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The CF Guide to Fashion-Related Schools

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With the proliferation of the glamorization of the fashion industry in movies such as The Devil Wears Prada and in shows such as The Hills, little girls no longer dream of becoming pop stars and prima ballerinas — nowadays, they want to be Anna Wintour. Or Miley Cyrus (but we won’t get into that). Some of these little girls never outgrow their dreams of working in the fashion industry, but may not know where to start.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I was a fashion intern for Seventeen magazine, and I am currently a fashion intern for Town & Country magazine. I’ve also worked with local fashion designers and public relations agencies throughout high school, so I found my niche in fashion publishing and entrepreneurship early on. Oftentimes, I get asked, “What are you studying in college if you want to work in fashion?” Many of my classmates here at Columbia also ask me, “Why aren’t you studying at fashion school instead of writing term papers about Homer here?”

Well, before I get into that, I’ve compiled a short and concise to the top schools you should attend if you want to work in fashion — that is, if you want to study hard but you don’t want a liberal arts-oriented curriculum:

16 Top Fashion-Related Schools

Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California)

As the only school to have a show at New York Fashion Week every season, the Academy of Art has plenty to brag about. It is the largest private art university in the country and offers classes such as the history of beauty, fashion journalism, sportswear design, and sustainable design. Additionally, San Francisco is a hard place to beat in terms of unique and inspirational style.

Bunka Fashion College (Tokyo, Japan)

As Japan’s top fashion school (and everyone knows that the Japanese have mad style), Bunka offers four different programs of study: Fashion Creation, Fashion Technology, Fashion Marketing and Distribution, and Fashion Accessories and Textiles. While proficiency in the Japanese language is a requirement for admission, taking some Japanese in high school might just be worth it if you want to study here, as some of the illustrious alumni include Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo Takada. Technology and innovation is extremely important here, so if you’re interested in new methods of design and creation, Bunka is the place for you.

California College of the Arts (San Francisco, California)

Located in the stylish San Francisco bay area, fashion enthusiasts can study Fashion Design, Illustration, Photography, Textiles, and Jewelry/Metal Arts here. In 2007, Business Week named it as one of the world’s best design schools for its innovation set against the backdrop of Silicon Valley and commitment to the practical arts. It’s also committed to eco-friendly and sustainable fashion. If you want the innovation of Bunka without learning Japanese, come to CCA.

Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (London, England)

One of Britain’s top design and art schools, Central Saint Martins offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in photography, fashion criticism/communication/curation, textile design, fashion design, jewelry design, and pattern cutting. It is located relatively close to Savile Row, a famous shopping street which boasts of former customers such as Winston Churchill. Alumni include Stella McCartney and Zac Posen.

The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France)

Yes, you’ll have to learn how to speak French — but isn’t it worth it to study in Paris at the school that Hubert de Givenchy graduated from? This five-year program allows students to explore their work creatively through technical training and professional internships and seminars. Students end up earning something similar to a master’s degree in these five years. The best part? It only costs about $440 a year to attend — French universities are publicly funded, after all.

Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)

Being in New York City has its advantages — and Fashion Institute of Technology definitely knows that. It was created to be the “MIT for the fashion industries,” so students are taught the most practical skills before they embark on creative outbursts. Alumni include Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, and the Museum at FIT (which I’ve visited on multiple occasions) contains fantastic historical pieces from likes of Halston and Paul Poiret. Programs of study include fashion design, fashion merchandising, cosmetic and fragrance marketing, fabric styling, accessories design, menswear, production management, illustration, and advertising.

London College of Fashion (London, England)

With visiting lecturers such as Alexander Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, the London College of Fashion is a prime school for those who want to study subjects such as beauty therapy, fashion journalism, fashion public relations, cosmetic science, costume design, fashion management, fashion marketing, image styling, and footwear. Even if you’re not interested in designing, you can definitely find your niche here — as almost every career in the fashion industry is offered as an extensive and well-developed program of study.

Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, Maryland)

In addition to offering liberal arts courses, MICA boasts of fifteen bachelor’s degree programs. The master’s program was ranked fourth by U.S. News and World Report, and luckily undergraduate students have the opportunity to work alongside these graduate students. While the school does not offer a fashion design major, it does offer an Experimental Fashion studio concentration, which allows even Art History majors to engage in innovative apparel creation — including a fashion show.

New York University (New York, New York)

For aspiring fashion journalists and editors, New York University, located in the heart of the city, offers print/online journalism as a program of study. While studying journalism here, students must also choose a second major in the liberal arts in order to round out their education. Additionally, because students live so close to so many design houses, magazines, and public relations agencies, internships are always available — you just need to take the initiative to look around.

