Discover the Benefits of Online Fashion School: Can You Do Fashion School Online?

Are you passionate about fashion but unable to attend a traditional fashion school?

In this article, we will explore the world of online fashion school. From the different types of online fashion programs to the admission requirements and how these programs work, we will cover all the essential information you need to know.

We will discuss the career opportunities available for online fashion school graduates. If you are considering pursuing a career in the fashion industry, keep reading to learn more about studying fashion online.

Key Takeaways:

  • Online fashion school offers a convenient and flexible way to study fashion, with virtual classes and discussions, project assignments, and internships or capstone projects.
  • Some challenges of studying fashion online include the lack of in-person interaction and hands-on experience, but the benefits include cost savings and the ability to study at your own pace.
  • Career opportunities for online fashion school graduates include fashion designer, merchandiser, stylist, and buyer, with admission requirements typically including a high school diploma or equivalent, portfolio submission, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores.
  • What is Fashion School?

    Fashion school is an institution that offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs that focus on design, branding, marketing, distribution, public relations, and fashion history. Fashion schools can be broadly defined as educational institutions that offer broad-based research, teaching, and learning in the fields of fashion and textiles.

    It is similar to an engineering or business school. Some fashion schools focus only on design and creation while others are broad-based programs offering studies in multiple parts of the industry. Some examples of fashion schools include the Ryerson University School of Fashion in Toronto, Canada, the AMD in Berlin, Germany, and the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, UK. Central Saint Martins is legendary for the number of successful designers who have graduated from their program, including Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci, and Stella McCartney.

    Besides traditional colleges and universities, fashion programs for degrees or diplomas can be found at community colleges, technical and trade schools, and numerous online and on-site fashion academies. The curricula in these schools may be tailored to a specific niche, such as fashion marketing, where requirements for admission versus graduation may differ significantly from a traditional undergraduate program that focuses on fashion design.

    Is it Possible to Study Fashion Online?

    Yes, it is possible to study fashion online. Students can earn formal qualifications in fashion design, fashion business, fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, and related fields from a myriad of schools. Industry-sponsored programs such as those from LVMH, Ted Baker, or Stella McCartney Schools have become popular, and numerous web-based courses on fashion are available on a wide range of platforms like MasterClass or The Business of Fashion.

    It is less common to find formal fashion programs online from private schools exclusively or primarily focused on fashion.

    What are the Benefits of Online Fashion School?

    The benefits of online fashion school include lower costs, flexibility, accessibility, better time management, no commuting costs, and environmental benefits. Average tuition fees for online colleges are over 30% cheaper compared to regular colleges due to a lack of space and resources. The flexibility of an online course allows a student to simultaneously pursue an internship or job in addition to their studies. As long as there is an internet connection, people have access to material uploaded on the net by reputable sources. Online students save time due to either less or non-existent commutes, and save money by avoiding other on-campus expenses such as subscriptions. E-books and online resources save the environment too by reducing the use of paper and printing resources.

    What are the Challenges of Online Fashion School?

    The challenges of online fashion school can include a lack of in-person networking and relationship building, fashion departments not adapting to the best online learning practices, limited industry access for in-person fashion schools, student struggles with remote teamwork, and a lack of a tactile understanding of fashion. Professors at most online fashion schools keep weekly or biweekly office hours to meet with students who wish to have one-on-one consults, but this is not the same as being in a classroom setting with routine face-to-face collaboration.

    Online fashion schools do not always adapt classroom assignments to online learning, such as utilizing different media formats. At in-person fashion schools, students have more access to events, networking, and internships, though online programs are working on improving this. Students struggle with group work in online programs. Many schools do not require it because of the challenges involved. Online fashion programs rarely offer courses that touch or work with actual clothing. This is a unique aspect of the industry that online programs cannot always adequately replicate.

    What are the Different Types of Online Fashion Programs?

