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Where To Study If You're Interested In Fashion

If you're serious about enrolling here or abroad, read this.
PHOTO: istockphoto

As a generation defined by social media, all of us are exposed to various aspects of the fashion industry, whether we’re aware of it or not. It could be as simple as following an OG blogger like Aimee Song on Instagram, or possessing a fixation for millennial pink thanks to every single brand peddling this color in their respective feeds.

But what if your interest in fashion isn’t superficial? What if you find yourself actively participating in it, obsessively dissecting every designer show on Vogue Runway; knowing who’s who in the local and global industries; brushing up on references from even before you were born; and wanting to build your own brand—what would you do? Would you be passionate enough to turn it into a career?

If your answer is a resounding yes, then it’s highly likely you’re figuring out your game plan to turn your dream into reality. And if you’re adamant about following this career path, you definitely have thought of enrolling in fashion school.

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But where do you begin? Which school should you go to? What expenses should you prepare for? For some hard and fast answers, we spoke to Nika Daffon, Head of Communications at SoFA Design Insitute, the Philippines’ first specialized design college; and Ali Tanunliong, Office Manager at UKEAS Philippines, which provides free counseling to those who wish to study in the UK.

First things first: Why should you consider enrolling in formal education?

Given how everything is basically online these days, it might come off as practical—not to mention more affordable—to rely on your brains and simply teach yourself whatever you need to learn, right? Not so fast.

“Formal education will teach you a deliberate approach towards design so that each time you embark on a design project, you are in control of your creativity and can produce remarkable results each time,” SoFAs Nika Daffon says. “When self-taught, one runs the risk of creating instinctively and not being able to produce good results on demand—results come to you by chance or by luck. At the end of the day, when design is your career, you cannot leave things up to chance.”

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Furthermore, schools can help you network with people in the industry through their vast fields of connections—and some will even be your teachers in the classroom. “We promote real world readiness via interaction to practitioners in the classroom and at industry events,” Daffon adds. “We encourage and facilitate our students’ participation in local and international design competitions, and trade events; [and] exposure to new trends at conferences, exhibitions, and exciting travel adventures.”

What are the advantages of studying in the Philippines?

Since the fashion industry in the Philippines is fairly new and continuously growing, it is good starting grounds for young individuals who want to revolutionize it. Daffon echoes this sentiment: “The Philippines is actually at very exciting point where the local design industry is growing its footing and people are steadily recognizing its importance and influence to the individual and to society in general.”

She continues, “Our country’s rich cultural history comfortably melds Eastern and Western influences. It has become a hot spot for foreigners to live and learn in due to the many Western influences that are balanced out with an equally strong Asian presence. The Philippines can provide a good balance between Asia and the rest of the world.”

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What about the benefits that come with studying abroad?

Some Filipinos choose to study at schools in cities like London and New York to immerse themselves in the global perspective, and train their craft and make connections at world-renowned brands and companies. After graduation, many come home to the Philippines to contribute to the local industry. But is it actually worth it?

“An international qualification allows students to be globally competitive, be part of a good network, and have more opportunities in the Philippines and abroad,” Ali Tanunliong of UKEAS Philippines explains. “There are more resources and up-to-date facilities abroad, and professors in these universities come from different parts of the world and are the best in the field. [Students] have fewer subjects [but these] are more focused—this method helps promote independent learning as students are expected to make contributions to the classes.”

Quality of education aside, those who enroll in foreign schools will also find themselves learning skills outside the classroom. As Tanunliong says, “[Studying abroad] allows you to live outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in different cultures. You get to travel and be independent; you gain an international perspective that makes you more open-minded.”

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How do you know which level of education is right for you?

If you’ve done some research, you’d be aware of the range of programs and levels of schooling available for prospective students. Terms like certificate programs and short courses might have confused you, but really, this explanation will set you straight.

According to Daffon, “The primary difference is the duration and extent of course coverage. The degree programs run for eight semesters or four years, and are generally suited for individuals who are fresh out of high school and are set to pursue a full career in design.

Non-degree programs, which run for two to four semesters or one to two years, are more directed to individuals who may have already graduated from a degree course and have now decided to pursue a creative career.

Certificate programs and short courses, on the other hand, are more concise programs, which tackle a specific subject matter. These are sufficient jump-off points for an individual who may or may not be ready yet to commit to a full design practice.”

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In the UK, short courses can last for just one day to several months, and are offered at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Postgraduate certificate or diploma courses, which are also short courses, normally take six months or less to complete. Tanunliong explains that they’re a good way to learn if you want to pursue the subject for your degree, or if you’re looking to refresh or supplement your professional knowledge.

Additionally, postgraduate diplomas are the same level as master’s degrees, but the former does not have a research component such as a dissertation or a project for a company. Not all postgraduate diplomas are also available for international students, so be sure to consult with your adviser or ideal university.

How much are tuition fees?

Tuition fees vary per school and country. Furthermore, international students often have to pay more when studying abroad, since a foreign country’s government naturally won’t have money allotted for their education. To give you an idea, we’ve listed several fashion schools here and abroad, and their fees for the current school year.

