Fashion School 101: How to Succeed in Fashion School

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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

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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.

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