By  on April 21, 2008

It's that time of year: Fashion and apparel school graduates are looking for full-time jobs in a particularly challenging economy. For many prospective employers, the obvious sources for talent include famed schools such as the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design. However, other institutions also offer strong fashion-related programs. Here are some of them.Massachusetts College of Art and DesignMassArt, as the college is called, offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. At the undergraduate level, fashion design students learn to design and manufacture apparel for men, women and children. According to the college, students are encouraged to "develop their own style as they master detailing techniques, design and pattern-making. Program faculty teach traditional design methods, along with cutting-edge computer design technology. Students are trained to consider issues of marketability, cost, care and comfort."Undergraduate students who major in fashion design also are responsible for all aspects involved in producing an annual fashion show of their works. Senior-year students complete a "degree project" consisting of the creation of an apparel line. Last year, third-year students competed for the opportunity to have their designs produced as part of the catalogue firm Chadwick's fall-winter collection.According to Chadwick's, the winner and runner-up received scholarship awards and summer internships with Chadwick's design group. The winning designs were featured in the fall-winter catalogue, with a portion of the sale proceeds being donated to MassArt for the construction of a new center for design in Boston.Through MassArt's division of graduate and continuing education, a fashion design certificate program is offered for those who want to advance their skills in the area of fashion design.The certificate consists of 10 courses, including what are called fundamentals and master classes, which are offered on a rotating schedule. This allows for the coursework to be taken in two years or for students to select those courses that they need.The four foundation courses in fashion fundamentals include Intro to Creative Fashion Design, Pattern Drafting, Fashion Illustration and Fashion as Art. At least one or two foundations classes are offered each semester, and are geared toward preparing students for the master classes. The master courses are focused on a fashion specialties, such as draping, costume design, fashion forecasting and tailoring, to name a few. Students also are responsible for developing individual projects.University of DelawareThe University of Delaware has a graduate certificate program in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business available to its students, as well as those attending Cornell University and Colorado State University.Students elect either a labor or environmental focus, and take seven required courses, plus two in the selected track to complete the program. Participants, whether students or instructors, are from all three universities, and the offered coursework involves interaction via the Internet.Each class lasts five weeks. Coursework this spring includes two options — Redesigning Green Apparel: Design, Sourcing & Packaging, and Socially Responsible Apparel: Global Policy for fall 2008. Courses include Bringing Social Responsibility to Apparel Corporate Culture and Worker-Centric Social Responsibility for Apparel Industry.The project director is Marsha Dickson, professor and chair of the department of fashion and apparel studies at Delaware.Otis College of Art and DesignOtis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles aims to be at the forefront of fashion design. Students work with apparel vendors on special projects, which include developing textiles made from corn and flax, and using dyes such as those derived from coffee and beets for fabric.Founded in 1918 by Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, the founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the campus is based in the heart of Los Angeles' fashion district. There are about 1,100 students enrolled, with some 200 majoring in fashion design from the sophomore through junior years. About 55 seniors graduate from the fashion design program each year.One differentiating feature of the Otis program is the recruitment of top designers to serve as mentors and guest faculty for each academic year. Graduates typically work as assistant designers, associate designers, accessory designers and product designers, for example. The college's alumni can be found working at firms such as Abercrombie & Fitch, BCBG Max Azria Group, Calvin Klein, Gap, J. Crew, John Varvatos, Liz Claiborne, Kay Unger, Mervyns, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., St. John, Volcom and Warnaco Group Inc.Laboratory Institute of MerchandisingLIM, as it is known, is a specialized college in New York that focuses on the business side of the fashion industry. Some of the bachelor's degree programs offered are in fashion merchandising, marketing, management and visual merchandising, coupled with a liberal arts background. The programs combine in-class instruction with required internships. Open since 1939, the college has a placement rate of more than 90 percent within six months of graduation. Enrollment has grown from 200 students in 2000 to 1,120 last fall."Each program has three required internships students must complete before they graduate. Each internship is linked to a specific course," said Elizabeth S. Marcuse, president of LIM.Marcuse said internships start as early as freshman year, where the last five weeks of the fall semester are spent at a full-time internship in retailing. "Students get to see how the buying office runs, and how the public relations and event-planning departments work. Some work in the styling office," she said.Seniors in their final semester spend four days a week working full time, returning to the college on the fifth day to work on their marketing plans. Students have been placed at firms such as Macy's, Chanel, Barneys New York, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and Gucci for their internships.

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