June 1, 2009
just a thought – choosing a fashion school
Many readers or googlers at Final Fashion are interested in my experiences at fashion school. Maybe you are a fashion student or applying to become one. A frequent question I get in emails and comments is: how to pick a fashion school?
First off, I always have to comment on what an incredible privilege it is to be able to go to fashion school at all – never mind the luxury of being able to choose which one! It seems like once they’re in, a lot of fashion students forget that, I don’t know why.
Fashion school is only a good choice for you if:
- You can not picture yourself doing anything else.
- You love creating things with your hands.
- You have more ideas than you know what to do with.
- You are competitive.
- You are dedicated to putting the hours in.
You will be spending the next few years immersing yourself in the subject of your choice, in an environment where making mistakes, getting advice, and trying new things with relatively few limitations is encouraged. Don’t waste that precious time complaining, OK? Get on with it or get out.
So lets say you are made for fashion school. Which one is right for you? Fashion is a moneymaking program and courses at reasonable rates are offered at most colleges – and of course there are the prestige schools – Parsons in New York and Central Saint Martins in London which will likely cost you more per year than the salary you are going to get straight out of school.
Here is the thing: no one in fashion looks at your GPA unless you are going ahead to grad school or looking to work as a professor or something. Your portfolio, your work experience and who you know are always more important than whether you got a C in that elective or whatever. My advice is look at your choices for fashion school taking this into mind.
The prestige schools of course look grand on a resume. Besides that, students at those schools get a lot of opportunities to share their work with the best in the biz. If you have the financial means to go to these schools, by all means do it. That said students of CSM and Parsons that I have met often seem less satisfied than students at the second-tier schools. I don’t know if it is because they have such high expectations or what, but the sense I get is that the value-for-money equation doesn’t match up unless money is no object.
My pick, if I could go to any fashion school in the world, would be FIT in New York City. It is still pricey, but relative to Parsons it is a steal. Plus, it is a whole school dedicated to fashion – the library, the bookstore, the archives, the faculty, the location – all very impressive!
In Canada, I went to Ryerson University in Toronto. It is a four year program and probably the most expensive in Canada. I really enjoyed my time there and do not regret it, but in retrospect I might be better off financially now if I took the two year program at George Brown. I would caution the prospective student to avoid “campus” schools in suburbs or small cities – you won’t learn much being surrounded by people very similar to you living in an artificial environment that could be anywhere. “Campus Life” seems pretty sterile to me. In my opinion, major city schools are way better – if the goal is to become part of the fashion community, live as close to the action as possible.
If you can afford to take a two, three or four year program, absolutely go for it. Growing up around a group of people for that much time is an experience unlike anything else. But if you can only afford to take a few courses, that can be every bit as valuable in terms of learning. Concentrate on selecting the courses that build your portfolio and spend whatever time you can interning or working within the industry.
To sum up: pick a school or a course you can afford, pick one that is well integrated with an established fashion community, and spend your time there concentrating on building your portfolio and your contacts. Everything else I give you permission not to worry about.
Hope that answers your questions – bearing in mind that these are all just my opinions. If you have a fashion school experience or a question I didn’t answer here, please comment.