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  • Mikelle Drew

Are Fashion Schools Still Relevant?

Updated: May 3, 2021

So, I’ve heard this question come up a lot lately. Some bloggers have addressed it and, and it’s something I’ve been wondering about as well.

And as I move into another Fall semester at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, the question lingers in the back of my mind. “Is design school still relevant?”

I never would have thought I’d be asking such a question, but in the age of Skillshare, YouTube Academy and niche online courses and schools (including my own), it’s worth asking the question, from both the perspective of the student and the school.

As a student, considering the cost of colleges and universities, you want to make sure that taking on a heap of student loan debt is worth it. And considering most programs are at least 2-4 years to receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree (unless you can find a 1 year program like the one at FIT) , you also want to consider the cost of your time. (This is particularly relevant for those who are headed back to school to switch careers or may have been in school and suddenly decided to switch majors.) Time is always your biggest cost because it’s not something you can ever recoup once it’s gone. And if this is your second career, do you really want (and do you truly have the time) to devote 1-4 years of your life to school?

This is when an online class can be extremely advantageous and efficient. Not only can you attend from a convenient location, but if it’s a pre-recorded class, you can attend at a convenient time. And many online classes being offered by private companies consolidate your learning into several hours or several classes instead of a semester which usually lasts several months.

But as much as I’m a proponent of online classes, I do still believe there’s validity to attending a formal fashion college or university. For starters, you usually have greater access to resources. Things like WGSN, industrial machines, 3D printing labs, free workshops, and a wealth of knowledge from professors who have worked in a variety of areas and are itching to share what they know are just a few of the resources I have access to through FIT (that I definitely do not have, yet;) through my own company, 383 Design Studio.

An apparel design curriculum is also meant to give you a foundation to build upon. At the time, I thought to myself, “Why am I sitting in this chemistry class?” But that was the foundation and setup for my Textile Science classes. You’re not necessarily getting that with a niche online class. It’s designed to teach very targeted information, specific to a particular industry and task. That also means you don’t get to learn some of the nuances and tasks that are related but fall just outside of the scope of that class.

And can we talk about sewing and patternmaking classes? Do I think my Fashion Flat Sketching classes are essential and on the list of “MUST KNOW” to work in fashion? ABSOLUTELY! But a part of knowing how to draw a flat sketch, and more importantly, how to create a tech pack, is understanding construction. If you are unfamiliar with how to sew a garment, it will be very challenging to create a tech pack or even to explain to a seamstress how you want them to make a sample.

Then, there’s the social aspect, particularly if you’re college age. There is something to be said for socializing (IRL) with others. It helps build community, social skills and understanding. Don’t get me wrong! It’s amazing that we can communicate and regularly ‘socialize’ with people online