Fashion is your passion since you were a child but you dont’ know how to become a fashion designer? This is the second part of the guide to help aspiring new talents in the choice of the best fashion school for their future career.

Through my work as teacher, many times peolple asked me some tips to choose an appropriate educational path in the field of fashion. This is a hard decision, especially if someone’s too young and is not thinking straight about his future.

I’ve noted that there’s a lot of confusion about the different types of possible jobs in fashion world and is not so easy to find the right informations on web. For who’s looking for a fashion school, only the usual big names are more promoted on internet and  is not even easy to understand what kind of course can be the best for our needs and desire.

Fashion sketch by Elisa Gibaldi (the author)

So I’ve thought that could be useful a sort of vademecum of all the best criteria to select the perfect school and begin the pathway that will bring you to a future career. Previously we’ve seen in the this article (here) the first 7 things to know before choosing a fashion school and soon we will start a long journey to discover the best Italian fashion schools, academies and universities.

Today instead I want to present you the second part of this short guide for wannabe designers.

Central Saint Martins, Parsons School of Fashion, Istituto Marangoni... These are only some of the most renowned names of fashion schools. Often their name on a curriculum is enough to obtain immediately a job. Often but not always.  There are many other schools that can give you valid job opportunities and a good educational path.

Long-established academies or universities (especially in Great Britain or in USA) usually have a well-organized structures, long-lasting relationships with industry and fashion houses, great visibility on mass media. Heritage is a guarantee of seriousness. Obviously all this has a cost.

ESMOD school in Paris

On the other side the most recently-founded schools, without a long tradition behind them, can be also interesting because they are ambitious and keen to constantly improve their position on international ranking. To see what are the most recommended schools you can take a look to the BOF Ranking. Other think to say about new schools is that they can be more innovating and avant-garde compared to more traditional colleges.

BOF Ranking of best fashion schools

As well as heritage, surely the reputation of a school is the most important things to look if you are deciding to enroll. Begin to see on internet the opinions and feedback of each school and don’t be satisfied with the things read on the official websites. Dig deep to discover the real reputation of a school. If you read bad comments, probably it’s not a serious school.

In the jungle of fashion schools, sometime can happen that, at the end of a hard pathway, there’ll be nothing interesting left for you in terms of valid accreditations. Some school will leave you only a certificate of partecipation or a not recognized diploma. That’s can be a bad investment (also if you learn a lot of interesting things) and a problem for your career.

My tip is to enroll in a course without a legally valid accreditation only if the school is really serious and famous (because its name will be a guaratee about your curriculum), if the course is useful to improve a particular subject and technical skills or if the course is for free (another voice to add on your cv is never a bad idea). Diploma is similar to the certificate and it’s often given by technical and professional schools.

Central Saint Martins fashion show 2015

About international schools and universities (such as University of Westminster, London College of Fashion, Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology) in almost every part of the world the most common accreditations are the academic Bachelor Degree (for 3 or 4 years courses in english language, with or without Honours), the Master Degree (1 or 2 years and always after a previous degree). This is a challenging pathway, but the most accreditated.

In Italy it’s a different matter. While some some private schools are internationally accreditated and prestigious (with BA and MA degree), like Polimoda in Florence, Accademia Koefia in Rome or Istituto Marangoni in Milan, but are not yet legally recognized by Italian law, other private academies have fashion design degree courses officially recognized by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education) and internationally. This is the case of the private schools like Accademia di Costume e Moda, Accademia Italiana, NABA or IED-Istituto Europeo di Design and of all the public universities and academies, like Politecnico Milano or Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera.

Fashion design degree at IED Barcelona
Because the most famous fashion schools are notoriously expensive, if money are a real problem you should consider only the schools which have a scholarship or facilitated financing programs. Fortunately this is a common system to recruiting talented students without burderning on their financial condition.

Many other benefits to consider are the different services that a school can offer to its students, like books and educational materials in the package deal, facilitated accomodations and housing, specific laboratories, a wide and well-stocked library always accessible for free, particular conventions to buy drawing supplies, software and fabrics. Keep in mind all these things, because are often relevant especially for foreign students.

