Are you into tangible, hands-on ways of self-expression and looking for one that could also become your career? Then Fashion might be the right industry for you!
It is a sought-after and competitive field – offering a fun lifestyle, interesting challenges to solve, and the opportunity to meet creative people from around the globe. Moreover, with the rising global challenges, it offers a chance to bring about real change for a better world in one of the biggest industries influencing it.
Fashion design is the practical application of art, creativity, aesthetics, and theory to the design, construction, and production of clothing and accessories.
University degrees in Fashion usually approach the subject from one of two angles:
As an academic field of study, fashion design combines disciplines such as history, business, psychology, illustration, and technology.
As an art practice, fashion design is interlaced with culture and psychology. As a fashion designer, you would create garments based on your creative vision or consumer demand. The general public’s response to these designs is the main factor of trend formation.
The ability to research, predict, and/or dictate trends is a crucial aspect of becoming successful in the fashion industry. It’s also important to mention the sensitivity to the environmental dimensions involved in fashion design and production as an essential part of shaping the present fashion industry. This may incorporate less harmful production methods, sustainably and ethically sourced fabrics, and the use of recycled materials.
Additionally, there are also areas of specialisation within fashion design, including high-street or retail fashion, haute couture, children’s clothing, womenswear, and ready-to-wear fashion.
Fashion designers, after graduation, can choose to work for a fashion house, an independent fashion label (that might be as well assembled by them) or a well-known clothing manufacturer/store.
Other career paths include: creative and research practice, styling, visual merchandising, textiles design, marketing and public relations, retail, and production, among others.
Europe is the world’s fashion capital, so unsurprisingly, teaching standards in this field are almost always first-class, so you can expect to get high-quality education in most European universities.
You can choose between private and public universities.
Private schools focus mainly on practical skills and organise their programmes around group work to provide a more hands-on approach. That’s a good pick if you’re aiming at a more creative, design-related aspect of the industry.
Public facilities often focus more on theories and methodologies. They look at fashion from historical and contemporary perspectives, providing theoretical frameworks to analyse and understand the fashion sector.
While there are many places where you could pursue your degree, it can pay off to enroll in a fashion school in one of Europe's "fashion capitals": London, Paris, Milan, or Antwerp.
If you are looking to get your Fashion degree from a university, it can be helpful to consider rankings.
Below are the top 10 best fashion schools and universities in Europe, according to a recent ranking by CEOWORLD Magazine:
|1||London College of Fashion||United Kingdom||85.97||AAA|
|3||Central Saint Martins||United Kingdom||85.65||AAA|
|6||School of Arts, Design and Architecture - Aalto University||Finland||85.24||AAA|
|8||School of Design at Royal College of Art||United Kingdom||84.28||AA|
|9||Istituto Marangoni International||Italy||84.13||AA|
|12||Fashion Design Institut||Germany||83.46||AA|
|13||University of Westminster||United Kingdom||82.8||AA|
|15||Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp||Belgium||82.23||AA|
Fashion requires acquiring a unique blend of skills and knowledge; thus, Undergraduate courses tend to be more flexible and cover a wide variety of topics compared to Graduate programs.
The final spectrum of your learning depends, of course, on the program and university you choose, but broadly speaking, you can expect to advance in the following:
Design, fashion and art history, collection development, fashion illustration, pattern making, computer-aided design, clothing construction, merchandising, business management, marketing, retail product management, information analysis, product development, consumer behaviour, cost analysis, project planning, pricing, sourcing, digital communication with retail and marketing, trendsetting, textile design and innovation.
The general rule is that Master’s degrees expand upon the topics covered by a Bachelor’s degree and direct you on a more specialised path of your choice.
If you were to choose a more academic route, you could expect to gain knowledge about the fashion system from historical and contemporary perspectives, recognise the main factors behind fashion development and acquire the necessary tools to analyse and understand the world of fashion.
On a more practical path, you will likely work with tutors and peers to explore themes that respond to your emerging practice and develop new spaces, materials, identities and business models accordingly.
If you have studied a Bachelor's in a different discipline, such as business, it’s still possible to re-route into the Fashion industry, and pursuing a Master’s degree in this field can be a great way to break into it.
