The Truth About Fashion School for Models: What You Need to Know

Fashion school is a place where aspiring designers and stylists learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry.

Do models need to attend fashion school to succeed in the industry? We will explore the purpose of fashion school, what is taught in these institutions, and whether models need formal training.

We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of attending fashion school for models, as well as alternative paths to success in the modeling industry.

Let’s uncover the truth about fashion school for models!

Key Takeaways:

  • Fashion school teaches a variety of skills related to the fashion industry, but its main purpose is to prepare students for careers in fashion.
  • While it is not necessary for models to attend fashion school, it can provide valuable advantages such as networking opportunities, industry knowledge, and additional skills development.
  • There are alternatives to fashion school for aspiring models, such as joining a modeling agency, attending workshops and classes, and gaining self-education and experience.
  • What is Fashion School?

    Fashion school is a tertiary education institution where students study the design, patternmaking, material sourcing, production, and development of textiles and clothing. Several hundred such dedicated fashion schools, institutes, universities, and colleges around the world offer a range of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in fashion.

    Additionally, both top design schools such as Parsons and Italian trade schools offer short programs for professional designers, and many universities and private colleges also offer certificate courses for those who are not seeking a full degree such as the certificate in fashion industry essentials offered by The New School among others.

    Tuition at the top fashion schools for a Bachelor’s degree often runs in the range of $20,000 for domestic and in-state students and $30,000-60,000 for international students. Istituto Marangoni in Milan offers both a BA in Fashion Design (3 years) as well as a Master’s in Fashion and Luxury Brand Management for a total cost of just under $80,000.

    But most jobs in fashion, particularly in the modelling world do not require a fashion degree, but instead career training in specialized fashion fields such as these eight profiles within the fashion industry:

    1. Model (On the job/Modeling schools)
    2. Fashion Designer (Fashion Schools)
    3. E-commerce Manager
    4. Retail Buyer
    5. Product Manager
    6. Fashion Marketer or Public Relations Specialist (Degree programs and training courses)
    7. Fashion Journalist
    8. Fashion Merchandiser

    Quality training and exposure in these specialized fields are often provided by TAFE, National Trade Certificate, community colleges, and online training academies.

    What is Taught in Fashion School?

    People attending fashion school learn how to design, produce, and promote styles for clothing, accessories, and footwear. Key skills they learn include the following:

    1. Art and design skills.
    2. Color theory and fashion concepts.
    3. Construction and tailoring.
    4. Computer-aided design.
    5. Research and business skills.
    6. Multimedia proficiency.
    7. Communication and Marketing skills.
    8. Traditional textiles and other knowledge related to the field.

    William Hargis, the former Dean of the College of Design at the University of Cincinnati, says the number one skill that a design manager looks for in a job candidate is an ability to communicate their ideas and designs. Fashion school provides training on this skill along with the ability to learn and take direction from high-level corporate managers.

    What is the Purpose of Fashion School?

    The purpose of fashion school is to provide a formal, structured environment that teaches students core academic knowledge and industry-specific curriculum that either gives more specialized training to those who already have bachelor’s in a different field or prepares them for future success and leadership positions in the fashion industry.

    The core academic knowledge at fashion schools includes topics such as Production, Supply Chain Management, Marketing, Global Trade, Foreign Exchange Management, and Cellulosic and Polymer Science (technologies related to the micro and nanomechanics of plant fibers – think really thin, flexible, and hard fabrics for use in things like bulletproof vests). An MBA in Fashion management includes classes in Strategic Management, International Marketing, and Garment Production Systems.

    The curriculum to train for future success includes topics that are already known to undergraduate students but help develop basic management skills and an understanding of the broader business environment. Example classes from the MBA in Fashion Management at NIFT and MBA in Fashion Merchandising at FDDI include Business Communication, Business Statistics, Research Methodology, Managerial Economics, and Consumer Behavior.

    These programs are 2- 2.5 years in length and have tuition of approximately $8,000 in total. Registration for the programs is based on passing the GATE entrance exam. For more information, refer to and

    Do Models Need to Go to Fashion School?

    Models do not need to go to fashion school to learn how to model; just the opposite, women’s fashion and modelling programs normally teach the underpinnings of a business model and focuses on haute couture. The core competencies of becoming a model do not need to be taught at a university and are better developed through practice.

    A fashion degree can be anything from a 2-year program to a 4-year bachelor’s degree with focused coursework such as design, merchandising, or marketing. These are theoretically beneficial for rising stars who can exhibit the risks and extra experience that an agent would allow them to present with their degree.

    Still, most models do not have a formal education in the modeling arts or in the fashion business. The years spent in formal education are not optimal. The life span of a model’s career is limited by several factors including gender, body/proportions, the market, strategy, career opportunities, and more. According to a 2017 study by Giuffre, an average female model works for four years.

    What Skills Do Models Need?

