Many future designers and fashion business professional wonder, “Do we need fashion school to pursue our dream careers?”
In the fashion and luxury goods industries, there are designers who attended universities like FIT and LIM College in the United States or Central Saint Martins in the United Kingdom. However, there are also designers who learned through apprenticeships or worked many different jobs before breaking into the industry.
Here are some examples of designers who attended fashion school, and designers who acquired their skills along the way:
Fashion school graduates
Jeremy Scott – Missouri born, New York trained
Jeremy Scott was born in Missouri and graduated from the Pratt Institute with a degree in Fashion Design. He currently designs for his namesake label, as well as Moschino.
Upon graduation, he moved to Paris and presented his first collection in 1997 at Paris Fashion Week. While there, he also worked with Christian Louboutin and Stephen Jones.
In addition to his famous label, he is known for his extravagant collections that combine humor with pop culture. He also designed the flight attendant outfit for Britney Spears’s “Toxic” music video, and garments for MET Gala attendees, including J Balvin, Cardi B and Katy Perry.
Emily Adams Bode – Southern Girl Trained in New York
Another talented designer who has shown collections in Paris and dressed celebrities for the MET Gala is Emily Adams Bode, with her label Bode.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Emily graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in 2013 with a BA/BFA in Menswear Design and Philosophy.
Her pieces can be found in stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Matches Fashion, as well as in the brand’s flagship store in Chinatown, New York City.
Tom Ford – Architect who Designs Wearable Art
Tom Ford is an example of someone who studied something unrelated to fashion, took several jobs in the industry, and embraced every experience to reach his goals.
Born in Austin, Texas, Ford moved to New York to take courses in Art History, but ended up graduating with a degree in Architecture from Parsons School of Design in New York and Paris. His love of fashion came after working at the Chloé press office, Cathy Hardwick and Perry Ellis.
He became Creative Director of Gucci in the 1990s and Yves Saint Laurent in the early 2000s. TOM FORD brand was created in 2005 and within two years, he had clothes, beauty products, sunglasses and his first flagship store on Madison Avenue.
Tory Burch – Art Historian who Tells Stories with Her Collections
Tory Burch also took several paths to get to where she is today, and still wears many hats: entrepreneur, philanthropist, mother, wife, and key opinion leader.
She graduated with an Art History degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After college, she moved to New York and started her journey working for the designer Zoran. Other jobs included positions at Harper’s Bazaar, Ralph Lauren, and Vera Wang, to name a few.
In 2004, she launched her brand Tory Burch with a small boutique in New York City. Today, she has over 200 stores in several cities, selling ready-to-wear women’s clothing, handbags, accessories, shoes, and swimwear, as well as an activewear collection called Tory Sport.
So, is a degree necessary? Not really, but it helps. To thrive in this industry, you must build connections, and going to school can provide additional opportunities to set you up for success.