Learn the traditional and cutting-edge techniques needed for success in a range of fashion careers.
The BFA in Fashion Design is one of the top 10 programs on the West Coast. With small class sizes and individual attention from faculty, including Lynda Grose, Cris Applegate, Neysa Young, and Ghazaleh Khalifeh, you’ll learn to develop a versatile fashion practice that emphasizes craft, sustainability, and cross-disciplinary methods.
Access to analog and digital tools, as well as emergent technologies, prepares you for the shifting landscape of 21st century fashion design. Graduates from our program have found success in a variety of fashion careers, such as knitwear design, textile innovation and development, consulting, production management, and film costume design.
Draw inspiration from the Bay Area
The fashion industry is going through immense change, in part because of new technologies that originated right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Home to iconic brands and cutting-edge design firms, our city serves as a constant inspiration for fashion students. From gallery openings and film screenings to performance art and hackathons, myriad events take place around the bay each week.
Master traditional techniques
We develop fashion designers with strong conceptual capabilities and distinct points of view. Students begin by mastering traditional techniques in pattern drafting, sewing, and tailoring, while taking critical studies, fashion history, and sustainability courses. By immersing yourself in intensive studio making and by studying design in context, you’ll develop the core skills you need to become a visionary thinker/doer and influence the fashion sector for the better:
- Translate concepts and research into physical fashion forms
- Move easily between analog (by hand) and digital methods in 2D, 3D, and time-based media
- Express your vision through 2D illustrations and 3D products
- Build a collection, curated installations, and experimental video
- Use written communication to tell stories about your process and products
- Make connections between your ideas and global culture
Combine the traditional with cross-disciplinary methods
In addition to traditional fashion design, our program emphasizes cross-disciplinary methods. Students can take a range of upper-level studio courses in biofabrication, industrial design, interaction design, social practice, and textiles. These courses help broaden your perspective, enhance your visual design vocabulary, and build teamwork skills that are critical for your success in a contemporary professional practice. You’ll get feedback from cross-disciplinary designers and other visiting professionals, such as designer Carmen Gama of Eileen Fisher Renew and Levi’s VP of Global Innovation Paul Dillinger.
Embrace new technologies and business models
To prepare you for today's shifting fashion landscape, our program teaches you to be adaptable and innovative. Our expert faculty, whose wide-ranging practices often embrace new technologies and groundbreaking systems of making, provide you with one-on-one support to reach your full potential. You’ll be exposed to various material manipulations, including textile treatments, digital technologies, and molding, while you formulate your personal vision for the future of fashion. Questioning traditional fashion industry practices is essential to this process, which is why we introduce you to new forms of business and enterprises that focus on ecological and social issues.
Enter fashion design competitions
Students have opportunities to participate in national and international fashion competitions, such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Future Graduate Showcase, Joe’s Blackbook, and Remake. CCA is one of only eight U.S. colleges invited to participate in the CFDA’s showcase. Liam Cliff, Zewei Hong, and Jennifer Wang—all recent graduates—presented their collections during CFDA’s 2018 three-day event, which was part of New York Fashion Week: Men’s. In recent years, students have also been finalists for or have won the Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s Future of Fashion awards, the Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge, and the Royal Society of Arts Design for Society awards.
Collaborate and intern with major brands
In addition to meeting and working with artisan communities through international competitions, you’ll gain hands-on experience with California-based internships. In recent years, students have interned for Athleta, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Erica Tanov, Everlane, Gap, Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Libertine, N.I.C.E. Collective, and Tea Collection.
We regularly learn from companies leading the way in new business models, radical transparency, and sustainability. For example, we’re one of three U.S. colleges partnering with Remake, a nonprofit that supports the industry’s progress toward circular fashion, to bring students directly into supply chains, where they meet with workers in their factories and homes. Program field trips introduce students to innovative practices in action, from regenerative agriculture (Sustainable Cotton Project) on Cleaner Cotton™ farms to carbon-negative fiber systems on Fibershed wool ranches.
Get feedback from visiting designers and innovators
Practicing designers and industry professionals, including founders of innovative companies, regularly attend our critiques. Students have a chance to learn from their direct experience on a range of topics:
- Brand resale
- Social innovation
- Zero waste
Recent guests include Holly McQuillan and Timo Rissanen, zero-waste pioneers; Founder Andy Ruben of Yerdle, a business-to-business resale company; Carole Collette, biofabrication designer; and Lucy Jones, founder of Central Saint Martin’s Textile Futures Research Community.
Debut your collection at our annual fashion show
Every spring, all seniors present their thesis collections to a professional jury of design directors, industry insiders, innovators, and recruiters during a show called Fashion Experience. Presentations—which include, but are not limited to, performance, walkway, tactile portfolios, experimental video, installation—take place on or off campus and are organized around an emergent viewpoint of the senior cohort. The 2017 show, for example, took place on CCA’s industrial-style Backlot.