Fashion library
The period of study is important to interface for the first time with the world of real work. One of the most important characteristic of a good school is a close connection with industry, not only for internship after the graduation, but to improve technical skills of the students during their educational path.

A good school will provide you important contacts with industry since first year of study, through projects, collaborations and competitions, beginning to build the complex network of relationship and connections you’ll need as future fashion designer. In the first meeting with the orientation and marketing office, try to find out what kind of partnerships has the school with industry and fashion houses.
The selection phase during a contest (ITS International Talents Support)
Surely your teachers will give a lot of works and projects to do, you will have many interesting subjects to study, but should consider other important elements to understand if a school is good to improve your cultural and technical knowledges.  

These are the activities organized by the school beyond the normal school time, like visits to art and design museums, the partecipation to fairs and exhibitions, the visits to leading industries in any field of design, like fabric manifacturies, embroidery ateliers, industrial production or, if you will study fashion communication, in some magazine’s headquarter or a professional photographic studio. Can appear banal, but all these activities are important to get you a first contact with working reality.

Embroidery laboratory
Denma Gvasalia is an ex-student of Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts, John Galliano studied at Central Saint Martins in London like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, Alessandro Michele is coming from Accademia di Costume e Moda in Rome, JimmyChoo studied at London College of Fashion... The list is long. The large majority of the most renowned fashion designers are graduated in a fashion school.

Alessandro Michele, from Accademia di Costume e Moda in Rome

Only a few cases are self-taught or had different educational pathway (like Gianfranco Ferré or Josep Font, creative director of Delpozo, who studied architecture before approaching fashion design). When you are looking for a fashion school, take a look to the list of ex-students. Not only those famous, that are  important and bring credit to the school, but also to the alumni currently working for a big name or as entrepreneur. You will have an idea of the real job opportunities offered by the college.
Josep Font, creative director of Delpozo
Recently I’ve read an article on a blog that was complaining about the excessive prizes of certain private courses. The most interesting parts of the post were the tens of comments, in which the readers create a sort of forum with tips about the most unexpensive university and courses in Italy. This opens to a critical argument. Yes, the major fashion schools have prohibitive costs for the mass, becoming elitist in the economical selection of the students favoring the most rich ones. Personally, I’m not agree with this policy. But there are some considerations to do.

First of all these schools have a great reputation (and this will help you searching an employment), are often in beautiful and expensive locations and above all have important costs to maintain the high-level quality. This doesn’t mean that more cheap schools, like public university or not so famous private academies, are not qualitatively valid. On the contrary, because they are trying to reach the fame of international big names, they offer more than you can expect in terms of attention given to students, benefits and also creative freedom.

A rare picture of Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo

However the costs for an under-graduate course in a notorious school starts from 12-15 thousands Euro up to 25 (or more) for each year, that increase if you are a foreign student. Less famous schools are around 6-9 thousands Euro for year, while if you cannot deal with this costs, there are the public universities with a wide range of prices depending by zone. For example in Italy they are quite cheap but of high-quality (more or less 2-5 thousands Euro for year), while in Usa are more expensive (8-10 thousands dollars).

Obviously in the total costs of your pathway you must consider also the cost of art supplies for drawing, the fabrics to create your collections and books for exams. As well as the financial budget to live outside home.

Design studio detail (Photo and illustrations by Elisa Gibaldi)
Beyond all the practical criteria seen until now, there’s something really crucial to understand. Every school has its own style. To have an idea about it just take a look to the graduate collections presented during the fashion weeks. That’s mean that some schools are market-oriented and so the final projects of their students will be smart, commercial, well calibrated following the target of potential customers, maybe less creative but surely successful. Other graduate collections are surprising and sometime excessive because the school try to encourage the free vision of each student at the expense of practicality and commercial attractiveness.

New technologies are used by students of the most modern and up-to-date fashion schools, while other will be more traditional and focused on artisanal techniques. If you are transgressive and rebel, don’t expect that a tradition-oriented school could be suitable for your needs and wishes, it’s more probable that you’ll feel frustrated and unhappy.

In short, looking the graduate fashion shows you can easily understand if the school’s style is compatible with your own taste or not.
University of Westminster fashion show 2017

Hoping this guide was useful, I'll wait you soon with next fashion stories!