When most people think of California, they think of celebrities, beaches, and Silicon Valley.
But the Golden State is home to more than just the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the high-tech industry of the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also home to some of the best colleges in the world.
While the state’s many schools are known for their business, engineering, and science degrees, California is also home to some of the best fashion design schools in the world.
In fact, the state is so well-known for its fashion design programs that the Council for Fashion Education, an organization made up of some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, has its headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
Today, we’ll take a look at some of the best fashion design schools in the Golden State.
Before we jump into the list, here are some terms you might see used to describe a fashion design program.
City College of San Francisco
As part of the City College of San Francisco network of schools, the Fashion Department at the College of Arts, Technology, and Media is dedicated to giving students real-world experience so they can build their resumes before they transfer to a four-year school.
The network's philosophy is that students learn better when they're doing rather than sitting in a classroom, so the Fashion Department takes advantage of the network's offerings in architecture, interior design, computer animation, game art, photography, and more.
Students in the Fashion Department can tailor their degree to focus on apparel design and production, fashion marketing, or fashion merchandising, which gives them the opportunity to learn about e-commerce, retail management, and trend forecasting.
No matter which track they choose, students in the Fashion Department get to put their knowledge to work by doing an internship in their senior year or during summer break. They can work in retail, e-commerce, or fashion design, or they can find a job with a fashion company or a retail store.
Mt. San Antonio College
Established in September 1941, Mount San Antonio College is a public community college located in the city of San Antonio, California.
Mt. San Antonio College is a member of the Los Angeles Community College District and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The college offers a wide variety of fashion design-related programs, including graphic design, interior design, and fashion merchandising.
Students in the interior design program learn about the theory and practice of interior design, with a focus on the relationship between the built environment and human behavior.
Through the program, students learn how to use a variety of tools, including drawing, computer software, and sketching, to create attractive, functional, and healthy spaces.
Those enrolled in the fashion merchandising program gain valuable business knowledge necessary for success in the fashion industry.
Through the curriculum, students learn about the fashion industry, including marketing, sales, and retail operations. Students also have the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice by working in a retail store on campus.
Cuesta College is a community college located in San Luis Obispo, California. The school has an impressive list of alumni, including professional baseball player Matt Antonelli and writer Dan Willis.
Cuesta College offers two fashion design associate's degree programs: Fashion Design and Technology and Interior Design.
In the Fashion Design and Technology degree, students gain foundational knowledge in fashion design, including sketching, construction, and apparel technology. Students gain hands-on experience and learn how to apply their knowledge in a professional setting. In the Interior Design program, students learn how to make spaces more beautiful and functional. Students learn how to apply principles of design, color, texture, and form to improve the look and feel of a space.
Throughout their time at Cuesta College, students in the Fashion Design and Technology degree take a number of core courses in subjects such as math and English. These classes help students develop the critical thinking and writing skills they'll need in any college program.
Santa Rosa Junior College
The Santa Rosa, California, school boasts an impressive list of fashion and design alumni, including costume designer Louise Mingenbach and fashion stylist Phillip Bloch.
Sant Rosa offers a variety of classes, including fashion design and merchandising courses that prepare students for careers in the fashion industry. Students can also choose to study the history of fashion, which examines the social and economic forces that have influenced the industry throughout history.
Students can gain hands-on experience through the school's several fashion design and merchandising labs, which feature the latest software and equipment. The facilities also include a professional-style fitting room and several photo studio spaces that allow students to practice photo shoots and lighting techniques.
A part of the Los Angeles Community College District, Canada College is a small school dedicated to educating students for successful futures. The school has an enrollment of approximately 3,300 students and offers two bachelor's degree programs in fashion and retail merchandising.
Like many other schools on this list, Canada College offers a variety of internship opportunities to its students. In fact, nearly half of the program's students complete an internship, giving them valuable experience for their future careers.
Along with learning about fashion and merchandising in class, students at Canada College have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in the industry through hands-on experience working in the field.
Through the school's partnerships with industry leaders, students have the opportunity to work with companies such as Forever 21, Nordstrom, and The Disney Company.