    The different types of online fashion programs include degree programs, non-degree programs, and single courses or webinars. Online degree programs include associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. Non-degree programs may include certification programs and continuing education courses. Single courses or webinars can be either degree or non-degree. The primary distinction between the three types is the amount of time and money required to complete them.

    Online Certificate Programs

    Online certificate programs are the most basic proof of training. They typically require 6 months to a year to complete. Certificate programs, as with all degrees, can be completed fully online or as a hybrid of online and in-person experience.

    Online Associate’s Degree Programs

    Online associate’s degree programs offer the same core studies as a bachelor’s degree in a more abbreviated fashion. If you have finished your high school diploma but do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, you can start with an online associate’s that moves you towards a full degree while giving you skills that lead to job opportunities faster. Normally taking two years to complete for full-time students, online associate’s programs are equivalent to the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s program.

    While they vary, coursework will typically include 60 credit hours in math, science, and arts and humanities, as well as introductory courses in specific majors. Associate in applied science degrees (AAS) are intended for coursework that includes additional career preparation skills.

    There are no online fashion schools that offer associate degrees in this specific area of study. Fashion majors would typically take general education core courses in math, English, and oral communications, as well as electives in fashion marketing, textiles, or fashion design. Degree-specific courses in the business include accounting, business principles of fashion merchandising or management, IT skills, e-commerce technology, or retail buying. For online schools, these classes are limited. So there is only a mention of them for a complete understanding of fashion school enrollment options. As an example, The California College of the Arts provides an online enrollment page featuring courses that students taking an AAS in fashion design would typically take. Such courses include ShaX (Special Topics in Fashion Design), GarX (Fashion Design Capstone), FADA-363 Integrating Ethical and Sustainable Practices into Apparel Design, and FADA-370 Fashion Illustration: Techniques and Processes. Some online programs have internship requirements and they all have in-person labs for students. While not specific to fashion, here are two online schools providing coursework that an associate of applied science degree might find relevant.

    Portland Community College (PCC): Offers an online introduction to women’s studies course, as well as an introductory online public speaking course. In addition, they have an online history of world civilizations course that can be of interest.

    Tulsa Community College (TCC): Offers an Introduction to Customer Relations course, an introductory online business transfer plan, and training for a WorkKeys Career that provides guidance on the development of professional skills, including reading, mathematics, and problem solving.

    Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs

    Many top fashion schools do offer fashion design and fashion merchandising bachelor’s degree programs online. In the US, these may include Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the Academy of Art University, and Liberty University. An online BA in Fashion Studies with a Fashion Promotion, Styling, and Communication specialization will be offered starting in Fall 2022 at the University for the Creative Arts.

    Online programs at these accredited institutions typically take 6 semesters of full-time study (a little under two years) to complete. Because these programs are equivalent to offline programs and involve rigorous coursework on theory, small and large design projects, trend analysis, and historical study, the length of time they take to complete is less than half of standard undergraduate degrees.

    According to the United States National Center for Educational Statistics, tuition costs and fees vary widely for online universities within the US, but in general for the 2018-2019 academic year non-profit 4-year degree-granting post-secondary institutions had undergraduate tuition costs and fees that averaged US$14,900 per year. This should therefore be a rough starting figure to base comparative assessments on.

    Online Master’s Degree Programs

    Many online fashion schools offer master’s degree programs, mostly in fashion design. A typical online master’s degree program from an institution designed for working professionals requires 30-34 credits. An online fashion school may require a capstone or thesis that works towards industry application and a graduation project.

    Besides core fashion curriculum classes (design process, sketching, pattern making, fashion industry history, merchandising, marketing), elective, and managerial courses will be required in a master’s curriculum. School such as The New School in New York has a different degree, Master of Science in Nonprofit Management with an emphasis in the business aspects of fashion technology followed by nonprofit management techniques such as entrepreneurial thinking, marketing, digital strategies, and financial management.