Northwestern University (Illinois, Evanston)

Arguably the best undergraduate journalism school in the country, graduates from the Medill School at Northwestern have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards. During their junior year, the students are sent out on residencies to newspapers, magazines, and television stations across the country in order to gain work experience, contacts, and and work samples. Additionally, the business school, the Kellogg school, has a Fashion, Design, and Style program.

Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, California)

While Hollywood may be known for trashy fashion and fake tans, Otis remains as one of the best kept secrets on the West Coast. Located in the garment district of sunny Los Angeles, students are widely recruited by California-based companies such as Roxy and Hurley. In the first year, all students, regardless of program of student, master the basics of drawing, painting, construction, and composition — in addition to standard liberal arts courses.

Parsons The New School for Design (New York, New York)

Okay, maybe you recognize Parsons from Project Runway, but its fame far transcends any reality television show. As the first design program in the United States, Parsons has produced designers such as Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang (who dropped out), Tom Ford, Donna Karan, and Isaac Mizrahi — all important icons in the American fashion industry. Programs of study include fashion design, fashion styling, and fashion marketing — all located in Greenwich Village, which means easy access to shopping too. In Fall 2010, the school is launching a master’s program in Fashion Studies.

Pratt Institute (New York, New York)

While Manhattan boasts of some top fashion schools, Brooklyn is not without one of its own — Pratt. Fashion design students here can learn a variety of things, include costume design. Additionally, the career fair each year attracts many top companies, hoping to recruit creative minds from the school.

Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, Rhode Island)

In 2009, RISD was ranked first for master’s in fine arts programs by U.S. News and World Report — and no surprise there, Nicole Miller is a graduate of the school. An interesting and unique offering at this school is the ability to study and attain a dual degree from Brown University, a top Ivy League school nearby. At RISD, students interested in fashion can study textiles, apparel design, photography, jewelry making/metalsmithing, or illustrating.

Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)

Hey, southerners have style too! Every year, the SCAD Style event brings fashion celebrities such as Marc Jacobs to the school in order to lecture and teach — including widely-publicized fashion show in May. In the School of Fashion, students can study accessory design, fashion, fashion marketing and management, or luxury and fashion management. With a campus in Hong Kong, students can also study abroad and gain a global perspective of the industry — which is much needed in this day and age.

Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)

Betsey Johnson graduated from Syracuse’s College of Visual and Performing Arts — but additionally, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications offers majors in magazine journalism and advertising. Yes, the S.I. Newhouse — he owns Condé Nast Publications, if you didn’t know that. If you know you want to work in magazines, the program at Syracuse is well-respected and will give you an edge above your peers.

Alternative Options

But what if I don’t want to major in anything fashion related — but I still want to work in fashion?

Well, you’re just like me! I’m a prospective Art History major with a double concentration (Columbia’s version of a minor) in Economics and Anthropology, but that doesn’t mean I want to be an art historian, economist, or anthropologist. I chose to attend Columbia University instead of a school like Fashion Institute of Technology because I honestly enjoy academia (ah yes, the nerd inside of me speaks out) and exploring topics outside of fashion. I wanted to broaden my perspective of the world while pursuing my professional interests. Since I’m in New York City, I can work at fashion magazines and take a full course load — and Columbia supports that (which is why we don’t have classes on Friday).

The truth is, there is no single path to success. You don’t need to major in journalism to be an editor (Jane Keltner, Fashion News Director of Teen Vogue, attended Barnard College to study English and art history there) and you don’t need to major in fashion design to be a fashion designer (the Mulleavy sisters behind Rodarte attended University of California — Berkeley!).

Your college degree can proudly hang on your wall in gilded gold frames, but only you can make something of your career.

What do you think?

Do you attend fashion school? Do you want to work in the fashion industry? What other schools do you recommend?

Posted on on December 8, 2009 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , , ,

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47 Responses to “The CF Guide to Fashion-Related Schools”

  1. 1
    December 8th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I think this is a great post…I also enjoy how you put at the end that you yourself did not attend fashion school. I am absolutely crazy for fashion and I’ve known for a while now that’s what I want to do… but I wanted a general education just in case. After receiving my bachelors in Marketing, I will be going back to school for an Associates or another Bachelors in Fashion Merchandising at one of the art institutes in Chicago.

    By reading your post, I think it’s very inspirational and makes me feel like I can make it in the fashion world too…even if I don’t attend a real fashion school or one of the top fashion schools.

