Sure, Coco Chanel apprenticed in a sewing factory and Ralph Lauren just sold clothes for Brooks Brothers, but most big name fashion designers – Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Alexander McQueen – went to fashion school. The U.S. boasts a number of top fashion schools that have produced luminous talents such as Tom Ford, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui, and Calvin Klein. Several authorities work on compiling lists of the top fashion schools on a regular basis.
The East Coast
New York City is the U.S. fashion capital, and it is home to a bevy of top-notch fashion design schools. Fashion experts at the website Fashionista consider three New York schools to be the cream of the American crop. Those are Parsons - The New School For Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology,and Pratt Institute. The editors at "The Huffington Post" are big fans of New York University’s fashion program, and fashion insiders are also admirers of the program at Lim College. Drexel University in Philadelphia and the Massachusetts College of Art are also strong fashion schools, and no one should overlook the powerhouse Rhode Island School of Design, a division of Brown University.
The Savannah College of Art and Design boasts the largest fashion program in the country and collaborates with the magazine "ELLE" to bring student designs to the runways for New York Fashion Week. Meanwhile, Baylor University in Waco, Texas has the largest collection of fashion-related software technology of any college in the U.S., including a state-of-the-art fabric printer.
Interestingly, the state of Ohio is home to three well-known fashion programs. Kent State University has study abroad programs in Paris and Milan and is one of the only schools nationwide to offer a combined five-year Bachelor of Arts in fashion design with a Master of Business Administration in fashion. Columbus College of Art and Design benefits from its connections with Limited Brands, which is headquartered nearby. The University of Cincinnati offers a rigorous fashion design program with a strong emphasis on business and marketing. Another heavy hitter in the Midwest is the University of Missouri, which doesn’t offer fashion design, but instead provides a unique degree in textile and apparel management that can be taken with a concurrent minor in journalism. And of course there is the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the best overall art schools in the country, which offers a cross-disciplinary program with an avant-garde focus.
The West Coast
Predictably, along with the glamour of Hollywood and the Silicon Valley on the West Coast comes a number of strong fashion schools. Students at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles can prepare for jobs in the entertainment industry with courses in costume design for film and TV, while the Academy of Art University in San Francisco jets its students all the way over to New York to show their designs at Fashion Week. The rigorous Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles is known for attracting top-notch designers of all stripes, and students from the California College of Art in San Francisco have won top job placements and multiple awards, including the 2011 Surface Award for Emerging Talent.
Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.