    Costs for a 30-34 credit master’s program in fashion management ranges from USD 17,121 at Kent State University’s Fashion School to over USD 50,000 for Parsons School of Design’s Specialized MFA at the New School in New York. There are a limited number of degrees available online per the rules of highly recognized and highly competitive fashion schools. The Master’s program at Polimoda in Florence, Italy is the degree recommended by the greatest number of online fashion schools after The New School in the USA.

    What are the Admission Requirements for Online Fashion School?

    The admission requirements for online fashion schools include high-school equivalency certification, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement similar to physical colleges.

    There are both non-degree and degree programs in fashion that can be done both in-person and online. Whether the program is online has little bearing on the admission requirements, according to Dr. Enrique Gonzalez Araoz, Head of the Fashion Product Management Department at the Universidad Privada del Norte in Lima, Peru.

    The admission requirements to Dr. Gonzalez’s knowledge, are identical for online and in-person programs at UPN. The key admission requirements for the school, according to academic coordinator Dr. Donya Sarraf, include submitting your high school certificate for programs that end with undergraduate degrees and a bachelor degree for programs that end with a graduate degree, proceeding with proof of English language proficiency, passing the UPN Admission Exam, and proceeding with the payment of administrative expenses.

    High School Diploma or Equivalent

    You can study fashion online if you do not already have a high school credential, but the online certificate, diploma, and degree programs for fashion do usually require one as a minimum baseline for admission. Actual high school fashion design programs and classes are rare but do exist. If you do not have your high school diploma at the time of application, you will usually be required to get a GED (US), A-level (UK), Matura (Germany), or the equivalent depending on where you are located and how education at the secondary level is administered.

    Portfolio Submission

    All three of these online fashion programs require submitting a portfolio application. The Scuola di Moda Ida Ferri in Florence and the eCampus University in Rome require it for admission into the degree program. While Ined in Rome requires it to determine if an applicant can receive the reduced APE model scholarship tuition, enrolling without having to first pass Scuola Politecnica di Studi Aziendali entrance requirements, and being granted a discount code toward the purchase of school books.

    The SOHE (School of Human Ecology) online fashion programs at the University of Texas-Austin require a portfolio at the end. This is called a capstone project, which allows you to display what you have learned, what you created during the course, and how you will apply the knowledge and abilities you developed once the program is completed.

    Letters of Recommendation

    Letters of recommendation are required for applying to most fashion schools, and they can be provided by your bosses at work or professors at your college. You will need references from someone to provide a letter even when doing fashion school online.

    Some online programs require fewer recommendations. For instance, the
    Tuition-Free Academy on E-Kuze in Poland requires none. In general, online programs may not
    require official paperwork to be sent in or have lower numbers of recommendations required. For example, the Academy of Art University requires only two recommendations, whereas the in-person school often requires five. That said, recommenders must still provide a legitimate evaluation of your potential success at the institution, so choose wisely.

    Standardized Test Scores

    Most fashion schools claim that standardized test scores are optional. You neither need the SATs nor the ACTs to apply. There are two reasons however applying students should consider having SAT or ACT scores:

    1. Their score is high, and they seek scholarship money.
    2. They are international students coming from non-English speaking countries.

    They are useful for international applicants for English proficiency. However, there is a contradiction at the majority of schools. In the case of New York-based eCornell, international students have to prove they have taken either the TOEFL, IELTS, or the Cambridge Advanced or Proficiency exam, regardless of whether they submit SAT or ACT scores. If you are applying to fashion schools and are unsure if it is mandatory to have language exams such as the TOEFL or IELTS, make sure to check with the school’s admissions office.

    How Do Online Fashion Programs Work?

    Online fashion programs use virtual classrooms and e-learning methods for students to participate in lectures, workshops, and group work entirely online. The study material and assignments are online and the classes are taught via e-learning platforms like Blackboard. Prospective students apply by sending in their GPA scores, letters of recommendation, showing their completion of certain prerequisite courses and providing a person statement. They are taught by regular faculty members and online programs typically are full baccalaureate or masters level programs.