    Models mainly need physical attributes such as height, body proportions, hair, and eye color. Societal standards for what someone considers beautiful help determine the skills a model needs. Although open-mindedness and creativity are valuable regardless. Models should have a readiness and willingness to learn, receive critique, and constantly improve according to an article by The Trend Academy Australia. As such, it is their physical appearance that determines their skill requirements, not a particular field of education.

    Do Models Need Formal Training?

    Models do not need formal training to advance their careers, the large majority get to where they are without any schooling. Most people looking to enter the industry may start by practicing on their own, with family/friends, or with an agency. Models can pick up stylistically and professionally on the job, learning the skills of posing, walking, articulating their intentions clearly, and keeping their face and body in top form through the job.

    A 2013 study by the Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Management noted that the number of working hours or length of experience in the modeling industry is more significant in determining job quality because models build up a level of expertise after several years which makes them more competitive. These factors outweigh any formal training that might occur at Fashion Schools or other institutions.

    What Are the Advantages of Attending Fashion School for Models?

    Models do not go to fashion school, except in circumstances where they are interested in transitioning out of modeling and into another area of the fashion industry. The advantages of training for that direction include better knowledge of that area of the fashion industry, as well as the skills to navigate it.

    These are the most common skills covered at fashion schools that are being advertised to models and work for them as well.

    • Runway walking
    • Photography posing
    • Health and nutritional principles
    • Makeup application
    • Basic design concepts
    • Language and communication skills

    Networking Opportunities

    Fashion schools are valuable as they provide networking opportunities for attending students. The reasons to go to fashion school are not limited to just education but include establishing a connection with the fashion industry which a school can facilitate by organizing a range of internships and placements for students. Not only can students explore potential career paths, but they also get a sense of the type of work that is interesting or appealing to them. This early exposure is why some students feel that fashion schools are worth the investment.

    Learning About the Industry

    Participants in the Modeling Industry Study from research firm Chic Studios had their first time on the job within 2 months, 84% within a year, and 99% within three years. While a fashion school background could equip a person with useful techniques, tools, and connections, it can take years to complete. People who go to fashion school will need to seek other employment and pay tuition, but people entering the modeling profession do not when they have an established Instagram account.

    Developing Additional Skills

    Yes, models go to fashion school to develop additional skills beyond walking the runway and posing for the camera. Fine art schools, some two-year universities, some large universities, and again, schools of the French Federation of Fashion (Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode) as well as privately held schools such as the New York School of Design are the most sought after. You can even enroll in online courses from the comfort of your own home.

    That being said, be aware that schools specializing in teaching model techniques are often scams. Always make sure to cross-reference reviews online and verify that the school has alumni working in the industry.

    What Are the Disadvantages of Attending Fashion School for Models?

    • Inefficient use of time: Not all models will work in a part of the industry where a degree in fashion will benefit them and so the time could be spent working on their portfolios, hone their own personal styles, or learn skills (whether trade-related or not) desired by their audience as another alternative to fashion school. Models often begin working as early as 15 years old and if pursuing a successful modeling career, they may find that the time demands of school projects simply add too much stress and reduce the opportunities available to them.

    Time and Financial Commitment

    While the actual price of fashion design programs may vary, a 2019 Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) survey outlines some general costs. A three-semester Fashion Design AAS Leading to BFA program has a total cost of just under $18,000. Meanwhile, a two-semester master’s degree in Women’s Wear Fashion Design costs over $80,000. Fashion photography programs can be many times more expensive. A four-semester AAS in Screen Arts entitled Fashion Photography costs $38,100, while a two-semester AOS screen arts entitled Fashion Photography costs just over $30,000.

    The pros of a career in fashion design for a model contemplating a career switch from modeling include the fact that the fundamental design and creativity skills required in studying the subject are similar to the skills developed and exercised in modelling. However, a commitment of time and money is required for formal study of fashion design and these are substantial. For a model with success in the fashion industry as an end goal, obtaining relevant study at a smaller institution such as a community college (at least for basic grades) may be advisable to get similar quality teaching for a fraction of the price.

    The model Maris Popova found that models can reach recognition regardless of educational background, and as such only the bare minimum probably should be pursued. On the other hand, exposure and networking are important aspects of having a successful career beyond modeling, and courses or social media marketing degrees may be advisable.

    Limited Focus on Modeling

    With fashion-focused education primarily aimed at designers and business management, there is a limited focus on modeling within the fashion education system. In America, students seeking a career as models are generally left with portfolio and workshop services that do not carry the industry recognition of a formal degree. The options are better in Europe and Asia as models can study for certificates and degrees at business and management schools that focus on the industry. Unlike courses in the United States, these classes do provide model students high-level insights into the complexities and requirements of high fashion.

    The closest American equivalent is the Professional Modeling and Bookings program associated with Research Center of Computers and Engineering (CEE), a modeling agency in Providence, Rhode Island. The country offers a specialized one-credit elective for the exclusive purpose of training students to be runways models. There are limited free online course options for career models. Google’s Garage Digital Skills, the Future Learn Introduction to Course at Fashion Design, and two of Udemy‘s courses, Fashion Modeling Masterclass and Fashion and Runway Modeling, can all supplement existing knowledge and skills.

