage of being in the heart of everything, giving students the opportunity to begin working within the fashion industry and to network. Tuition cost is at $1,390 per credit.
- The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
FIT, also located in NYC, offers a wide range of programs, among them a BFA in fashion design but also such programs as textile design, jewelry design, and accessories design. They also offer master’s degrees in fashion. In-state tuition is $5,200, but if you are out-of-state it goes up to $27,362.
- Pratt Institute
Not so far from the other schools we just mentioned, Pratt’s main campus is located in Brooklyn and is ranked as one of the top schools in the US. The School of Design offers a BFA in fashion design. Tuition here is similar to Parsons, at $1,383 per credit.
- Academy of Art University
Another prime fashion location, AAU, is located in San Francisco, CA. Here you can get a BFA in fashion or fashion styling, a BA in fashion journalism, or an Associate of Arts in any of the above. It is also possible to take the next step to obtain a masters level degree at AAU. The estimate of expenses for an undergrad is $22,086 per year.
While all these colleges offer study abroad options to their students, if you’d like to get your fashion design degree outside of the US, here are a few top-ranked options around the world.
- University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martin
Located in another fashion capital of the world, London, CSM offers 10 different fashion BA concentrations, as well as master’s level studies. There are also pre-university integration courses offered here. International students pay tuition fees of 15,180 pounds per year.
- Istituto Marangoni, Milan
The cradle of fashion – Milan – and Istituto Maragoni offer a range of courses, starting from 1-year diplomas to 3-year BA degrees, to master’s level studies at the fashion school, with specializations that include business, design, styling, and branding among others. Courses are not only offered in Milan, but also in Paris, London and Shanghai. Tuition fees are 14,500 euros.
- Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo
Another important fashion industry market is Japan, and the Bunka Fashion College is world-renowned to be one of the best schools in Asia for fashion designers. With departments in fashion creation, technology, marketing and distribution, as well as accessories and textiles, Bunka covers all aspects of the career. Tuition currently stands at 650,000 yen (or US$5,600), but with enrollment and extra fees, the price is really double.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
Whether you have completed a degree in fashion design or not, you will need to get into the industry, one way or another.
In all of the interviews we have conducted with our experts, there is one piece of advice that is highlighted by every single one: be persistent. This is an extremely competitive industry where you will have to knock on many doors, but your effort can be rewarded by a truly satisfying and often very successful career.
You will need a portfolio of your work but also the guts to knock on doors. Aside from sheer networking, you may have to send “cold” e-mails or go door-to-door with your work. You may also want to do an internship in one of the leading companies in the industry, but this won’t necessarily be that easy to land either. So again, be prepared for perseverance.
And remember, the more contacts you have, the better. Use social media to position yourself. Go to events and parties, even if you might prefer to stay in and watch a movie on the couch. It is essential to live and breathe fashion in order to be successful in the industry!