The United States has a vibrant innovative fashion industry and two major global fashion capitals: New York and Los Angeles. Hundreds of American brands are known and sold throughout the world. For over seventy years many popular ideas and trends in fashion have originated in the USA and become popular throughout the world: Blue jeans, T-shirts, Skateboard Fashion, and Hip Hop Culture are just a few examples.
Fashion is an artistic expression of cultural mores and attitudes. Learning about fashion in the U.S. offers students the chance to get to know the American culture and its place in the world of fashion. The various fashion colleges in the United States offer students the opportunity to meet and connect with industry leaders at guest lectures and industry events, and build a network of valuable contacts.
As English is the language of the fashion industry world-wide, studying fashion in the U.S. offers international students an excellent opportunity to become highly proficient in English, which will help them succeed and excel in their careers in the fashion business no matter where in the world they live and work.
Studying in New York City
New York City (NYC) is one of the major fashion capitals not only of the United States, but of the world. Each fall and spring millions of people from all over the world pay close attention to New York’s Fashion Week to see the latest designs and innovations.
New York City is the home to more headquarters of fashion designers and fashion retailers than any other city in the United States. In fact, an estimated 900 fashion companies are headquartered in New York City and the city hosts more than 75 major fashion trade shows and thousands of showrooms. Calvin Klein, DKNY, Kenneth Cole, Nine West, and Tommy Hilfiger are among those companies based in the city.
It is not only a fashion mecca, but also a richly diverse city with a vibrant art and theater scene with hundreds of museums and theaters.
It has an array of globally-known fashion colleges that offer programs in design and business. It is no wonder that Project Runway, which originated in New York, takes place at one of these prestigious institutions and has become a global phenomenon.
By studying fashion in New York City, students will have the opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world, exposing them to different ideas, cultures and perspectives.
“NYC is full of inspirations and opportunities for fashion school students,” explains Jun, an international fashion design student studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
In addition, students will learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry from their professors, many of whom are active in the industry. Through local internship opportunities, students will get first-hand experience in the industry and network to develop their future careers.
Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City
Founded in 1947 and a part of the State University of New York, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City is internationally renowned. FIT attracts hundreds of international students each year. In fact, 12 percent of the student body consists of international students from 73 different countries spread across six continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
FIT offers 29 different undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs. Students take a wide array of courses related to both their specific major as well as liberal arts courses which broaden students’ perspectives and interests in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences as well as strengthen their skills in critical thinking and communication. From the beginning, students will engage in both theoretical and experiential learning.
Many renowned fashion leaders including Calvin Klein, David Chu (founder of Nautica), Norma Kamali and Nina Garcia (Project Runway judge) all attended the College. FIT graduates enter not only the fashion industry, but also many other industries such as film, television, advertising, cosmetics, and animation.
Students may also come to FIT to study English as a Second Language either for a semester-long Intensive English Language program or for a three-week ESL/Fashion Business program in the summer.
The semester-long Intensive English Language program (IEL) runs for 15 weeks in both the fall and the spring. Students focus on core academic English and may choose electives such as TOEFL Preparation, English for the Fashion Industry, English for Artists and Designers, and Pronunciation.
“FIT IEL program helped me not only improve my English skills, but also keep my firm belief to study at FIT by learning about the FIT culture, professors, and activities as a foreign student whose English is the second language,” says Xumei, a Fashion Business Management and FIT IEL alumna.
Multiple field trips around New York City are planned throughout the semester. In addition, students are offered the opportunity to take short-term “Hot Topic” classes and are often invited to special events and to listen to guest speakers. IEL students are immersed in FIT’s vibrant student life by joining student clubs, using the campus facilities, and attending events sponsored by FIT’s Student Life Department.
The three-week ESL/Fashion Business Program is a combination of ESL classes and a choice of tracks in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Promotion: Advertising, Styling and Social Media as well as Global Fashion Business Marketing. This program attracts students from all over the world, some of whom already have professional experience and some who do not. The variety of the afternoon tracks offers something for everyone regardless of previous experience.
Charlotte Brown is a Professor in the Educational Skills Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, New York.