  2. 2
    December 8th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    The post is amazing!! I wish I could have a fashion related carrer.. but I feel SO OLD. I´m 22yrs now, and still have 3 yrs of law ahead of me. If I´ld have a fashion opportunity, would be with 26yrs. Isn´t that evil? I´d do something together with law but I live in a small town, with nothing fashion related :(

  3. 3
    December 8th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Great post! I graduated FIT two years ago and now I’m with Marc Jacobs. I had an internship with Charlotte Ronson during college. Fashion is an amazing field to be in but sometimes I do wonder about going back to a traditional school for a degree. I’d recommend anyone to purse fashion if that is their dream. My final goal is to become a designer so on my free time I design and return to FIT often for inspiration and guest speakers.

  4. 4
    December 8th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Great post– I’m a constant reader of your website and this by far surpasses all other posts. I’m only a sophomore in high school so I still have time to look for colleges but I really appreciate the list. I’m definitely looking into Syracuse and this really puts me in the right direction. Thanks so much!

  5. 5
    December 8th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Like you, Skylar, I am also still in high school. I am a high school junior, attending school online, and am practically on my own (I still don’t know where or when I’m taking the SAT for the first time) in terms for college (no guidance counselor to help me). This article was awesome, such a refreshing read. I always appreciate Noel’s articles!

    I wish to attend fashion school in the area of merchandising/business or to be a stylist, like Tim Gunn and Rachel Zoe. I liked that Noel included many schools, not just the typical FIT, Parsons, fare. (Although they were included) She also included schools abroad, which put a new spin on looking for schools. I’ll definitely take these into consideration! I’d love a follow up article on what these schools require for portfolios (for each major). The websites never tell you!

  6. 6
    December 8th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I’m so glad the FIDM schools weren’t included in this list. I really wanted to go to FIDM to do Fashion Merchandising, but my cousin (who dropped out of college) has more than a dozen girls who graduated from FIDM working UNDER her at Nordstroms. Yes, I know that there have been some successful alums, as when I took a tour of one of the campuses, they have a whole wall dedicated to those alums (like the girls of Juicy). But this school is filled with empty promises at a ridiculously high tuition. They promise to place you in a job in your industry before you graduate, but most stores only hire Fashion Merchandisers who have started at the bottom of their company and worked their way up. My cousin who works at Nordstrom has a sister who graduated from CSU Long Beach for Fashion Merchandising and now works as a Rep for Paige Premium Denim, traveling the country to check on displays and assisting the execs.

    I have had a chance to visit AAU in SF (they had really close ties with the arts-centered high school I attended), and I was amazed. It’s truly a beautiful campus, and I had a chance to sit in on a sketch class, which displayed amazing talent.

    Just a word to the girls who want to go into fashion merchandising–be careful and wary of the schools that seem too good to be true.

  7. 7
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Jordan- All the schools that I considered attending asked for portfolios for fashion merchandising. Just make up some window displays or style some outfits. A combination of both would be great too.

  8. 8
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Great post!! I was one of the people that thought you had to have a degree in fashion in order to work in fashion, but you don’t. =]

  9. 9
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I love this post! However, I have to admit I’m disappointed F.I.D.M. didnt make the list. Oh well =)

  10. 10
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I’m loving this post, too. Thanks for deciding to do this, Noel! I actually wish I had seen something like this before going to college because I’m sure it would have been helpful. Personally I didn’t major in anything fashion or journalism-related, although I think it would have been a good idea in hindsight. That said, it’s so true – while going to a great school is a wonderful thing, it’s not the degree that matters but the career and life you make for yourself. A degree just opens more doors.

  11. 11
    December 8th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Noel, I always appreciate the unique perspective you bring to us CF readers. I personally have no plans whatsoever to pursue a career in fashion, but articles like this one always give me some new, interesting insight.

    You’re a talented writer and I think you’ll go far!

  12. 12
    December 8th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    No loving for the schools that have a more affordable fashion program and the traditional college experience? I attend Florida State University and we have one of the top rated merchandising programs not located in an arts school. Other programs such as ours include UNC, UGA, LSU, and Kent State. I think it is awesome that I got the typical college experience while getting to study something that I love. Don’t discredit them. We have alums working at pretty much every major fashion company and magazine and many of the majors I have intern block with next semester have already received internships with Glamour, Elle, Vogue, and various showrooms in LA and NY.

  13. 13
    December 8th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I am an Apparel Design major at The University of Alabama. We are more famous for our football than our fashion designers, but most students who graduate here end up with good jobs across the country. Design students have interned with Donna Karen and Milly and Betsey Johnson and in Italy, Paris, Japan, and even India.
    My school also has a fashion retail major where internships are required and jobs are easier to find. Some work for Nordstroms and Macy’s while some work for your local Belk.