Explore materiality in shops and exhibition spaces
All CCA students have access to collegewide shops. Featuring various mechanical and digital equipment, including those associated with conventional fashion design, CCA shops support multiple modes of creativity. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from and solve problems with peers in other disciplines and the freedom to explore materiality through different mediums and modes. From life-drawing exercises in drawing studios to experimentation with 3D technology in the VR Lab, diverse shop experiences prepare you for a broad range of professional options.
The college also has a number of gallery and exhibition spaces, including the Oliver Art Center in Oakland and Hubbell Street Galleries in San Francisco. Fashion students use these spaces to learn about curation and installation practices, present group shows, and share their passion for designing with the wider community. View upcoming events and exhibitions
Examples of tools and equipment
- Needle felter
- Knitting machines
- Leather/heavy-duty sewing machine
- Printing tables and screens
- Vacuum-forming machine
- Laser cutter/etcher
- Sewing machines
- Digital fashion illustration tools
- Cutting tables
- 3D printer
- Silicone molding
- Dedicated studio spaces
Our faculty members help you develop your artistic voice and connect you with fashion-related internships and roles that complement your values and aspirations. You’ll have the unique opportunity to work alongside experts in carbon-negative fibers, circular systems, sustainability, and other emergent fields.
Imagining potential futures
From traditional fashion design to shoe design, jewelry design, and costume design for films, our faculty’s areas of expertise are cross-disciplinary and future-focused.
Annie Gullingsrud, for example, teaches a course on the ecology of clothing, drawing inspiration from her work as Design for AllKind's founder. She has consulted for Stella McCartney, H&M, and Marks & Spencer on creating materials for circular fashion.
Rebecca Burgess, who teaches a course on the connections between local fiber systems, global carbon cycles, and creative making, is revolutionizing the lifecycle of a garment with her company Fibershed. Burgess works with producers to establish regenerative fiber systems that can last for generations.
Pushing the boundaries of art and design
Our faculty also exhibit, win awards, and constantly expand the boundaries of art and design. Melissa Leventon, an authority in the archival and curation of costumes and textiles, consults for individuals and museums across the country. Ghazaleh Khalifeh, whose collection was recently shown at New York Fashion Week, has exhibited in Paris, Milan, New York, and at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
Meet the program chair
Chair Lynda Grose was the co-founder of ESPRIT’s ecollection, the first ecologically responsible clothing line developed by a major corporation. Their ecollection popularized an approach to supply chains that focused on understanding the impact of a particular garment, which is now an industry-wide standard.
For almost 30 years, Grose has worked in a variety of capacities—with companies, nonprofits, government organizations, artisans, and farmers—to further sustainability in fashion. Her work with Sustainable Cotton Project, for example, inspired a generation of companies to develop organic and Cleaner Cotton™ product lines, and her designs with artisans in Armenia and Central Asia helped establish cooperatives that are still operating today.
Grose's ongoing client list includes Patagonia, Greenpeace, Levi Strauss & Co., Sustainable Cotton Project, Fashion For Good, Gap, Inc., Aid to Artisans, Georgian Arts & Culture Center, and 13-Mile Farm.
Grose's publications and current projects
Grose is the co-author of the landmark book Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change, which explores how the values of sustainability can inform new design aesthetics and transform the fashion design practice. The book is now available in five languages and is in its second printing.
Currently, she’s working on speculative projects that aim to decelerate the flow of materials through fashion systems by designing garments with evolving aesthetics. Grose also continues to speak at conferences, museums, and colleges around the world.
Imagine and create disruptive design solutions
Fashion Design at CCA combines traditional techniques, such as sewing and tailoring, with experimental methods and material manipulations, including textile treatments and molding. Courses are designed to help you think outside of the box, question long-standing industry practices, and turn visionary ideas into new aesthetics. View sample courses
Investigate ideas through every dimension
Before diving into their chosen major, every undergraduate participates in the First Year Experience. Students explore a wide range of materials and tools over the course of two semesters. Faculty from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.
The roles alumni take on are diverse and exciting, from costume design for films to enterprise development for small businesses. Alumni design for major companies and labels, such as Diane von Furstenberg, N.I.C.E. Collective, Nike, Patagonia, Thom Browne, and Viktor & Rolf. Some launch their own businesses and go on to sell at Barneys New York, Holt Renfrew, and MATCHES, to name a few.
Drawing from our program’s emphasis on innovation, including biofabrication and other emerging technologies, alumni also find success working for film and VR companies like Oculus Rift and Encyclopedia Pictura. Others apply their knowledge of sustainable fashion practices—circular production systems, carbon-negative fibers, regenerative agriculture, etc—to groundbreaking initiatives for Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, and big-box stores.
Potential career paths
- Design director
- Knitwear designer
- Technical designer
- Design educator
- Pattern maker
- Concept developer
- Sustainable fabric developer
The fashion industry is in need of forward-thinking, creative people. Are you driven to propose disruptive design solutions? Do you value sustainable and more inclusive practices? Our program, which is one of the top 50 fashion design schools in the U.S., is on the lookout for applicants with a unique vision and passion for making a positive change in the world.