The Most Prestigious Fashion Schools
School is ending, graduation season is upon us, and perhaps you’re wondering what to do with your life. Well, if fashion design–or a related career–is calling you, we’ve compiled a list of the top fashion schools in the world.
5. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT):
–10,000 students (all programs)
–Tuition (not including room and board): $5,200/year if you’re a NY state resident; $12,000/year for out-of-state residents
–Famous grads: Reem Acra, Francisco Costa, Nina Garcia, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Ralph Rucci.
In addition to fashion design, FIT offers fashion marketing, business, textiles, visual arts, and countless other fashion-related degrees.
The campus of FIT is located in NYC in the heart of the Garment District, so the school has access to incredible resources and professionals. FIT has relationships with designers and industry professionals who critique student work and offer workshops, and the museum boasts one of the most extensive fashion archives anywhere.
Connections with organizations such as the CFDA ensure that students get a lot of real world experience. Valerie Steele, as Chief Curator of the Museum of FIT, gives this school a brainy credibility. And it’s part of the State University of NY, so it’s much cheaper than most fashion schools, which is a big concern for plenty of incoming students. The downside? It hasn’t produced a hot designer in several years.
Hodaya (28, graduated in Spring 2010 w/ BFA in accessories design and associate degree in fashion design), told us that it was invaluable having “the amazing library, museum and archives. Also being able to access forecasting and trend services. Priceless… I know I will miss that.” She also said, “[FIT provides] the right mix of business and art. FIT is open to creativity yet focuses on the technical and practical aspect of the design process.” Her one critique was, “I wish we had more updated machinery in the accessories department. It seems like the focus is more on fashion design, so the accessories design department suffers from lack of leather specialty machines.”
4. London College of Fashion:
–1,500 first year students
–Tuition (not including room and board): $18,375/year for international students
–A college of the University of the Arts London.
–Famous grads: Jimmy Choo, Alek Wek, Patrick Cox.
The College is spread out over six different sites in London, so students are surrounded by the energy of this incredible city. It has a fashion design program, but the fashion journalism program is the standout here.
Just looking at the courses of study tells you that this is no ordinary university. There are many unique programs that you won’t find anywhere else. Beauty therapy, cosmetic science (yes, the chemistry side of beauty), fashion broadcast journalism, fashion curation and criticism, fashion business, footwear and accessories, makeup and image styling. The catalog made us want to pick up and move to London.
Christopher (26, second year, fashion broadcast journalism) told us, “I adore being surrounded by so many talented people. It’s very inspirational. I believe primarily its location has a lot to do with the success of LCF. London is an incredible place for culture and opportunity.” As was a common refrain with students in all the schools, the financial burden is not insignificant: Christopher works three jobs and freelances to stay ahead of costs.
3. Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp):
–140 fashion students
–Tuition (not including room and board): $825/year for international students
–Famous grads: Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Kris Van Assche, Veronique Branquinho, Haider Ackermann, Bruno Pieters.
The Royal Academy is an elite design school. It’s known for its serious students–many drop out because they can’t handle the work load.
The Antwerp Six–Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene and Marina Yee–put the school on fashion’s map in the early 1980s. Since then, it’s continued to produce all-star designers, from the legendary Martin Margiela to current industry favorites Haider Ackermann and Bruno Pieters.
2. Parsons The New School for Design:
–650 undergrad fashion design students
–Tuition (not including room and board): $41,000/year
-Famous grads: Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez, Alexander Wang, Anna Sui, Jason Wu, Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez (Proenza Schouler), Behnaz Serafpour, Doo Ri Chung, Sophie Buhai &Lisa Mayock (Vena Cava), Flora Gill and Alexa Adams (Ohne Titel), Prabal Gurung, Steven Meisel, Thakoon Panichgul, Carmen Marc Valvo.
Much like FIT, Parsons is located in the heart of New York City’s Garment District, providing easy access to industry resources.
Parsons is a fashion design powerhouse, and they have turned out tons of marquee name talent, particularly in the last ten 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 with the aim of getting student work seen and critiqued.
Ted, a current student, (23, graduating senior, menswear) said, “They break you down and then build you up. They teach you how to be competitive in one of the most competitive industries in the world.” However, he also said, ”We need less students, not more. With 20 kids in a studio class, you’re getting a lot less attention than you need.” Michael, 19, in the Design and Management program noted that there are lots of “rich kids.” But despite a few critiques, both students were happy with their choice and wouldn’t change it.
If you’re exceptionally dedicated, with an experimental, innovative, and avant garde sensibility, this may be the place for you. It’s part of one of the oldest design schools in the world, and has produced some stellar talent in the past 20 years. (Oh, and you better learn Dutch!)
1. Central St.Martins:
–1,200 fashion students
–A college of the University of the Arts London
–Tuition (not including room and board): $18,375 for international students
–Famous grads: Stella McCartney, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo, Christopher Kane, Hussein Chalayan, Zac Posen, Hamish Bowles, Paul Smith.
Central St. Martins’ elite fashion design program was the clear winner here amongst our panel of experts. As we’ve seen in all the schools, location is critical. Being in the heart of London provides inspiration and full access to cultural and industry resources. The school is partially government-funded, which means that talented British students from all walks of life have a chance to work their way in.
What’s more, the teaching staff is legendary. Professor Louise Wilson has schooled all the greats–from McQueen to Giles Deacon–and she’s become an international fashion figure because of it.
Further evidence of its importance, and influence: It’s the only fashion school that has its runway shows archived on Style.com.
There were some student complaints about the facility and the number of students competing for the attention of instructors and studio mentors, but most were extremely complimentary of the dedication, knowledge, and experience of the faculty.