    Virtual Classes and Lectures

    Virtual classes and lectures for fashion school online are the norm. The advent of covid-19 in 2020 accelerated the trend of moving traditional fashion education content such as lectures, video series, and fashion shows into virtual environments. Here are 3 types of virtual classes used within online fashion programs.

    1. Recorded online lectures: These are classes in which the theoretical aspects of the curriculum are taught and do not require real-time interaction with professors or other students. All assignments have specific due dates which keeps students on track to finish the course.
    2. Simulated classroom software courses: In these courses, there are still fixed class times, but it is a normal online class format. With many sharing the screen, and professors teaching in real-time.
    3. Live video lectures: Live video lectures are much like simulated classroom software courses. They require you to be at your computer in front of the video at a certain time. Many times, these are hybrid courses with certain assignments being in-person such as viewing fashion shows or attending industry events.

    Sessions are in various forms including streaming of traditional lectures, webinars, and virtual industry tours. In addition, fashion students are often put into virtual teams working on projects on cloud-based project management platforms. Real-time collaboration between team members is encouraged through video-sharing technologies like Zoom, cloud-based Google Drive for document sharing and project planning, and even mixed reality platforms like VirBELA. With virtual classes and video lectures, practical experiences such as speaking directly to consumers on the shop floor, sitting in a budget meeting, or discussing fit samples with a technical design colleague, are more difficult to simulate.

    This is just another facet of the business that is sacrificed for the flexibility that comes with online learning. There are some Hybrid Online Programs that require their students to come to campus for short durations, typically two weeks every semester. This provides enhanced learning experiences and networking opportunities.

    Assignments and Projects

    An important part of typical on-campus fashion school programs is the opportunity for group work and cooperative projects amongst students. Some online programs also offer team-based projects, though this varies by institution. A group approach is generally used because there is substantial knowledge and experience to be gained by working with others, not just by oneself. Fashion is a field built on style and aesthetic. Being able to show your work at fashion school in comparison to others’ can provide valuable real-world context unavailable to online fashion schools. This is further compounded by the importance of networking in the fashion industry, with many in-person projects done with potential future employers. There is socialization in a physical classroom that online courses cannot easily replicate, meaning online programs offer unique challenges.

    Online Discussions and Collaborations

    Online discussions and collaborations are facilitated through learning management systems. These are tools that track progress and grade students. Some may or may not have secure online video capabilities.

    Art and Design School London College of Fashion creative director Rob Phillips says Slack is particularly popular and platforms have been custom-built to create a structure of open-ended assignments and allow long-term projects to develop with students from all over the world. These platforms are integrated with the same kind of services used by in-person students, complete with various team projects, mood boards, and even wardrobe swaps.

    Internship or Capstone Project

    An important component of fashion school is internship with a fashion brand, or capstone project where students apply theory learnt and develop a line of clothing. Fashion internships are common among fashion design schools that have established relationships with fashion houses and allow students to be engaged in real-life design processes. Internships are usually a compulsory program such as part of the Indian Institute of Fashion Technology’s program. Capstone projects are final, consequential, and often time-consuming projects that draw together all the theory, research, and logistical work that a student has learned in their program, similar to a thesis or final solution. Students are required to identify a product design concept and plan its strategic business development process.

    What are the Career Opportunities for Online Fashion School Graduates?

    Career opportunities for online fashion school graduates range across several fields such as marketing, design, production, science, and business analytics. To succeed in most of these careers, you will need additional postgraduate learning, more practical experience, or an exceptional natural talent. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 the median salary of advertising marketing managers was $136,850. For market research analysts, the figure was $63,790.

    In her article FASHION SCHOOLS LINE UP FOR A BUMPY RIDE OUT OF A CHANGING INDUSTRY for Business of Fashion, Chantal Fernandez, notes the shrinking career opportunities in the fashion industry for even physical attendees of schools, making career prospects more limited for online students. However, with a surge in e-commerce and a digital advertising pipeline, fashion school marketing courses may become more valuable in the future.

