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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study fashion design?

If you have an affinity for creative expression and are also looking for a rewarding, dynamic and exciting career, then studying fashion design could be a great choice. We look at what it involves.

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You’ve probably imagined being a fashion designer. The bright lights. The runway as a model walks down in beautiful clothing. The flickering of the camera flashes as the crowd soaks up the latest offering from a fashion headliner. You’re also likely wondering what it takes to study fashion design and how to get into fashion school. We take you through how to become a fashion designer, what fashion designers do and some of the reasons to study fashion design. We’ll also take a look at some of the best fashion design schools. 


What is fashion design?


Fashion design is the application of artistic creativity and aesthetics to the development, design and production of clothing and associated accessories. Often fashion design is closely allied to social and cultural trends and attitudes, which are reflected in how people choose to present themselves through clothing. 


Fashion designers need to be astute in their judgement of consumer sentiment and the wider aesthetic values of society. Being able to research and predict trends is a crucial aspect of the design of clothing. Further, sensitivity to the environmental dimensions involved in fashion design and production is an essential part of being a fashion designer. This may incorporate less harmful production methods, sustainably sourced fabrics, and the use of recycled materials. 


There are also areas of specialisation within fashion design, including high-street or retail fashion, haute couture, children’s clothing, womenswear, and off the hanger or ready-to-wear fashion. Fashion designers can find themselves working for a fashion house, an independent fashion label or a well-known clothing manufacturer or store.  


What types of fashion design degrees are there?


Now it can admittedly be a little confusing to make sense of all the fashion qualifications on offer. What’s important is that if you are interested in becoming a fashion designer, you should make sure that this is the core focus of the curriculum you are going to study. You can study fashion design degrees at colleges, universities and dedicated fashion design schools. 


Some of the qualifications that will set you on a path to become a fashion designer include:


  • Fashion design and development 
  • Fashion management 
  • Fashion design and technology
  • Fashion textile
  • Fashion marketing
  • Fashion tailoring
  • Footwear production and design 
  • Creative direction
  • Fashion merchandising 
  • Fashion illustration
  • Jewellery design 
  • Fashion curation
  • Fashion technology


Fashion design degrees and related qualifications can be studied at both the postgraduate and undergraduate level, with many classified as professional degrees. Generally, once you move to a master’s degree, you will specialise in a particular area related to fashion, for example, business or fashion retail. 


What will I study for a fashion design degree?


Fashion design courses aim to equip you with industry-ready skills and a strong knowledge of fashion. What you will learn during your qualification will depend significantly on whether you have chosen a specialised or more general degree. We’re taking a look across numerous fashion design qualifications to give you an idea of what you’ll study and how to prepare for fashion school. Some of the topics covered may include:


  • Fashion production technology
  • Fashion history and culture 
  • Product development 
  • Fashion design techniques 
  • Tailoring
  • Design and development 
  • Fashion and the environment 
  • Professional practice
  • Fashion illustration 
  • Textile technology
  • Fashion business
  • Merchandising
  • Retail management and development


If you pursue a course in fashion you will likely be expected to fulfil an industry placement or internship and be evaluated on your performance there. Fashion design courses can be very practically based, so you must be prepared for this aspect.


Discover more about these universities offering fashion design degrees in the USA:



How long does a degree in fashion design take?


Depending on the level at which you are studying, for example, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, and the country in which you decide to study, a fashion design degree may take slightly shorter or longer. However, some standard course structures apply in most contexts. If you want to study for an undergraduate professional degree in the subject you will need to spend three to four years on your qualification. At a master’s degree level, your course will last between one and two years. 


You may also be wondering how to get into fashion school and apply to a university. Some of the general entry requirements for fashion design courses are: 


  • A-level qualifications in English, mathematics, art, design or science. Minimum of a C grade/ or
  • Foundation diploma in art or design / or
  • Good academic achievement in the International Baccalaureate
  • IELTS score of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in any one band


If you’re thinking of studying in the USA you’ll need:


  • GPA B+ average or above
  • SAT score of 1,800 or more


Find out more about English language requirements and pre-sessional English courses


Where can I study for a fashion design degree?

Fashion design degrees are available in many destinations, however, if you are looking for some of the best fashion schools in the world your eye will probably be drawn to the UK, the USA, France and Italy. Some of the best and most sought-after fashion schools in the world include:


  • University of the Arts London: Central Saint Martins (UK)
  • London College of Fashion (UK)
  • The Fashion Institute of Technology (USA)
  • Instituto Marangoni (Italy)
  • Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Prarisienne (France)


You can also explore some of the other highly-ranked institutions offering fashion design courses in the UK:



What are the career prospects for fashion graduates?

Often a consideration for selecting a particular course of study is as much about interest and passion as it is about the practicality of finding work. First and foremost, if you’re thinking about becoming a fashion designer you need to know what a fashion designer is likely to be required to do at work each day. Work and tasks can include:


  • Designing clothes and products 
  • Creating presentations for clients
  • Writing specifications for production 
  • Developing clothing ranges
  • Meeting with buyers, clients and brands
  • Taking part in events and shows
  • Manage budgets and marketing 
  • Quality assure production
  • Meet with suppliers and producers


The type of skills you’ll need include great creativity, technical ability, communication, time management, organisation, financial ability, negotiation and collaboration. If you qualify with a degree in fashion design you could end up working for a fashion brand, high-street chain store, an independent label or as a studio manager, business manager, fashion journalist or fashion illustrator. 


Remember that much of your career prospects will be determined by what you specialise in when studying. In terms of how much fashion designers make, salaries for entry-level positions are quite low at between GBP 15,000 and GBP 20,000, however, as you rise through the ranks this can increase to GBP 25,000 and if you make it to director level in the industry you could earn as much as GBP 70,000. 


If you have an affinity for design and a creative flair a degree in fashion design could suit you well. If you’re wondering how to get a sense of what you may be good at reading our guide to matching your skills with a study path and the services that education counsellors offer can help. You may also want to find out about post-study work options in a popular destination like the UK. 


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