  14. 14
    December 8th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Great article, but I’m surprised you took the time to list schools in the UK and Japan, but not Canada? I’m doing my undergrad in Honours English and will hopefully be going on to pursue a MA in either journalism or fashion. Ryerson University (in Toronto) has both a great journalism and fashion course. However, I’m not sure where else I should be looking?

  15. 15
    December 8th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Great article, very useful for lot of people! Thanks

  16. 16
    December 8th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I just started my freshman year at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD for short). I’m a Fashion Design Major with a Minor in Fashion Marketing and Management. I absolutely love SCAD! Nice Post! :)

  17. 17
    December 8th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    i love, love, love this article! i am planning on majoring in journalism for my undergraduate degree, in fact i just sent out my college apps yesterday, and then focusing even more on journalism for grad school. i’m going to a states school as an undergrad and then planning on applying to a more prestigous uni for grad school. as much as it does matter where you go, it matters more how you make the most of it!

  18. 18
    December 8th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I’m doing a bachelor of design in fashion & textiles at the University of Technology. Sydney (Australia). It’s a really great uni and the course is really in-depth and quite academically based – we learn a lot about fashion theory and dress etc. that said, most of the assessments are practical – they know we hate writing essays!

  19. 19
    December 8th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for this post! It’s inspiring and encouraging.
    I especially liked
    Your college degree can proudly hang on your wall in gilded gold frames, but only you can make something of your career.
    <3

  20. 20
    December 8th, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    i love this post, i wish i could have seen it when i was in high school!
    im now a freshman in university (and i believe many readers ARE already in college too) so is it possible if you can do a follow up with GRADUATE SCHOOLS for further studying? :)

    I agree with you that the reason why i didn’t really think about going to schools like Parsons and FIT is because I want a liberal arts education and have differerent perspectives and explore more, but I think I would love to go to graduate school to learn more about the fashion world specifically, such as going to schools like London College of Fashion.

    I would really appreciate that!
    thanks so much :)

  21. 21
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    So helpful!

  22. 22
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Hi! This is a really great list of fashion schools and very helpful to see what else is out there,but I think that ESMOD should be listed as well,seeing that it’s a very important fashion school all over the world.

  23. 23
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    hey, great post! i’m a journalism major at Syracuse and they really take good care of us here in terms of internship searches and job placements post-grad. i also just wanted to mention that it’s spelled without the extra ‘r’.. just a little shameless plug ;) thanks!

  24. 24
    December 8th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    love this article!!! but wheres kent state’s recognition?
    i am currently a freshman in the fashion design program here which is consistently rated in the top 5 in the US. we have alum working at a ton of major fashion houses and companies across the country and suede from project runway graduated from here as well.

  25. 25
    December 8th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    great post :)
    i am a sophomore in high school and i am now in my third semester of precollege courses at FIT, i took illustration last year and now im taking a fine arts course… however, like you i enjoy academia and want the regular college experience! this list plus your own life story helped show me some pretty good options :) thanks!!!

  26. 26
    December 8th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I second Lex on Kent State. They have an amazing fashion program. It’s way more affordable then living in one of those big cities but you still have all the same opportunities to advance your career.

  27. 27
    December 8th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    It’s so true that you don’t have to major in something fashion related to be successful in fashion. After all, Christian Dior was a political scientist and military man before launching his career, which makes me love my Political Science/Pre-Law major all the more :)

  28. 28
    December 8th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I think this article is great, but it should be noted that the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts is EXTREMELY hard to get into. The French study for years on end in order to apply for the ecoles of France. If they fail the entrance exam as 95% of people do, they will study for several more years in hopes of trying to enter. It takes some people 9 years worth of study before they finally give up.

  29. 29
    December 8th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks Jessica! Where do you go to school? Where did you apply? You can email me in detail about your experiences if you’d like! It’d be really helpful.

    JordanDaleee AT gmail.com

  30. 30
    December 8th, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    AWESOME post! Like the other girls, I wish I had seen this last fall. I am a freshman at Indiana University Bloomington. I am in the business school but also minoring in art history and completing the fashion design certificate program. I got a scholarship to Parsons after attending their drawing/painting summer program but decided to go to “real” school. Now that they have a graduate Fashion Studies program, however, I am considering attending later on. This way, I could maybe try to get another scholarship and not pay a fortune over my undergrad summers going to NY to do internships. It would be sweet to see a list of great graduate programs in the future. Again, good job Noel.

  31. 31
    December 9th, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Carol – I am a 22 year old fashion graduate student. I majored in Business Administration in college, but I am studying to get my masters in Fashion Journalism at the Academy of Art University. You can get a masters degree in fashion design, journalism, merchandising, and other fashion related subjects. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people in the classes that are older than me, and the teachers help you learn from scratch even in the masters program. If you are beginner like me, you won’t have any problems. DON”T GIVE UP!

