It's summertime, and chances are you're heading to the beach or hanging out with friends. But soon enough it will be September, so you might as well start thinking about your future educational endeavors now. If you have an interest in fashion, whether to design it or take a more behind-the-scenes role, there are tons of amazing school options to consider. For a comprehensive look, you can take a peek at our Top 50 Fashion Schools list, which pretty much covers the entire world. Think you want to stick with U.S. schools? Then you're in the right place!
We've compiled a list of the 20 best fashion schools in the country. As with our previous fashion school rankings, this is not scientific. We looked at data, jobs procured, opinions of people in the industry and standout program offerings. We also wanted to show you that great schools aren't limited to NYCyou'll find colleges located in all parts of the country.
This list is meant to provide an overview of the schools' strengths and to highlight some of their unique attributes. You'll find fashion design programs here, but some of the schools listed don't offer fashion design. Instead, they've gained a spot because they offer other amazing programs to prepare you for a career in fashion. We hope it's helpful as a starting point. (Click here for the full list.)
Tuition prices don't include fees and housing. And if you see an asterisk (*), it denotes a CFDA-affiliated program. Like our previous rankings, this list includes undergraduate degrees only.
Click through to review the schools and good luck as you embark on a new career!
(*Additional reporting by Sara Shabtai*)
1. PARSONS, THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DESIGN* (New York)
Programs: Fashion Design, Fashion Studies, Fashion Marketing
Number of students: Undergrads: 4,191; Graduate: 555; fashion design: 1,087; fashion marketing: 384
Famous Students/Grads: Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez, Alexander Wang, Anna Sui, Jason Wu, Jenna Lyons (J.Crew), Chris Benz, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (Proenza Schouler), Behnaz Sarafpour, Doo Ri Chung, Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock (Vena Cava), Flora Gill and Alexa Adams (Ohne Titel), Prabal Gurung, Steven Meisel, Thakoon Panichgul, Carmen Marc Valvo
The Bottom Line: Parsons is a fashion design powerhouse, and they have turned out tons of marquee name talent, particularly in the past 10 years. Many of their famous grads are now part of the faculty. Workshops and critiques by Donna Karan and the Proenza Schouler guys? Events like these are commonplace. Most of the faculty members work in the areas in which they teach. The students we spoke to raved about their instructors. What’s more, the school has partnered with many retailers and corporations (like LVMH) with the aim of getting student work seen and critiqued.
2. FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (FIT)* (New York)
Programs: Design, Business, Marketing, Illustration, Styling, etc.
Number of Students: 10,386
Tuition: $5,168 (NYC/NYC residents); $13,550 for out-of-state residents
Misc: Very comprehensive programs. Part of the SUNY network
Famous Grads: Reem Acra, Francisco Costa, Nina Garcia, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Ralph Rucci
The Bottom Line: In addition to fashion design, FIT offers fashion marketing, business, textiles, visual arts and countless other fashion-related degrees. The lecture series and FIT museum are exceptional. Valerie Steele, as Chief Curator of the Museum of FIT, gives this school a brainy credibility.
3. PRATT (Brooklyn, NY)
Programs: Fashion Design
Number of Students: Total undergrads in art & design program: 2,100; Fashion: 169
Misc: Part of a larger design school, so you can combine arts studies.
Famous Grads: Jeremy Scott, Betsey Johnson (didn't graduate from Pratt), Andy and Debb
The Bottom Line: Pratt has shed its image as an up-and-coming fashion design program and become a force to be reckoned with, which is why it's jumped up in our rating. Its student shows are getting more attention lately, and are attracting such luminaries as Vogue personalities and well-known designers. It's also one of the few design programs that offers electives in fashion editorial/magazine publishing.
4. KENT STATE UNIVERSITY* (Kent, OH)
Programs: Fashion Design; Fashion Merchandising
Number of Students: Undergrads: 18,000; Fashion students: 200/year graduate from the school.
