If the thought of a desk job makes you run tearfully for your sewing machine and your DVRed episodes of Project Runway, you might want to consider a career in fashion. Imagine working in an environment where creativity reigns and style is supreme –- does that sound like your ideal career? If so, you have a few different ways to get there, including a degree in fashion. Her Campus talked to five college students preparing for careers in the fashion industry to see how they're balancing school and style.
Major Style: Studying Fashion at an Art School
While the decision to study fashion might be difficult for some, Parsons, The New School of Design freshman Devon Plaster knew she wanted to study fashion at an art school since her freshman year of high school. During her free time in high school, she took fashion illustration and sewing classes, and began creating her own designs. She also took a challenging series of classes within her high school's art department, including AP art and an independent art study called senior studio.
“I applied to four art schools and one non-art school that had fashion design as a major,” says Devon. If you thought the Common App was tough, some fashion school applications might be even more intense. Devon explains, “Instead of grades and SAT scores being the focus of [Parsons'] application, it was my portfolio. I had to send in 24 pieces digitally and an additional three pieces with three essays.”
Parsons requires most freshmen to begin their studies with a foundation year before beginning their major. Devon takes 2D Design, 3D Design, Laboratory, Drawing, Art History, and Critical Reading and Writing. Starting sophomore year, she will be able to focus on sewing, draping, patternmaking, drawing, and digital design.
Over the next few years, Devon plans to intern in the industry and continue writing her fashion blog, Defined by Fashion. After graduation, she hopes to start her own line or work for a high fashion brand.
The Best of Both Worlds: Studying Fashion Design at a Traditional School
If you're passionate about becoming a designer but don't want to give up the atmosphere a traditional college or university offers, it's possible to have the best of both worlds. Lauren Kroll graduated from Michigan State University in 2011 with a degree in Apparel and Textile Design. “I never thought studying fashion was realistic until I talked with my advisors and started taking classes in the ATD department,” says Lauren K.
Like Devon, Lauren K.'s course of study began with a series of art classes ranging from drawing and 3D sculpture to color and design. In addition to learning how to create garments, she also took a branding class. “We developed our own brand logos, business cards, and portfolios to help us for after we graduate when we look for jobs and develop our own businesses and companies,” Lauren K. explains. “I also did a semester-long independent study with one of my professors where I made a suede jacket and learned how to sew with leather.” Because her classes were small (no more than 25 students), she found that her professors were warm, accessible, and willing to help with assignments.
As you might expect, a fashion student's workload involves more hands-on work than that of an English major. “While all of my roommates were at the library studying for midterms and essay exams, I was in the work labs working on pieces for our annual fashion show or for projects, or in the computer labs generating different types of fabrics or flats,” says Lauren K.
Another notable difference between fashion majors and academic majors? Class becomes a runway. According to Lauren K., “There was definitely a fair share of girls dressed up in high heels and red lipstick.” Sweats and UGGs don't cut it here!
Lauren K. is currently pursuing a second degree in journalism at Michigan State. Ultimately, she hopes to be the editor-in-chief of a women's fashion magazine.
The Best of Both Worlds: Studying Fashion Merchandising at a Traditional School
Not all fashion students study design. Fashion merchandising students learn how to develop, manufacture, buy, and sell products within the fashion industry; they graduate with business savvy geared towards all things fashionable. Lauren Felix graduated from Florida State University with a degree in fashion merchandising in 2011.
After winning an essay contest with (now defunct) ELLEGirl Magazine, Lauren F. held a charity fashion show at her high school. She says, “I was involved with the whole process, from recruiting models to advertising to styling the looks on the runway. I soaked up everything I could from the experience, and knew that this was what I wanted to do.”
In college, Lauren F.'s classes focused on the history of fashion, how to construct garments, and trend forecasting, among other subjects. She was also heavily involved in extracurriculars related to her major. “I wrote articles for our campus fashion magazine and joined our merchandising club, which put on fashion shows and had industry speakers.”
Her efforts didn't stop there. The summer after her freshman year, she wrote to every single fashion-related company near her hometown to ask if she could come observe. She ended up interning with a modeling agency, helping to style models and work on photo shoots. Another summer, she was a merchandising intern with a large retailer. “I also worked retail all through high school and college, which is honestly the best way to get started and see if it's an industry you're interested in. Interning and working are both great ways to gain more experience, network, and learn more about the industry.”
Lauren F. credits her fashion blog, La Petite Fashionista, for opening doors for her in the industry. “It acted as a virtual resume of my ability to track trends, be creative, and stay committed to something. I highly recommend people interested in fashion start a blog (or even a Tumblr or Pinterest account) as a portfolio,” she says.
After graduation, Lauren F. accepted a kids' merchandising and product development position at Lands' End in Wisconsin. She says, “My job allows me to be creative and exercise my entrepreneurial spirit, plus every day is different and fast-paced. I'm grateful to have a job where I love coming into work every day!”
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