Each year, many future fashion designers enroll in fashion schools across the country on their way to realizing their dreams.
Television shows and film portray fashion students as young adults, running around major cities with a sketch book in hand and dressed in designer duds from head to toe. And while you’ll certainly find the student body is a fashionable one, there’s a lot more to a fashion education than just dressing the part. Michelle Washington, a fashion instructor at The Art Institute of Austin, shared what you can expect from an education in fashion.
“You can find fashion students hard at work studying consumers, target markets, trend forecasting, pattern making, construction, draping, textiles, studying magazines and viral fashion shows…etc.” says Washington. Similar to any other college campus, students are constantly “dashing from lecture-to-lecture and lab-to-lab albeit exhausted (yet fashionable) with an energy drink or coffee in hand.”
Fashion students aren’t exempt from tests, quizzes, finals, and term papers either, rather they’re expected to ace all of the above while also submitting designs and constructing garments. Additionally, “students must also take their learning outside of the textbook; absorb fashion industry knowledge outside of class: read magazines, visit established designers, explore fabric stores, visit seamstress shops, and explore library information,” continues Washington.
Unlike many majors, top fashion designers can sometimes be heard talking about their “big break,” but that doesn’t just happen. Students must actively seek out opportunities to get their designs in front of the right people and have the technical skills to succeed when those opportunities present themselves.
After binging on a show like Project Runway, it often seems designers need only to create a sketch and bring it to life, but there’s much more to it than that. “In order to bring their vision to life, designers must learn about the overwhelming responsibility of product development: sourcing and buying fabrics, sourcing and buying trims, transporting materials to the manufacturer, weighing domestic vs. overseas expenses, ensuring the patterns are accurate, getting garments produced and delivered on time, quality control, and sourcing the right staff to execute each stage.”
Similar to any undergraduate education, fashion students must be willing work hard, accept internships that garner them real world experience, and stay up to date on current happenings within the industry.
Michelle Washington is a fashion stylist who currently teaches at the Art Institute of Austin. She has worked with many top brands including Perry Ellis, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Talbots, J. Crew, and many more. Washington has worked in fashion around the globe and in 2015 she was nominated for the Austin Fashion Awards. If you’re interested in learning more about an education in fashion, you can check out The Art Institutes.