  32. 32
    December 9th, 2009 at 7:30 am

    actually… I used to study at the Bunka Fashion College campus! If I had had a choice, I would have gone on to Bunka proper myself, but due to the rules of my scholarship I didn’t get to pick the school I go to… so I’m at a different fashion school, Sugino Gakuen — famous within Japan, not overseas though, haha.

    but anyway, BFC — or just about any fashion school in Japan — will teach you amazing things about clothing construction that you never would have thought possible… making ‘black holes’ out of fabric or constructing cubes as part of a block — it’s all so amazing! Plus the fashion shows are unbelievable ;)
    there is one thing about Japanese school that is difficult for me to deal with though — you don’t really -learn-, so much as you -memorize-. there are so many license tests and qualification in Japan and yes your school will make you study for all of them… plus there aren’t any class discussions, it’s all lecture (and you can’t even ask questions!!)

    not to put anyone off though, but if your heart is set on Japan, just keep those in mind :)

  33. 33
    December 9th, 2009 at 7:32 am

    btw you don’t need a portfolio or anything for Japanese fashion schools… no matter how skilled you are already they teach you everything from the beginning, so no worries there!

  34. 34
    December 9th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    This is a great post but I have some questions:

    Do you have any tips for international students studying at US colleges when they want to apply for fashion internships? Do you know if Seventeen and other magazines accept international students as interns? As many international students may not have a very impressive resume due to internship scarcity in other countries, what else can we do to increase our chances?

    Thanks!

  35. 35
    December 9th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Good post! But its Evanston, Illinois… not Illinois, Evanston, just saying!! :)

  36. 36
    December 9th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Oh, my gosh. Thank you. This is one of those questions that’s been in the back of my head for SO long! I’m really glad I read it as a freshman so I can keep this all in mind as I go.

  37. 37
    December 9th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Just to let you all know. being a fashion major means NO sleep.. I have a friend who went to FIDM in LA, and she told me she would have NO free time. They give you like 2 days to make an outfit or design something. Any art school is very time consuming and you need to make sure you are willing to make the sacrafise of friends and shopping and hanging out for designing fashion and drawing. I go to a COMUNITY COLLEGE and I don’t see any of my friends unless I am at school. My friends are those who are in my department but we don;t hang out after we are done for the day

  38. 38
    December 10th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I want to work in the fashion business as well, but i didnt want to major in fashion, because maybe i change my mind in 1 oder 2 years – you never know. And then i’m stuck in a fashion university. So i decided to major in business studies and do some internship in some more popular fashion stores, to get an idea of what work in the fashion business actually means. I hope it all works out the way i want it to and i’ll become a fashion manager.

  39. 39
    December 10th, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, I am currently at University of Texas at Austin \\m// GO LONGHORNS!!!. Right now I am studying Marketing and I would LOVE to use my degree in Fashion. Can you please write a follow-up for good Grad schools. Thanks!!!

  40. 40
    December 13th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you for this article, it was really interesting!

  41. 41
    February 6th, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I know it´s a little late, but I really love this post!

    My major is on Marketing and I´m actually doing a double degree/Master in Management at an École de Commerce in France, but what I really want is Fashion Marketing and Merchandising… so I would like to enroll at FIT as soon as I finish college (Jan 2012), but I´ll be 23 by then and I´m afraid I´ll be too old to star and undergraduate program in Fashion Mkt… but I don´t know… what do you think?

    Thanks =)

  42. 42
    February 26th, 2010 at 4:02 am

    I think you also forgot LIM – Laboratory Institute of Merchandising – it’s in New York. I got accepted but didn’t go :(

    From what I heard, it’s up there with FIT-NY and FIDM. I like LIM because it’s the BUSINESS side of FASHION. So it’s not the whole how-to-make-clothes path, but still get to learn fashion.

  43. 43
    October 12th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Hey, I live around San Francisco but I can not go to Academy of Art because it is too expensive for me so I opt for a community college first than transfer to a CSU instead. So does it matter if I go to a fashion school or not? My major is Journalism because I love to write poems, essays, and read fashion magazines. How did you intern with Seventeen magazine? When i was in high school I tried to email Anne, the editor of Seventeen magazine for an interview but she rejected me.

  44. 44
    October 14th, 2012 at 9:23 am

    you all are so nice dear

  45. 45
    August 12th, 2013 at 8:40 am

    There is also the instituto marangoni in france and italy and besides Les beaux arts in France are not a fashion school

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