Tuition: Ohio resident: $9,030; Non-Ohio resident: $16,900
Misc: Has a garment center studio in NYC where 120 students/year go to study.
The Bottom Line: With study-abroad programs in Paris and Milan, a huge endowment for scholarships, and a high-profile program allowing you to complete a fashion-focused undergraduate and MBA in fashion-focused business in just five years, this school is one of the top American fashion schools and keeps getting better.
5. ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY* (San Francisco, CA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Knitwear Design, Textile Design, Fashion Journalism and Fashion Merchandising & Marketing
Number of Students: School: 17,000; Fashion students: 2,700
6. SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN* (Savannah, GA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing & Management, Accessories Design
Number of Students: All undergrad programs: 9,800; Fashion students (includes non-design majors): 940
Misc: Andre Leon Talley is on the Board of Directors and a Lifetime Achievement Award is given in his name every year.
The Bottom Line: The new-ish dean, Michael Fink, is turning SCAD into a fashion powerhouse, with lots of new industry connections and faculty hires. Check out "SCAD Style" to see the high-level activities happening there. The Luxury and Fashion Management program is a standout, and pretty unique; you won't find many comparable programs.
7. RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN* (Providence, RI)
Programs: Apparel Design, Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Textiles
Number of Students: Undergrads: 1,940; Fashion/apparel/textiles/jewelry: 200
Misc: You can cross-register at Brown University.
Famous Grads: Nicole Miller, Sari Gueron, Philip Crangi, Marcia Patmos, Sarah Welsh & Madeline Davy (formerly of Octopi)
The Bottom Line: One of the most respected design schools in the world, their profile as a fashion design school is only getting rosier. This is a pure design school. While small, their fashion design is still on the national radar; last fall RISD partnered with Elle magazine and showed a student fashion show at New York Fashion Week.
8. DREXEL UNIVERSITY* (Philadelphia, PA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Design & Merchandising
Number of Students: Undergrads in media arts and design: 2,800; Fashion: 120 Design and Merchandising: 260
The Bottom Line: Many students have won national and international awards, and gone on to study at the Chambre Syndicale and nabbed huge jobs in France. There's a sophomore year study abroad program at the London College of Fashion. The Design & Merchandising program includes a rigorous business component to prepare you for the biz.
9. OTIS COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN *(Los Angeles, CA)
Programs: Fashion Design
Number of Students: Undergrads: 1,200; Fashion students: 180
Famous Grads: Rick Owens (didn’t graduate--dropped out), Cynthia Vincent
The Bottom Line: Otis is one of the top U.S. design programs in the country, so you're going to be surrounded by design experts. They have a fashion design mentorship program headlined by top designers.
10. COLUMBUS COLLEGE OF ART & DESIGN* (Columbus, OH)
Programs: Fashion Design
Number of Students: Undergrads: 1,291; Fashion: 122
The Bottom Line: Ohio for some reason has three fantastic fashion design programs, and this is one of them. Again, this is another pure design school so if you're looking for fashion business or marketing, look elsewhere. Limited Brands is headquartered in Ohio, and they frequently sponsor activities--and hire grads--from this small Midwestern design gem.
11. CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF ARTS* (San Francisco and Oakland, CA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Textiles, Jewelry Design
Number of Students: Undergrads: 1,640; Fashion students: 65 (#'s from 2010)
The Bottom Line: A CFDA-affiliated school, its students have won many industry awards and landed jobs with marquee-name labels and companies. One of the fashion design school's 2011 grads was honored with Surface magazine's "Emerging Talent" award. The design world watches this school.
12. UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI* (Cincinnati, OH)
Programs: Fashion Design (combined w/Product Development)
Number of Students: Undergrads: 24,000; Fashion Programs: 315
Tuition: OH residents: $10,065; Out of state: $24,588
Famous Grads: Stan Herman (former CFDA president)
The Bottom Line: The design program, in general, consistently ranks as one of the best in the nation. While this is a fashion design program, there's a strong focus on business and marketing aspects.
