How to choose a fashion school

Tips for choosing a fashion school from a former student

When I was 16 years old,I was convinced of one thing: I would work in fashion. At the time, I was finishing up my last year of high school, and while everyone was discussing studies in law or medicine, I was sewing leopard trim on my skinny jeans. I graduated at 17 but couldn’t make it to fashion school straight since the school system in Belgium doesn’t really prepare you for that. I had spent six years studying Greek, Latin & History and while I add a few scrapbooks filled with collages and sketches, it wasn’t worth going through an interview for any serious school with it. So just like that, I packed my bags and headed to the U.K to do a Lower Sixth Form in Textiles, Art, Photography & Business. This year abroad was hard, not so much because of the distance, but more because of the universe I landed in. I was the only French speaking girl in the school, and I landed amongst people that have known each others for years. I spoke a good English but wasn’t 100% confident with it and the school system was so different that it was a real shock for me. I didn’t make a ton of friends that year, but it was fine with me. After all, I was there to work towards my goal and I always kept that in mind.

My Business class was one of my favorite classes ever. I learned so much and running a small company for a year as a financial director was one of the most valuable lesson I had in life. That being said, my other classes weren’t as smooth. I had a hard time adjusting to being 100% creative for my school work and my Art/Photography teacher and I didn’t really go along that well. Textiles was fun but I felt like my teacher wasn’t very supportive of my work and efforts, but I kept on going. I didn’t pass any exams that year apart from Textiles. The feedback from my teacher wasn’t the best but the fact that the exam was judged my an external jury landed me an A, the highest grade possible.

It was in February of that year that I started applying to fashion schools. I quickly learned that if I wanted to study in London like I wanted to, I would have to go through another year, the foundation year, before even applying for a full fashion course. I did it nonetheless but decide to look at other options since I was dying to start working on fashion 24/7.

I finally applied to a couple of schools in Paris and decided to choose l’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. I passed the interview and asked all my principal questions and, after careful considerations, it seemed like the perfect school for me. The program was in 3 years, with an extra fourth one for the best students. The two first years were the same for everyone but you could either choose to go for a creative or business year for the third one. This is what really made me chose this school over any other one, since I really wanted to have a background in business as well in case my creative plans didn’t work out.

My dream collapsed within two years. This school wasn’t a good fit for me at all and I dropped after my second year. It’s a bit bittersweet to think about this time of my life since so many things have changed since, but I am so happy with the way my career turned out. In today’s post, I am sharing my best tips for choosing the right fashion school for you but if you’d like to hear more about my experience studying Fashion Design, let me know!

Think about what you want to do

When I started my first year in Fashion Design, I was convinced that I wanted to be a designer, pretty much like anyone else in the room. I wanted to create clothes, shoes, bags and all sorts of accessories. I didn’t have a clear vision and that failed me. There are a ton of incredible jobs in the fashion industry and it would be silly not to consider them. You can either work as part of a design team, design patterns or translate the drawings into actual clothes. But you can also work in PR, social media and work for a brand that you absolutely love. You could also be a buyer for a department store, work as a stylist on photoshoots for magazine or even be a journalist and write reports about fashion week. The sky is the limit here. So, before deciding on a school, explore all your options. The Teen Vogue handbook is a fantastic read to help you decide on a career path.

Think about your strengths

I have a confession to make. I suck at drawing. I really, really do. It was my biggest weakness when it came to my studies. My teachers quickly stopped trying with me and we all considered my case to be desperate. There are some great ressources available to help you out (like these Swash sketchbooks) but trust me on this one, if you’re really bad at something, try something else. If you love social media and know you’re way around Pinterest like no one, think about a career in PR. If you’re really budget savvy and always have good advice, consider a more business approach to fashion. Think about your strengths and your favorite things and work with them!

Location can be decisive

There are fashion schools all around the globe now, so it would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time abroad and discover a new city. I personally studied in Paris and, although I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I though I would, it was still a good experience to live in the city for 3 years. That being said, living in a big city can be really expensive, so keep that in mind when looking at schools in London, New York or Paris.

It’s a lot of work

It might not seems like it from the outside, but studying fashion is hard. Fashion Design is great, but it takes all of your time. From primary researches to sketches and actual sewing, it’s long hours and sleepless nights. Be prepared to work hard and to learn that you can’t do everything.

Ask a lot of questions

When you go visit a school for the first time or even when you’re emailing about informations, don’t be afraid to ask a ton of questions. Even silly ones. Ask about time classes, internships, fees and descriptions of certain classes. The more you know, the better. I learned so many disappointing things along the way that I wished I would have done more research beforehand!

Ask for feedback

Fashion schools are really trendy right now and sadly, not all of them are worth it. I’ve heard so many bad experiences from people that studied at very expensive schools and didn’t learn much. So, look online for forums or group discussion and don’t be afraid to contact people and ask for their feedback. Of course, a bad experience for someone could be a very good one for someone else, but it’s always good to heard what former students have to say.

Prepare for your interview

Most fashion schools have an application process. Depending on the course that you choose, you’ll be asked to provide creative work, sketchbooks, previous work or even past diplomas. Do your research about what you’ll be asked to provide so that you can start working on that early on. Be selective about what you chose to present and only keep your best work or what makes you the most proud.