If you’ve already taken a bachelor’s in Fashion, use a Master's course to specialise and narrow down your practice – e.g. in luxury, jewellery design, costume design, PR & comms, etc.
Fashion has a significant advantage over other industries: it is a vast field and can most likely home any edge of your interests and aspirations. Depending on the educational route you have chosen, you can either look into the practical application of acquired skills or pursue a PhD and stay within academia.
Public relations officer
Fashion Technology and Innovation
Fashion Production & Management
Remember that this is just a tiny sample of the careers you can pursue with a qualification in Fashion. Less obvious areas of career opportunities include costume design within the television and film industry, fashion multimedia, and internet companies (digital fashion).
The advantage of the Fashion industry, as mentioned earlier, naturally results in a high saturation of students interested in entering the market, so it’s highly competitive.
Typically, an internship is your best bet when entering any industry, and even more so within Fashion.
Networking is crucial in every field, but in the creative industry, it's a must. You can often find employment by establishing relationships with designers and companies while still at the university.
Employers in the fashion business range from well-known studios housing top designers to high-end shops, clothing brands sold in supermarkets, and manufacturing facilities. Contact fashion houses, publishing houses, designers, departments and other retail stores to ask for work experience opportunities and look for job openings on the websites of fashion companies. There may also be opportunities within your course to take a year out in the industry as part of a sandwich degree or gain work experience abroad.
At university graduation shows, recruiters could snag the most outstanding designers. Employers frequently use tutors and university career services to fill junior positions. Additionally, recruitment may be done through specialised agencies and the media.
To increase your chances of employment, be serious about building a solid portfolio during the university years, try participating in contests, and start building your network as soon as you can.
As with any creative industry, Fashion is highly demanding and not for everyone. It requires strong self-discipline, a resilient mind, an innovative and creative approach, highly-developed collaboration skills, and a willingness to think outside the box.
The job market is highly competitive, and thus it might be hard for you to find employment right after graduation.
Here are some points that can help you assess whether pursuing a career in the Fashion industry is the right choice for you:
Style, aesthetics, and appearance are important to you.
You are creative.
You follow the current fashion, cultural, and related trends (and it excites you).
You understand it’s a highly competitive industry and are ready to work hard to make your way through it.
You understand that your work might rarely be limited to 9-5 shifts, Monday to Friday.
You are resilient, able to take in the critique, and ready to recreate your projects multiple times.
Setbacks do not easily defeat you.
You are able to work with a team of other creatives.
You understand it’s not only about the arts and design but also business and strategy.
Remember that those and many other soft skills are developed in the university, so don’t worry if you don’t recognise all of them in yourself at the moment.
Fashion is definitely not an easy industry, and there are many nuances you will need to learn about to navigate it well. Whether it’s worth it or not, it’s subjective. If you are deeply passionate about it, and all the hardships don’t scare you too much, then it might be a good idea to give it a try. However, if you don’t feel a strong push in this direction, it might be worth considering other creative routes.
Choosing your course is a big decision and can be very confusing with all the available information. Here, put simply, are the three main reasons that make studying Fashion a great choice:
It’s evergreen: As long as people live on this planet, they will need clothes. Thus, the Fashion industry is here to stay. It will keep changing, of course, but you don’t need to worry about it becoming obsolete.
It’s broad and keeps growing: Fashion is one of the biggest and fastest-growing industries, and with ever-changing trends, it leaves a lot of room for innovation and creativity. With its richness, it is a container of many career paths.
It’s prestigious: If you are looking into the elite and prestigious career fields, Fashion is the way to go. You will likely work with models, agents, designers, publisher houses, and big brands.
If after reading this article, you have a growing feeling that Fashion might not be the right path for you, below you can find a short list of alternative paths. They still harness creativity and are broad enough to allow some exploration:
Communication Design: It is a mixed discipline between design and information development which is concerned with how media communicate with people. Similarly to Fashion, it takes into account the artistic and human factors and works on the intersection of the two. It requires both creative and strategic thinking.
Marketing: The process of exploring, creating, and delivering value to meet the needs of a target market in terms of goods and services. It requires innovative and creative thinking, as well as sensitivity to human nature – similarly to Fashion.
Product Design: This is probably the closest route to Fashion Design. The difference is that instead of designing garments, you’re designing products.
206 Fashion Programmes in Europe