    No Guarantee of Success

    Another reason to go to a fashion school could be that they may increase one’s chances of success as a model, although their track record in achieving that outcome is mixed at best. Schools teach the skills and trade knowledge expected in a particular talent field (Library of Congress). Impeccable knowledge of fashion industry etiquette and best practices could give a model a step up in the career, but not before decades of experience once she is on the job.

    Alternatives to Fashion School for Aspiring Models

    Alternatives to fashion school for aspiring models include a physical fitness trainer to whip them into shape, an acting coach for performing in front of a camera, runway walking classes and image consultants to help with posture, personal as well as hairstyle, and makeup, and social media advisors to help manage and grow their fan base.

    Certification is not necessary for any of these options, but coming from reputable professionals does help to show they are in a candidate’s best interest. Additionally, if they create a portfolio of their efforts and have taken classes to improve, they can show clients and agents they are serious about this alternative.

    They must also have the time and commitment to relentlessly search for modeling jobs, network with industry professionals, pay for their photo shoots, pay for marketing (like a website), and try to book jobs.

    Modeling Agencies

    Modeling agencies are another relationship and not a school, but they frequently replace the training and development function that schools would theoretically provide. Modeling agencies are organizations that represent models, book jobs for them, and manage their career progression. They work through local offices or by managing model portfolios through their websites.

    The main functions of modeling agencies related to the training and development of models are as follows:

    1. Modeling agencies provide educational materials to new models – including information about how photo shoots work, the modeling industry, bookings, the way photo and video shoots generally work, travel tips, agency-specific tips, and the importance of both a healthy lifestyle and a keen sense of style.
    2. Many modeling agencies have their own modeling schools that teach girls and guys aged 10/11-24 the important basics on becoming a model. This usually includes anything from applying makeup and skincare to walking and posing.
    3. Training of models is conducted by existing professional models at the agencies such as Broadway Models & Talent, MPC Models, and Wilhelmina LA. Their model schools are primarily focused on runway and print work, with the main goal of training students the same things that can let them get signed as a model, and within just weeks.
    4. ‘Super’ models or top models such as Naomi Campbell or Gisele Bundchen help medium and new talent develop their talents and get an entry into the modeling industry.
    5. Armando Bertaccini states that many reputable modeling agencies arrange for casting directors to provide their expertise to their models. Along with audition techniques, they receive feedback on what they like to see from models in these instances and what they don’t. Greater exposure before casting directors makes a good chance of model success later on.

    Workshops and Classes

    Models attend workshops and classes throughout their career, but modeling schools, which generally target teenagers and new models, are usually not attended by professional models once they have entered the field. According to, workshops focus on different areas of modeling to improve knowledge and performance, such as catwalk or runway walking, photo posing, hair care, and personal development.

    These are usually organized by elite model agencies and are invite-only. Workshops and sometimes classes are also set up by fashion designers to train models to walk in their specific shows and use their product. The $150 modeling workshop run by the agency Elite Model Management offers girls the chance to get advice on how to best develop their modeling careers and to have their measurements taken for consideration at the agency, according to

    Self-education and Experience

    Models do not need to go to fashion school to start modeling or get modeling jobs. Most models do learn on their own or from others, paying for professional photographs known as trade shoots which are a natural follow-up step to testing and can prepare them for more significant shoots. This is the fastest and most cost-effective way to train. They expand their portfolios by making them model-ready, so an agency can know how to prepare books for castings and what photos are needed for them.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do models need to go to fashion school?

    No, models do not necessarily need to attend fashion school. While it can be beneficial for models to have a basic understanding of the fashion industry, many successful models have not received formal education in fashion.

    Can going to fashion school improve my chances of becoming a model?

    Attending fashion school may give you a better understanding of the industry and help you develop a portfolio or network, but it is not a prerequisite for becoming a model. The most important aspect of becoming a model is having the right look and being signed with a reputable agency.

    What kind of courses do models take in fashion school?

    Fashion schools offer a variety of courses that cover topics such as design, styling, sewing, marketing, and business. Models who attend fashion school may choose to take courses in these areas to broaden their knowledge and skills in the industry.

    Do all models have to attend fashion school to be successful?

    No, attending fashion school is not a requirement for success in the modeling industry. While some models may choose to attend for personal or professional development, it is not necessary for all models to go to fashion school in order to have a successful career.

    Is fashion school a good option for aspiring models?

    Fashion school can be a good option for aspiring models who are interested in learning more about the industry and developing their skills in areas such as fashion design or marketing. However, it is not the only path to becoming a successful model.

    What are some alternative paths to becoming a model without attending fashion school?

    Some alternative paths to becoming a model without attending fashion school include finding a reputable agency, building a strong portfolio, attending open calls and casting calls, and networking with industry professionals. It is also important for aspiring models to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a strong work ethic.

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