13. FASHION INSTITUTE OF DESIGN & MERCHANDISING (Los Angeles, CA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Footwear Design, Costume Design, Jewelry Design, Textile Design, Merchandising (Fashion & Beauty Programs)
Number of Students: 8,000 (all programs are undergrad/all are fashion-related)
Tuition: $27,000-$36,000 depending on area of study.
Misc: Most are Associate of Art degrees
Famous Grads: Monique Lhuillier, Pamela Skaist-Levy (Juicy Couture co-founder), Randolph Duke
The Bottom Line: A great vocational and design school for practical experience; FIDM also has an incredible career database for placement post-graduation. There are even beauty curricula. One recent grad got hired to tour with Rihanna as a member of her wardrobe team. You can get unique experiences here since LA is a hub of entertainment.
14. SCHOOL OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO (Chicago, IL)
Programs: Fashion Design
Number of Students: Undergrads: 2,500; Fashion students: 76 undergrads
Misc: Three-year curriculum within a four-year fine arts foundation.
Famous Grads: Cynthia Rowley, Maria Pinto, Halston, Matthew Ames
The Bottom Line: With a non-traditional fashion design program, Georgia O'Keefe's alma mater has a serious art and design pedigree. Along with fashion design, you can delve into fiber and material studies and tack on some media studies. This is a truly artsy program with unique experiences available.
15. MASSACHUSETTS COLLEGE OF ART (Boston, MA)
Programs: Fashion Design, Fibers, Jewelry
Number of Students: Undergrads: 1752; Fashion Design: 110; Fibers: 39 Metals/Jewelry: 30
Tuition: MA resident: $9,700; New England resident: $16,600; Out-of-state: $25,400
The Bottom Line: This is an historic art college with a tidy fashion design program. The school offers a cool partnership with a collective in Brazil that focuses on sustainable products and encourages employment of local women artisans.
16. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY (Corvallis, OR) :
Programs: Apparel Design, Merchandising Management
Number of Students: Undergrads: 720 in the Dept. of Design & Human Development
Tuition: OR resident: $7,700 Non-resident: $21,450 (based on 15 credit hrs)
Misc: You can do merchandising management as a minor.
The Bottom Line: Want to work at a sporty or heritage apparel company? The design and merchandising programs at OSU are feeders for Nike, Pendleton, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and Eddie Bauer, all of which are headquartered in the outdoorsy Pacific Northwest.
17. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI (Columbia, MO)
Programs: Textile and Apparel Management--no design!! Offers a concurrent journalism minor
Number of Students: 250 undergrads in Textile & Apparel Management
Tuition: MO residents: $8,500 Non-MO residents: $19,690
The Bottom Line: This is not a design school, but a very unique program offering insights into the production and business of fashion. It's an award-winning department with internationally respected faculty.
18. COLUMBIA COLLEGE (Chicago, IL)
Programs: Fashion Design, Fashion/Retail Management (the two programs have just been combined as Fashion Studies)
Number of Students:Undergrads: 12,000; Fashion Studies: 850
The Bottom Line: A small program in a big city at a cool arts school. Columbia has a comprehensive journalism program, too.
19. BAYLOR UNIVERSITY (Waco, TX)
Programs: Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising
Misc: A fashion education within a big, fun traditional U.S. university. Be aware that it also has a Christian educational requirement.
Famous Grads: Jodi Arnold (Mint label)
The Bottom Line: Thanks to some generous donors, Baylor has the largest collection of fashion design, merchandising and product development software and technology of any university in North America, including a state-of-the-art fabric printer so students can easily make their own fabrics.
20. LIM COLLEGE (New York, NY)
Programs: Fashion Merchandising, Marketing, Management, Visual Merchandising. NO DESIGN
Number of Students: 1,500 Students
The Bottom Line: LIM will give you thorough preparation for the behind-the-scenes aspects of the fashion business.