Canada College also offers a unique program for high-achieving high school students interested in pursuing a career in fashion and merchandising. Through the accelerated two-year program, high school students can earn their diploma and a Associates in Arts degree in fashion and merchandising.
Santa Monica College
As part of the Los Angeles Community College District, Santa Monica College is no stranger to breaking new ground. The school was the first in the country to offer a degree in video game design, the first to offer a degree in digital arts, and the first to offer a low-income student grant program.
With a focus on creativity and problem-solving, the fashion design program prepares students for careers in costume, interior, and textile design. In their first two years, students take courses in math, color theory, fashion illustration, and pattern making to lay the groundwork for their later coursework.
In their final two years, students can opt to pursue a associate of arts or a associate of science degree, which allow them to take additional courses in business, psychology, and marketing. Those pursuing the associate of arts degree can also opt for a early admission to Los Angeles Fashion Institute, which allows them to earn 32 credits that can be transferred to the school and count toward their associate degree and their bachelor's degree.
Santa Monica College also maintains relationships with local fashion houses, such as The Threadmill, Inc. and the Los Angeles Fashion Institute.
West Valley College
With its location in the heart of the Silicon Valley, West Valley College provides students with a first-hand look at the fashion industry.
With a variety of programs to choose from, from an associate's degree in fashion design to a one-year certificate in fashion merchandising, West Valley College gives students the chance to learn the fundamentals of the industry.
In addition to practical knowledge, students also gain hands-on experience through the school's fashion lab, which houses sewing and embroidery equipment as well as mannequins and fashion dummies for student practice.
With its proximity to some of the most influential companies in the industry, such as Intel and Apple, West Valley College gives students the opportunity to perform a internship with a major company in the Silicon Valley.
Along with providing a look at the business side of fashion, the program gives students the chance to gain professional connections and experience, setting them up for success after graduation.
A part of the Mission Community College District, Saddleback College is located in Santa Ana and offers a variety of associate degrees for students interested in pursuing a career in fashion design.
Students in Saddleback College's fashion design associate degree program spend one year immersed in core design courses, including courses in fashion illustration, fashion design, and fashion history.
In addition to learning the history and theory behind the industry, students in these courses gain hands-on experience with fashion software and a variety of sketching tools.
Students also have the option to study fashion merchandising, marketing, and retail management in the associate degree in fashion merchandising.
Thanks to the school's proximity to Southern California's leading fashion industry employers, such as Disneyland and the Walt Disney Company, students in Saddleback College's fashion design program have the opportunity to work with industry professionals as mentors.
San Diego Mesa College
As part of the California Community Colleges system, San Diego Mesa College has the benefit of that network's expansive resources and opportunities for collaboration with other schools.
Mesa College is fully committed to preparing students for industry careers, and its Fashion Design program is no exception.
In addition to the typical coursework required of any associate degree program, students in Mesa's program get hands-on experience working with fabrics and other materials.
In the first year, students learn the fundamentals of pattern making and fashion illustration, while those in the second and third years get to apply their knowledge in costume construction and design.
Along with the technical skills, students gain important cultural knowledge, as the program requires them to take one class in Ethnic Studies and another in Gender Studies.
Along with giving them the background to better understand the world around them, these classes help future fashion designers better understand the societal impact of their work.
Orange Coast College
Orange Coast College is located in Costa Mesa, California, and is one of the five colleges that make up the Coast Community College District.
As part of the associate's degree program, students at Orange Coast College can select a fashion and design associate's degree.
In this program, students take two years of courses in fashion and interior design to gain a solid foundation in the subject.
Courses cover everything from color theory and composition to interior design concepts, including how to sketch, arrange furniture, and more.
Students also complete an internship in the final semester of the program, gaining real-world experience working in the fashion and design industries.
Orange Coast College also offers a non-credit certificate in fashion design, which is designed for both beginners and those with some experience.
In this 16-week program, students take four courses in fashion design, covering topics such as sewing for children and fit & patternmaking.
Students also get the opportunity to complete an internship, gaining hands-on experience and making connections in the industry.