Should you study fashion in order to become a designer?

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When it comes to art studies, many believe that it doesn’t take a degree for you to become an artist, or in this case, a fashion designer. On the other hand, others believe that a degree is a necessary step towards a fashion designer career. So, what is the truth? If we look at the statistics and observe the numbers showing the percentage of graduates starting a successful career, and those who dropped out or never attended college, we will notice a significant discrepancy. Those who have graduated from college, regardless of which one, are more likely to get a job and start a successful business. Sure, there are examples of college dropouts or those who haven’t even got close to a college, who have created amazing careers; just look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But, let’s be honest; it takes one to be a genius in order to reach that level of success without proper education and practice.

To degree or not to degree

Because many young designers in the making hope to become the next Vivian Westwood or Marc Jacobs, it is essential to know that it will take more than just the ‘hope.’ Sure, there are people who are simply out of the ordinary and fill the market and culture need with their creations, so there is no need for an education background. Others, however, need to go through education in order to gain additional fashion skills and training, because it is a standard in the fashion world according to the leading fashion experts. It is important to go through the fashion literature and consult reliable sources like to get the best information and learn the most. So, let’s explore both possibilities and see whether is it essential to degree or not to degree to become a famous fashion designer.

The basics

To start with the basics, we must observe the fact that the fashion industry is packed with talented, skilled and ambitious people. In such a competitive environment, does it really matter if someone has a degree or not? Well, a degree is believed to help people stand out, and usually make their skills, talents, and ambitions more believable in front of future employers. The representative of Dean of the School of Art and Design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Joanne Arbuckle believes that attending a college and getting a degree is a norm in the fashion world. It sends the message that an individual has gone through studying, exploring, discovering, challenging, training and practicing; all of which is necessary in order to come up with a unique and original brand and design.

Practice makes perfect

The practical aspect or art college seems to be the most valuable aspect among those in the fashion world. Practice makes perfect, and the current fashion designers (with or without a degree) genuinely believe in those words. For example, even though he has dropped out of college, Michael Kors deeply believes in the importance of continuous learning and practicing. Moreover, he advises future designers to enroll in art schools and encourages them to get a degree. If we look at the list of the best designers in the world, we will notice that approximately all of them have a degree in different fields of arts; Rei Kawakubo has studied art and literature, Miuccia Prada has studied political science, and Raf Simons was into industrial furniture design. Moreover, the iconic trio of the fashion world, Alexandre McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maison Martin Margiela all graduated fashion design, only to become the masterminds of the modern fashion and some of the most famous brand names in the world.

Taking risks

However, we must also observe the designers who have decided to take risks and choose the alternative paths towards a career in fashion. Alexander Wang, the former creative director at Balenciaga and current top name in the fashion world on his own, is actually a Parson’s Fashion School of Design dropout. Moreover, famous names in the fashion world like Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga or Jean Paul Gaultier did not finish school nor graduated from college. Nevertheless, they did receive formal training in tailoring, design and other vital aspects of design and art. They were also really into business owning, so soon into their early twenties or after they dropped out, many of the aforementioned fashion icons simply started their own businesses.

The bottom line

So, to draw the line here’s what we can learn from the fashion designers of the past and the present. It is important to have a degree in any relevant art field that can be applied in fashion. If not, then it is probably even more important to have formal training and practice which is indispensable for those pursuing careers as fashion designers. Therefore, regardless of whether you’ve completed your masters in Art, or you’re a self-taught designer, you need to understand the importance of endless and continuous learning and practicing.

Just because you have a degree, doesn’t mean you can stop learning; or, just because you haven’t attended college, doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn. Both are equally important alongside talent and ambition. The critical message you can draw from this article is that your education doesn’t stop with a degree and that your career doesn’t need to begin with one either. So, make sure to commit yourself to a lifelong learning, constant exploration, inspiration, motivation and all the other things that can help you rise above the crowd and become a world-renown name in one of the most demanding industries in the world.

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