Fashion Studies (BA | BFA)

Fashion is an art and an industry. To succeed in it, you’ll need cutting-edge business skills and an appreciation for style. In Columbia College Chicago's fashion bachelor's degree program, we’ll prepare you to enter the rapidly changing world of fashion.

Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies visual merchandising

Our core classes will help you think critically about fashion and imagine how style can solve problems and contribute to culture. You’ll gain real-life experience outside the classroom by working with retailers and wholesale showrooms. You’ll build on this experience by honing professional skills in marketing, technology, analytics, and design. As a graduate, you’ll join a network of alumni who work as technical designers, merchandisers, buyers, pattern makers, marketers, stylists, and digital media specialists.


Degrees Available

Fashion Studies, BA

The Fashion Studies bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College Chicago will prepare you to shape the future of the industry. You’ll choose from two interwoven concentrations: Merchandising or Product Development. Both will help you hone your skills with hands-on learning opportunities as you gain a sophisticated understanding of an evolving industry.

Fashion Design, BFA

The Fashion Design BFA emphasizes technical proficiency informed by research, design, and creative exploration. The curriculum offers courses that include traditional and contemporary subject matter as well as workshops and modules. Students enter Columbia College Chicago as Fashion Studies BA students and apply for the Fashion Design BFA after their second year.


Concentrations

The Fashion Studies BA degree track includes two concentrations: Merchandising or Product Development. Most students choose a concentration at the end of their first year. Both concentrations help students broaden their understanding of the industry and achieve their career goals. Because the industry is so collaborative, we bring together seniors from both concentrations to work as a team to design, prototype, and actually sell a market-ready project.

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Merchandising

This concentration focuses on the business side of the industry. You’ll take courses in marketing, sales, and buying. You’ll learn how to spot trends and analyze consumers so you can bring products to market at the right time. You’ll gain experience in pricing, inventory, and supply chains and learn how to get ahead of the game.

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Product Development

Learn how to transform a garment into a product. You’ll hone the technical skills you’ll need to develop your own aesthetic and create products that fit brand standards and market needs. The Product Development concentration emphasizes principles of design thinking and design anthropology. Such knowledge will set you apart on the job market and enable you to apply your knowledge of style to industries outside conventional fashion.


In the Classroom

Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies classroom

  • The first year of the program is a deep dive into the industry and the art of fashion. You’ll have in-class discussions with visiting professionals who will provide perspective on the state of the industry.

  • Our campus is only blocks away from the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s famous shopping district. You’ll have opportunities to explore brands and think critically about companies’ decisions regarding pricing, fabrics, design, and visual merchandising.

  • You’ll practice skills essential to a global business environment. You’ll learn discipline-specific technologies, organizational strategies, and communication skills. 

  • You’ll leave Columbia College Chicago with a rich digital portfolio and professional resume. By the time you graduate, you’ll have hands-on experience and a deep understanding of existing and emerging trends. 

  • In the Concept to Consumer capstone, you’ll apply your skills in a team environment that mirrors the industry. You’ll work on a small team of students that will design a product, engage with local manufacturers to produce it, and bring it to market. Your concentration will determine your role on the team.


Special Topics Seminars

Columbia College Chicago Digital Fashion Seminar Levis Smart Jacket
Levi’s and Google show off their smart jacket, which uses connective threads to communicate with your smartphone.

The Fashion Studies Department hosts special seminars every semester on topics such as sustainability, diversity, and technology. These seminars bring industry leaders to Columbia College Chicago to network with students and provide insight into the latest trends and research. Recent seminars include:

The EcoFabrics Seminar: Representatives from companies including Thread International, Unifi Manufacturing, and Brentano Fabrics discussed eco-solutions and the ethics and marketplace value of sustainability. 

The Digital Fashion Seminar: Designers and developers from Google, Target, Levi’s, and DesireList came to Columbia College Chicago to talk about wearable tech, 3D printing, and augmented and virtual reality shopping experiences.


Chicago: A Global City

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Chicago is an incredibly vibrant city, and Columbia College Chicago is at the center of it all. You’ll take courses that will send you to the city’s museums, neighborhoods, businesses, stores, and galleries. Many courses include field trips to local manufacturers and showrooms.

You’ll also launch projects with students in other majors. You’ll work with photographers, graphic designers, interior designers, interaction designers, filmmakers, and management students to create projects immersed in the arts, media, and entrepreneurship communities of our city and college.


Internships

We encourage students to gain professional experience and build networks through internships. Our students have interned at brands such as:

  • Nordstrom
  • Macy’s
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Anthropologie
  • Burberry
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nike

Faculty

Lauren Peters and Justin Leblanc

Lauren Downing Peters and Justin LeBlanc joined the Fashion Studies Department to advance the department’s mission toward a curriculum focused on innovation and inclusion.

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Columbia’s faculty members have years of industry experience and come from various backgrounds. They bring real-world experience to the classroom and help students see the fashion industry from different perspectives. They are thought leaders and innovators influencing industry standards. Their students work right beside them as they chart the industry’s future.

View all Fashion Studies faculty.


Competitions and Trips

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Teams of Columbia students took first and second place at the National Retail Foundation’s annual student competition.

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You’ll have opportunities to participate in national competitions sponsored by companies and professional organizations. For example, the National Retail Foundation’s competition enlists students to help companies create immersive, interactive shopping events. Winners receive scholarships and travel awards. Special courses also prepare students for scholarship opportunities sponsored by other national organizations.

You’ll have opportunities to study outside Chicago. Our annual NYC trip is a tour behind the scenes of the Fashion District, and our Semester in LA program is geared toward students interested in wardrobe and costuming for TV, film, and entertainment.


Alumni Success

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“These people you meet [at Columbia], you’re all kindred spirits, you’re all artists in one way or another.”
-Susan Alexandra ’07, jewelry designer

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Columbia College Chicago alumni shape the brands that you interact with every day. From Macy’s to Nordstrom to Kohl’s to Ulta Beauty, our alumni are buyers, product developers, pattern makers, and merchandisers. You see their work at major retailers and in boutiques around the world.


We encourage students to minor in related disciplines. Popular minors include: