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Fashion School 101: How to Succeed in Fashion School


FIDM’s Los Angeles Campus. Photo Credit

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing about my experiences attending fashion school at FIDM in Los Angeles. I’ve covered everything from fashion school majors to typical classroom attire, and even tips on applying and getting in to fashion school. But today, I’m going to focus on perhaps the most important part of attending fashion school: succeeding academically and professionally while you’re there.

Contrary to popular belief, simply attending FIDM or another big name school is not enough to land you a dream career in the industry on graduation day – you have to work hard, build relationships, gain experience, and take advantage of the resources available to you. To help you do that, below are my top tips for succeeding in fashion school.

1. Be anticipatory and always prepared.

Pack your school bag and plan your outfit the night before school. That way, you won’t be rushing around first thing in the morning trying to remember everything you need. There are always so many things to remember… fabrics, scissors and tool kits, books, your wallet, a snack, sunglasses, a notebook, pens, school ID, sketchbook, paints…

2. Use tutors (if available).

Here at FIDM, we’re lucky: the school provides tutoring for every class, taught by the actual professors. If your fashion school (or regular college) offers a similar service free of charge, take advantage! These resources are available solely to help you.

3. Build relationships with your teachers.

The brilliant thing about attending a fashion school, as opposed to taking fashion merchandising classes at a traditional university, is the potential for networking. At FIDM, our teachers are working professionals in the area that they teach! This means they may be our future employers, coworkers or sources of recommendation. Building great relationships with them is crucial; you never know when you’ll run into them later in life.

Photo Credit

4. Take care of yourself.

Fashion school can get incredibly stressful, so it can be hard to find the time to exercise. But don’t make excuses – you can always fit in thirty minutes somewhere, and by taking care of your body, you’re actually doing yourself a favor academically. After all, working out + a good night’s sleep + eating healthy food = you feeling more energized and productive.

5. Go to the lecture series.

FIDM is always bringing in guest speakers from the industry and I’m certain other fashion schools do the same. If your school does this, make sure to attend as many lectures as you can!

These lectures from industry insiders are perhaps the most informative, interesting aspects of attending such a specialized school. In one of my classes, the General Counsel for True Religion Jeans came to speak. Hearing about the law side of a luxury denim brand was fascinating to me. I had never even thought about dealing with the legalities of a brand! And that’s just one example of many.

All photos of FIDM students from FIDM’s Flickr page.

6. Dress the part.

The fashion industry is small: I bump into FIDM grads all the time while out in the workforce. Therefore, if you were the girl in fashion school that wore sloppy sweats or PJs to class every day, chances are it will come back to haunt you. However, if they remember you as the professional, attentive-looking girl who was always polished and presentable, you’ve likely got an instant leg up.

7. Take advantage of the networking mixers and opportunities.

The fashion industry is all about networking, and it’s best to build your contacts before you need them. Therefore, the networking process should begin in fashion school.

Even if you don’t have a job or business, keep business cards on you at all times that explain how you can be reached, and distribute them when you meet new contacts. Making connections is truly the best way into the industry and FIDM provides tons of opportunities to meet other industry professionals – don’t let them go to waste!

8. “Go shopping” on a weekly basis.

Although this tip may sound disastrous for college girls on a budget, “shopping” (you don’t have to actually buy anything!) is a necessary part of going to fashion school.

In class, we’re constantly discussing new merchandising strategies, visual displays and the operation of stores. But to truly understand the world of retail, you must be constantly up to date on what’s going on in the shops. So get out there, be aware of the trends, and soak it all up – this process is not only fun, but it will help you in the future.

Reading Newspaper
Photo Credit

9. Keep up to date on world news and politics.

While this might not seem like the most important piece of advice, you have to keep tabs on what’s going on in the world to succeed in fashion school. (It’s also just a generally good idea to be informed, no matter your area of study!)

Why is this so important? Follow the news and you’ll see. You’ll be amazed by how much trends overlap between different areas, as well as how much they can differ from one area to another. And an economic boom might positively affect manufacturing output and retail sales, while a struggling economy could cause shoppers to buy fewer luxury goods.. and that’s just the beginning. And, yes, before you ask, scientific developments also affect fashion. (Eco-friendly textiles, anyone?)

10. And of course, keep up on fashion news and blog reading.

Here at FIDM, we’re again lucky because we students have access to trend forecasting services, WWD , and numerous industry publications. If your school subscribes to anything like this, take advantage!

Also, there is so much free information readily available on the internet, and the web can often be a fantastic source for breaking news and analysis. I make sure to always check The Cut by NY Mag, Refinery 29, Fashionista and StyleCaster to keep up with it all.

11. But… learn when to unplug.

At the end of the day, while all these extra activities are important, your schoolwork should come first. And you won’t get your work done if you’re spending all your time reading fashion websites or checking Twitter. Keeping your cell phone on while you do your homework is a distraction.  Every time you get a text, your attention is broken. Those things don’t make for the greatest paper.

