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New York may have the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design, but Los Angeles boasts its own world-class fashion schools, as well. Here, a closer look.

This story first appeared in the March 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, known as FIDM, is a private college in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ Garment District with campuses in Orange County, San Francisco and San Diego.

FIDM is an industry-driven community, fostering students’ originality and expressiveness, preparing them for life outside of the classroom, as well. The Resource and Research Center at FIDM houses one of the largest fashion libraries on the West Coast, providing students access to trade publications, newspaper clippings, books and trend reports. In addition to print resources, the center offers online services.

Faculty at FIDM ranges from heads of ad agencies to fashion designers. Instructor Nancy Riegelman is the author of “9 Heads: A Guide to Drawing Fashion,” a textbook used in fashion schools nationwide. FIDM offers degrees in a range of subjects: apparel manufacturing management, digital media, film and television costume, design, footwear design, jewelry design and international manufacturing. It also features product development, textile design, theater costume design, entertainment set design and decoration and visual communications. The school’s museum gallery hosts the annual exhibit of award-nominated television and motion picture costumes, many created by alumni.

Number of students: 6,000 full time.

Tuition: Depending on majors, tuition ranges from $21,900 to $22,900 a year. Room and board is $3,000 a quarter.

Notable grads: Monique Lhuillier, Magda Berliner, Kevan Hall and Pamela Skaist-Levy.


Otis is a four-year art and design college with four campuses based around Los Angeles. Fashion design students attend classes in a wing of the California Market Center in downtown Los Angles, where they have access to hundreds of apparel and accessories showrooms and a multitude of textile and trim companies. Students at Otis are known for their highly creative fashion sense, and tend to view fashion as more of an art than merchandise.

One of Otis’ strengths is its Professional Designer Mentorship Program, where designers such as John Varvatos, Francisco Costa, Vera Wang, Bob Mackie, Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk and BCBG’s creative director, Lubov Azria, volunteer to provide mentorship and direction from sketching and fabric draping to production of the final garment. The best work by student designers is presented on the runway at Otis’ annual scholarship fund-raising gala, held the first Saturday of May.

Current majors include architecture, communication arts, digital media, fashion design, fine arts, interactive product design and toy design.

Number of students: 1,100, with 200 in the fashion design program.

Tuition: Cost for 2007-08 is $37,000 a year, with room and board available at an additional $9,000 a year.

Notable grads: Tom Ford, Cynthia Vincent, Rick Owens and Eduardo Lucero.