The past two decades have seen a steady increase in both undergraduate and postgraduate students looking to embark upon a fashion course in the UK and if the Business Of Fashion’s 2016 study ‘The Best Fashion Schools In The World’ is anything to go by, it seems as though they’re looking in the right place. The ranking measured schools by global impact, learning experience and long-term value (namely employability). Central St Martins sat at the top spot, and a further five UK fashion schools made an appearance in the undergraduate list – a number matched only by its US competitors. That said, it’s no surprise that applicant figures have reportedly been rising steadily over recent years. Here, we look a little closer at what these universities have to offer and what makes them so special.
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Boasting UK household names such as Stella McCartney, John Galliano and Sarah Burton as part of its alumni, it should come as no surprise that UAL’s Central St Martins sits at the top of our list of the best fashion design schools in the UK. Students are required to choose from five different pathways to specialise in over the course of their three or four year program. Each pathway – Fashion Design Menswear, Fashion Design Womenswear, Fashion Print, Fashion Design with Knitwear and Fashion Design with Marketing – offers the chance to collaborate with external businesses such as L’Oreal Professionel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of an active learning program. What’s more? The top design students from each year group famously get the chance to showcase their collections at the eponymous final presentation in June which has garnered a reputation as a hub for potential employers to scout the freshest and most ambitious talent in the industry.
At the University of Westminster, there’s a keen interest in exposing students not only to existing businesses and how they work but also to the skills and expertise of fellow piers studying different disciplines. As well as learning and developing the core fundamentals of fashion design, students are given an insight into how their chosen industry works and what to do to launch a successful career within it. There’s a chance to work alongside those enrolled other courses such as film, photography and journalism and to attend talks and lectures lead by influential industry insiders. Most recently; Meadham Kirchhoff, Lou Stoppard from SHOWstudio and Julian Ganio have imparted their knowledge and told their success stories as part of the lecture structure.
With over 40 years worth of fashion design graduates under its belt and an impressive 94% employment / further study statistic after just six months of graduating (according to the DLHE survey 2015/16), Nottingham Trent’s fashion design courses are highly competitive to get into but for good reason. Not only are students enrolled upon a comprehensive program that covers modules such as fashion drawing, design innovation and pattern cutting but there’s also a strong focus on market awareness and the latest technology in garment manufacture within the three year plan. Careers consultants are on hand throughout the duration of the course and for a further three years after graduation and students are encouraged to make the most of the university’s business relationships for work experience purposes. These includes the likes of Jigsaw, Christopher Raeburn, Abercrombie & Fitch and Topshop in the UK as well as overseas fashion houses which the course works with as part of its international summer internship program.
Ranking in second place according to the aforementioned survey, Kingston University’s undergraduate fashion courses offer the chance for students to work on real briefs with established companies in a bid to learn first-hand what it’s like to work in the industry. Employability is a strong focus here with an impressive 91% of postgrads finding work in the industry after just six months. Not just a creative program, the course prides itself on its use of cutting edge technology and its lecturer’s expertise in this particular area. It places specific emphasis on evolution and radical change in design and modules cover how design has been, and continues to be, influenced by cultural, social and historical changes as well as focusing on specialised design process, so there’s a real variation of learnings to be undergone. For those perhaps unsure whether this is the career path for them, the school offers a short four day summer course that provides an introduction to fashion design which might just help with the decision process.
Priding itself in having no set house style, the fashion design course at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom is one for experimentalists, innovative thinkers and those that wish to establish their own approach to their aesthetic. There is structure, however, and as with most courses, students have access to the latest developments in technological equipment, dedicated studio space to work from and a plethora of industry connections at their disposal. Modules include Capturing the Market, History and Theory and the chance to gain first-hand experience working in the industry. Brands on their books include Reiss, Jenny Packham and Tommy Hilfiger and there’s an option to study abroad at one of the university’s partner institutions for a select number of students.
Edinburgh College of Art is the only Scottish institution to showcase its student’s work on the runway during Graduate Fashion Week, which is a testament to the level of creativity and skill produced by its students year after year. Lecturers adopt a dynamic system of teaching that’s designed to encourage innovation and inspire students to challenge the fashion landscape as we currently know it. Modules cover not just the technical pattern cutting and sketching but broader topics such as mapping trends and customer research. In a similar way to how the other universities in this line-up work with brands on live projects, Edinburgh College of Art has established working relationships with labels such as H&M, Dr Martins and Sophie Halette.