How do you succeed at your school?

Leave a comment and let me know what your major is and your tips and tricks for survival!  If you’re attending a different kind of school, what helps you through? Tell me your thoughts below.

Posted on on May 13, 2011 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , ,

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16 Responses to “Fashion School 101: How to Succeed in Fashion School”

  1. 1
    May 13th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    College fashion helps me out alot but i would love them to do a article on how to stop being bullied or ways to deal with bullys in college cuz i almost dropped out and i dont have any info on this stuff but i think college fashion would help alot of people out and maybe it would make a diffrence .

  2. 2
    May 13th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I don’t get the purpose these articles. I feel like most people who read this blog aren’t in fashion school. I could be wrong though.

  3. 3
    May 13th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Hey Zacky,

    Sent you an email! I’m so sorry to hear about the bullying – it’s definitely NOT okay and makes me so sad to hear! We will definitely consider that topic for a future post.

    In the meantime, for Zacky and anyone else who might be dealing with this problem, your first line of defense should be to talk to your RA or adviser – even a professor or TA should be able to point you in the right direction if you don’t know who else to talk to! If bullying is happening on your college campus and is negatively affecting your ability to attend classes, the authorities at your school will want to know about it, and should certainly be able to help, whether it’s moving you to a different dorm, helping you change your class schedule, or taking action against the people bullying you. You shouldn’t have to deal with it on your own, and you absolutely shouldn’t let it prevent you from getting an education! Worst case scenario? If you get to the point where you feel physically unsafe and no one at your school can/will help you, contact the police. At minimum, they’ll be able to give you advice on your options for keeping these people away from you. At best? They can grant restraining orders and the like, to force these people to stay away from you or face legal ramifications. Whatever you do, stay strong! Dropping out only hurts you in the long run.

  4. 4
    May 13th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Sam – The reason we do this column is because so many readers kept asking us about fashion school and what it was like! We also have lots of readers in fashion school right now, and they’ve told us numerous times that they wish there was more info out there for students like themselves. That said, I totally understand if it’s not your thing, and that these posts can be tough to relate to if you’re not in fashion school, so that’s why we only do them once every two weeks. Hopefully you find the rest of our normal content more useful!

  5. 5
    May 13th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Even though I do not attend fashion school, I thought these were really good tips for anybody!!! It just goes to show that fashion school isn’t that different from any other school or major.

  6. 6
    May 13th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with Rin-even though I don’t go to fashion school, I find these articles really informative, especially this one. Just because you don’t go to fashion school doesn’t mean that you can’t pull anything useful from them. I think a lot of schools have guest speakers and it’s always important to take care of yourself and keep up with world news. Great job Caitlyn!

  7. 7
    May 14th, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I absolutely LOVE the articles on FIDM and Fashion School 101. In fact, I wish there were more. The articles are so informative and inspiring.

    Thanks for a great read!

  8. 8
    May 14th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I love these articles not because I am specifically going to a fashion school but I do hope to do a fashion major in a traditional college setting and later get a job in the industry. I was wanting to make a high school fashion club and was wondering if you had ideas for this or could make this into an article also. And insight into state colleges fashion programs…

  9. 9
    May 15th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Rin! I tried to keep the tips fashion school focused but make them ones that could easily translate to other majors and colleges, too.

  10. 10
    May 15th, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Hey, Liz! Thank you very much for the kind comment. I really appreciate you reading and taking advantage of the tips.

  11. 11
    May 15th, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you, Lauren! There will be more, I can promise you that. ; )

  12. 12
    May 15th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Madeline, I didn’t have a fashion club at my high school unfortunately. I would have started one but I ended up spending most of my junior year and senior year taking classes at the local community college, so I didn’t feel I was at the high school enough to start a club. FIDM has a Fashion Club website that helps you launch a club at your own school. There are perks about that (starter kits, free tickets to DEBUT, etc.) So this link may help:

    As far as state college fashion programs, I also cannot testify to their strengths well. I know that they are four-year programs and often you have to take other classes outside your major, including all the general education courses. Here at FIDM, we have 1 1/2 year of school until we graduate. (My parents are thanking me for the lack of financial burden of four full years of college!)

  13. 13
    June 24th, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I’m majoring in Fashion Merchandising & Marketing and there’s loads and loads of groupwork. There’s also research class teaching on research methods and writing reports and presentations in first semester of every year and there’s really loads of printing needed. Honestly, to survive, sufficient funds is needed of buying supplies and able to work long hours, even sleepless nights.

    The best part of going to school, the whole department is dressing up as if they’re going shopping. It’s kinda fun seeing people dressing up differently as compared to other college students.

  14. 14
    April 5th, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Hi, I’m thinking of going in to fashion design but am incredibly terrified!! im not the most confident and strongest person and hate it when people are horrible. i’m so scared of not making friends and getting crazy hard teachers. What do I do? will I have any fun in fashion school?

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