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Best Fashion Design Schools in California

The best fashion design schools in California are ideal for fashion-forward, creative individuals. These programs are ideal if you’re looking to become the next breakout designer to influence the clothing industry. Whether you want a more academic-led method of instruction or hands-on creativity, there’s a program for everyone.
This guide will go over five of the top fashion design programs you’ll find in the state. Each of these schools meets the following criteria:

  • An average annual cost of no more than $13,000
  • A median starting salary no lower than $34,000
  • Accredited programs by recognized bodies

Accredited Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

5 Best Fashion Design Schools in California

1. Orange Coast College

2-4 Year; Costa Mesa, CA
Average Annual Cost: $4,503
Orange Coast College is one of the best fashion design schools in California. Its fashion program is one of the best that approaches several design elements during your study.

Students will learn about developing a personal brand or working alongside renowned designers to achieve their visions of success. With a degree, you could work as a development specialist, tailor, merchandiser, and fashion designer.

Another massive advantage of this major is students can continue onto a four-year bachelor’s degree program. This learning pathway can often be preferred, especially if you want to expand your education for the highest-paying careers possible. Through Orange Coast College, students can get internships at national and local brands, offering real-world experience alongside their learning.

There are multiple courses you’ll take during your time at Orange Coast College, including:

  • Draping
  • Tailoring
  • Flat Pattern Techniques
  • Industrial Sewing Techniques
  • Street Style
  • Clothing Design and Selection

Another unique aspect of Orange Coast College’s fashion program is students will have access to “The Box.”The Box is a pop-up retail shop owned and operated by students at the school featuring the hottest local brands. These brands include Tavik, Volcom, Paul Frank Workshops, and more.

Through The Box, students can acquire career advice and mentoring and learn real-world design skills. Also, it gives a thorough insight into what it means to run and manage a retail business.

2. American River College

2-4 Year; Sacramento, CA
Average Annual Cost: $5,561
American River College is a fantastic option for fashion students looking to delve into one of the world’s most employable fields. During your time at this school, you’ll acquire competitive and marketable skills, helping you find the best employment opportunities. Currently, there are two program options: Merchandising and Fashion Design.

In the fashion design program, students will work on designing and producing clothing. You’ll focus on the skills needed for specialty firms, one-person businesses, or large manufacturers. Upon graduation, your degree or certificate will show you have a strong understanding of merchandising, manufacturing, and marketing.

Merchandising, or fashion merchandising, is the second area of study that focuses primarily on in-store displays and merchandise promotion. A degree in this field provides fundamental skills, including visual presentation, retail management, purchasing, and fashion coordinating.

There is an array of programs fashion students can consider at American River College, including:

  • Associate of Arts Degrees in Fashion Merchandising or Fashion Design
  • Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Illustration, Fashion Retailing, Fashion Entrepreneurialship, Patternmaking and Draping, Runway Design

3. San Diego Mesa College

4 Year; San Diego, CA
Average Annual Cost: $5,573
The fashion program at San Diego Mesa College is the perfect combination of practical skills, fashion theory, and technology. Students will learn the most competitive skills to help them approach the fashion industry with futureproof abilities. You’ll also find this program ideal for those looking for multidisciplinary education.

Currently, the fashion program at San Diego Mesa College focuses on three main areas of specialty: Fashion Consulting, Fashion Design, and Fashion Merchandising. Each specialty has its unique learning pathway, such as Fashion Merchandising, which focuses on visual presentation and retail buying. Fashion Design is an excellent option for individuals looking to create finished garments using technological skills like draping, sketching, and pattern making.

A unique program available from San Diego Mesa College is its Fashion Consulting program. With this learning avenue, you’ll work on the skills needed to be a personal shopper or wardrobe consultant. This job could be one of the most sought-after career opportunities for many graduating students in California.

There are dozens of courses students can take while enrolled in the fashion program. A few examples include:

  • Clothing Design and Flat Pattern
  • Introduction to Costume Development
  • Fashion E-Commerce
  • Fashion Product Development
  • Advanced Fashion Illustration and Technical Sketching
  • Visual Merchandising
  • Fashion Promotion

4. City College of San Francisco

2-4 Year; San Francisco, CA
Average Annual Cost: $6,382
City College of San Francisco’s fashion program is fantastic for students interested in fashion design and merchandising careers. You’ll find various programs that give you the essential skills to succeed in various fashion-related careers. Also, you’ll get real-world, hands-on experience working in different industries.

There are two main learning pathways for fashion students: degrees or certificates. With the degree pathway, you can earn an Associate of Science in either Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising. The certificate programs are far more diverse, with specialties including Fashion Illustration, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Styling, Fashion Design, etc.

Within each area of study, students will be expected to take several fundamental courses. These courses include:

  • Fashion Draping
  • Apparel Construction
  • Fashion Illustration
  • Fashion History
  • Garment Fitting Techniques
  • Digital Illustration for Fashion

5. Santa Rosa Junior College

2-4 Year; Santa Rosa, CA
Average Annual Cost: $6,585
Santa Rosa Junior College takes a unique approach to fashion education, offering two distinct programs: Fashion Fundamentals and Fashion Design. Fashion Fundamentals help build the foundation students need to pursue a career in numerous fashion-related industries. You’ll take a beginner-friendly approach to merchandise marketing, construction techniques, and apparel presentation.

For a more advanced avenue of study, the Fashion Design program could be preferable for students. In this program, you’ll work on all areas of apparel production, starting from the initial design to choosing textiles. You’ll also work on different pattern-making and sewing techniques and product marketing.

When you graduate from Santa Rosa Junior College, you can acquire either an Associate of Arts or a certificate. These qualifications then prepare you to move onto a four-year program to obtain a bachelor’s degree, if desired.

Accredited Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Compare your school options.

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