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SoFA Design Institute, Philippines

“Tuition varies per program. Tuition for our degree and non-degree programs are approximately P110,000 to P120,000 per semester depending on the student’s load. On the other hand, tuition for our shorter programs average at P50,000 to P60,000 for the certificate programs, and P10,000 to P25,000 for the short programs and workshops,” Daffon shares.

Fashion Institute of the Philippines

Students can expect to pay up to P40,000 if taking four courses per term, with beginner and advance courses in fashion design, pattern making, sewing, and marketing and merchandising available. There are also options to take one, two, or three courses per term, which are priced at P12,000, P23,000, and P33,000, respectively.

Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo, Japan

If your aesthetic leans toward those of designers like Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto, and Japanese culture fascinates you, consider this specialist school. Annual tuition fees for Garment Creation is ¥1,264,500 (P564,505); for Global Business Design, ¥1,374,500 (P613,611); and for Foundations of Styling and Distribution, ¥1,289,500 (P575,665).

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Central Saint Martins, London, UK

The alma mater of renowned designers like Stella McCartney, Riccardo Tisci, and the late Alexander McQueen, Central Saint Martins consistently tops the lists of fashion schools worldwide. The annual tuition fees for both the three- to four-year BA Fashion undergraduate program and the one-year Graduate Diploma is £17,920 (P1.14 million); for the MA Fashion program, £16,080 (P1.03 million) for year one and £9,280 (P591,746) for year two; and for the MA Fashion Communication program, £19,440 (P1.24 million).

London College of Fashion, UK

Under the same university group as Central Saint Martins, LCF caters to various specializations within the fashion industry, including retail management, PR, and journalism. Undergraduate courses include BA Fashion Photography and BA Fashion Buying and Merchandising, and postgraduate courses include MA Fashion Journalism and MA Fashion Retail Management. Yearly tuition fees are £17,920 (P1.14 million).

Parsons School of Design, New York, USA

With a remarkable list of alumni that includes Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford, Parsons is currently the top design school in the United States and second in the world (London’s Royal College of Art is first). Parsons offers programs in Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing, and Fashion Studies, with undergraduate degrees at $23,410 (P1.16 million) and postgraduate degrees at $24,010 (P1.19 million) per term.

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Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, USA

FIT also boasts a veritable who’s who of fashion luminaries as alumni; these include Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, and Nina Garcia. Fashion enthusiasts will find interest in courses like Fashion Design, Accessories Design, and Menswear. Undergraduate courses are $9,796 (P486,794) per semester, while graduate courses are $11,105 (P551,842) per semester.

Instituto Marangoni, Milan, Italy

SoFA Design Institute is actually an affiliate school of Instituto Marangoni, so Filipino students wishing to pursue further education abroad can apply through them. Marangoni offers a range of fashion courses, including three-year degrees and intensive one-year master’s degrees. Fees vary, but generally run up to €20,500 (P1.11 million) for three-year courses and €27,500 (P1.49 million) for master’s degrees.

Aside from tuition fees, what costs can students expect if they wish to study abroad?

Tuition fees form a big chunk of your expenditure when enrolling in further education. But living expenses will also eat up a lot of money, especially since you’ll need a place to stay. According to Tanunliong, “Students must prepare for the cost of living, which varies depending on the city. These include accommodation and the utility bills that come with it such as electricity, internet, and gas (if not living within university accommodations); transportation; books; groceries; recreational activities; visa fees; health insurance; and airplane tickets.”

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What financial assistance is available for students?

“For Filipino students, we have the Chevening Scholarship,” Tanunliong says. According to the official Chevening website, these scholarships are “awarded to outstanding emerging leaders to pursue a one-year master’s at any UK university. The scholarship program provides a unique opportunity for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers from all over the world to develop professionally and academically, network extensively, experience UK culture, and build lasting positive relationships with the UK.” Applications for the 2018/2019 school year will open in August 2017.

What requirements do prospective students have to prepare?

For Filipino students who want to study abroad, Tanunliong lists the basics: your high school (if a fresh high school grad applying to an undergraduate degree) or university transcript, diploma, CV, personal statement, English language test, reference letters, and in some courses, a portfolio.

Creative portfolios are standard for design degrees, states Daffon. “The portfolio of an applicant for, let’s say, a fashion program need not be purely slanted towards fashion. The portfolio may include any proof of creativity—photography work, written work, illustrations, among others.”

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What traits should a prospective student possess?

Skills and talent can get you far, but schools also look for certain qualities that ensure you’re fit to work in fashion. Says Daffon, “As with professional designers, aspiring designers should be open to embrace a life of curiosity and creativity. Anyone who aspires to become a designer must have a proclivity to the unlearned and untried—essentially, a thirst for continuous personal growth and learning.

And if you’re planning on studying and living alone abroad, “you should have an open mind, especially because you’ll be exposed to another culture,” stresses Tanunliong.

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