    Fashion Designer

    A fashion designer is responsible for creating clothing, accessories, and sometimes shoes and costumes. Designers conceptualize and develop their unique product lines. They study fashion trends and anticipate designs to attract customers. Designers understand what makes different styles visually appealing and what impacts certain designs will have on the wearer and the product’s final look. Most designers work full time, and fashion shows are popular venues for talented designers to show off their designs.

    Fashion Merchandiser

    Fashion merchandisers are responsible for developing, transporting, marketing, and selling goods.

    Activities fashion merchandisers engage in include but are not limited to researching fashion trends, collaborating with manufacturers on design and production, creating marketing plans, promoting and selling merchandise, negotiating with dealers and suppliers, and tracking sales and inventory of goods.

    Fashion Merchandising degrees are available at a number of traditional on-campus fashion schools for those desiring an on-campus experience including Fashion Institute of Technology in New York (FIT) and Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design in Philadelphia.

    Fashion Stylist

    A fashion stylist is similar to a fashion designer in many ways. There are some designers who actually refer to themselves as fashion stylists. But in most cases, fashion stylists will take designs made by fashion designers and assemble them into outfits that are worn by models. It’s safe to say that these two career paths are closely intertwined and often feed off of each other. Because of this, the education and skill requirements for fashion designers and fashion stylists are virtually the same.

    A high school diploma or equivalent is all that is required for a formal education in the field but no less than a two-year associate’s degree in fashion design or a bachelor’s degree is recommended to achieve the technical design skills necessary for success. Because the professional environment is changing at an astonishing rate, continuing education is highly recommended to stay relevant.

    Fashion Buyer

    A fashion buyer (purchasing manager for the fashion industry) is responsible for scouting new fashion sales opportunities, forecasting trends, selecting clothing, and sometimes controlling financial budgets. While this profession requires an understanding of fashion trends, it has an even heavier emphasis on general marketing, sales, financial, and data analytics principles, which very few online programs in fashion design and fashion merchandising will provide.

    For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the US federal government mentions that most purchasing managers, including buyers, have earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field and recommends that students take commercial classes that focus on the practices, technologies, and principals that buyers need in order to make informed purchasing decisions. Typical coursework includes classes on production and operations management materials management, and allocation, and strategic purchasing.

    These classes are not taught in traditional fashion merchandising degree courses. Organizations such as the Institute for Supply Management offer many of these classes online. Another way would be to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related fashion subject and gain work experience in an actual store to learn day-to-day requirements. The median annual wage for purchasing managers in the US was $121,110 in May 2020.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you do fashion school online?

    Yes, many fashion schools offer online programs that allow students to earn degrees and certificates in fashion design, merchandising, and other related fields.

    What are the benefits of doing fashion school online?

    Doing fashion school online offers several benefits, including the flexibility to study at your own pace, the ability to continue working while pursuing your education, and the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the fashion industry.

    Are online fashion schools accredited?

    Yes, just like traditional brick-and-mortar fashion schools, online fashion schools can also be accredited by recognized accrediting bodies. It is important to research the accreditation status of any fashion school before enrolling.

    Can you earn a degree in fashion by attending school online?

    Yes, many online fashion schools offer degree programs, from associate’s to master’s degrees, in various areas of fashion such as design, merchandising, and marketing.

    What are the requirements for attending fashion school online?

    The specific requirements vary by school, but in general, you will need a high school diploma or GED, as well as basic computer skills and access to a reliable internet connection. Some programs may also require a portfolio or previous coursework in art or design.

    Will I still have opportunities for hands-on learning in an online fashion school?

    While online fashion schools primarily focus on theoretical and technical aspects of fashion, many programs also offer opportunities for hands-on learning through virtual projects, internships, and industry partnerships. It is important to research the curriculum of the program you are interested in to see what hands-on learning opportunities are available.

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