If you’re finally ready to make fashion less of a hobby and expand that passion for fashion beyond Project Runway marathons, there are a few Michigan colleges specializing in the fashion biz to get you started. It’s time to step out of that lavish walk-in closet and actually learn the trendy trade.
Kendall College of Art and Design – Grand Rapids
Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design offers more than a few style focused options for students who want to go into the fashion industry.
Chair of the Fashion Studies Program Lori Faulkner said KCAD offers two routes for earning a Bachelor of Fine Art in Fashion Studies.
“One path offers four years of study at KCAD with experiences in sustainable design, digital printing, couture methods, costume design, functional design, retail buying, product development, fashion illustration and more,” Faulkner said. “It culminates with a capstone collection, shown at the runway show produced by the fashion-show production class.”
The second option provides an opportunity for students to apply to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where they can earn an Associate’s in Fashion Design as well as the Bachelor of Fine Art from KCAD.
Upcoming KCAD Fashion Shows
Untamed: An Exploration of the Animal Kingdom
KCAD’s Bodies of Art is an interdisciplinary (all majors) student organization that hosts an entirely student-run and produced fashion show. The 12th annual show is inspired by animals with 50 percent of proceeds benefiting Paws with a Cause.
KCAD seniors are working on their capstone collections and are producing a show, un.earth. It features the collections and a juried selection of work from all fashion studies majors.
With the average class size ranging from eight to 15 students, classes are very hands on. The intimate sessions give students the opportunity to learn techniques in pattern making, draping, construction, illustration, research and presentation.
Kendall’s classes are infused with community collaborations that provide students with a taste of the local arts and culture scene. The college has partnered with the Grand Rapids Public Museum, UICA, DisArt Festival, Spectrum Health, Avenue for the Arts and Ferris State University, among others.
Beyond that, students have beefed up their resumes by creating costumes for the Grand Rapids Ballet and the Grand Rapids Film Festival, to only name a few. Opera Grand Rapids’ production of Sigmund Romberg’s The Student Prince will feature costumes created by KCAD Fashion Studies students. It runs June 9–10, and 12 at St. Cecilia Music Center in Grand Rapids.
“These projects allow students to design for real-world clients and create relationships to expand their networking potential for future career opportunities,” Faulkner said.
Along with the Fashion Studies Program, Kendall has an Industrial Design Program where footwear design is a popular area for students. For those Richard Avedon-types who are more interested in capturing sophisticated images, the Photography program offers two courses that integrate fashion and portraiture.
Western Michigan University – Kalamazoo
While Kalamazoo is nowhere near Milan or Paris, Western Michigan University offers the tools to get there with its Fashion Merchandising and Design programs.
Fashion Merchandising and Design professor Dr. Barbara Frazier said the program prepares students for careers in the dynamic, fast-paced fashion industry.
“The courses are designed to be stimulating and challenging, with opportunities to develop creative, communication, leadership and professional skills,” Frazier said.
“Our students are required to have 300 hours of industry experience prior to graduation,” she added. “Our entire curriculum focuses on building the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to become successful.”
For the go-getters, there is even the WMU student organization M.O.D.A. (Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association) to look into. The design group formed in 1988 and holds two semi-annual fashions shows.
Michigan State University – East Lansing
The Apparel and Textile Design program at Michigan State University in East Lansing has been around for only six years, but student designers have already dressed James Cameron’s wife for the Oscars, won numerous design competitions and secured jobs with well-known fashion designers and companies.
“The Apparel and Textile Design program emphasizes creativity and experimentation that combines design with art,” said Design Professor Theresa Winge.
The small studio classes encourage students to be creative and push the boundaries of fashion to new and thoughtful spaces. That forward thinking has landed graduates’ high-profile work at Nike, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Vogue and Kate Spade.
Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant
The Fashion Merchandising and Design program at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant offers students the opportunity to study both the creation/design of fashion products along with the business of fashion.
“We have an over 92-percent placement rate for graduates and our required internship program provides students valuable exposure to the industry,” said Dr. Michael Mamp, an assistant professor. “There are also study abroad opportunities including faculty led experiences in both Paris and New York.”