Fashion School: California College of the Arts

Established in 1996, the Fashion Design Program at California College of the Arts is an idea-driven, craft-based course of study that emphasizes design concepts and skill development. The goal is to produce designers of daring originality who are willing to explore across disciplines and contribute to fashion as an aspect of modern art and culture. Students develop creative solutions to the challenges of sustainability by designing fashions that respect the environment and preserve native cultures.

Our alumni are working in all aspects of the industry for companies such as John Varvatos, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap Inc., Gymboree, J. Crew / Madewell, Levi Strauss & Co., TIBI, Ralph Lauren, Narciso Rodriguez, Athleta, Badgley Mischka, and Thom Browne. Many have developed their own firms in the United States and abroad.

Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts is noted for the interdisciplinarity and breadth of its programs. It offers studies in 21 undergraduate and seven graduate majors in the areas of fine arts, architecture, design, and writing. We believe creative work can positively and powerfully affect society, and we welcome students who want to make art that matters.


Students in CCA’s Fashion Design Program gain technical expertise in pattern making, sewing, draping, and fashion illustration, with an emphasis on design thinking and conceptual development. It is imperative for our graduates to be articulate in their craft thinking and ideation strategies. Our critique-based curriculum encourages discussion and debate, encouraging risk taking and innovation. We also strongly emphasize sustainability, the use of new materials, and cutting-edge methods. We push our students to see the box, look into the box, and then reenvision the box’s use and structure. The results can be both beautiful and groundbreaking!


Fashion Faculty

CCA’s Fashion Design faculty have all cut their teeth in real industry practice: as fashion designers, pattern designers, drapers, museum curators, knitters and weavers, business owners, and beyond. We are a close-knit group who care deeply about our subject matter and our students’ success.

We regularly bring to campus guest lecturers from different realms of the fashion world. Julian Roberts, Timo Rissasen, Shingo Sato have all visited and given workshops in pattern cutting and design methods. Kathryn Hagen and Jane Wu have offered tutorials in fashion illustration. The entrepreneurs Natalie Chanin, Erica Tanov, Jeanne Allen, Gordon Henderson, and Yeohlee Teng have spoken to our students about the practice and the art of fashion design.

CCA has more than 500 faculty in total, most of them in the design fields. All CCA students graduate with a well-rounded education that includes numerous required units in the humanities and sciences in addition to the studio courses required for their major.

The Underlying Philosophy

Our faculty members are passionate about offering a strong educational platform that will serve as an excellent springboard into the realities of being a professional fashion designer. We truly believe in the need to move our industry forward and make revolutionary changes in how and why we build fashion and apparel. Students acquire a tool kit for survival that will help them navigate the many available industry paths.

Every garment that is built and worn has a cultural and social context. Investigation into user behavior and the entire product life cycle—from design to making to using and wearing—is critical to the future of design. We help our students truly understand what they are creating and how it will be used. We are training “thinking” designers.


CCA has two dynamic campuses, one in San Francisco and one in Oakland. All first-year students are based on the Oakland campus. Second-year Fashion Design students move their home base to the San Francisco campus,

where all of the design and architecture programs are housed. Our close proximity to the Silicon Valley and its entrepreneurial spirit helps fuel creative, risk-taking approaches and a can-do attitude. The Bay Area’s beautiful geography, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, also deeply influences our students and their methods of practice.


Students spend time investigating all manner of machinery available in CCA’s studios, from laser cutters to vacuum molders, seam bonders, spraying and sanding booths, 3D printers, and machines for high-tech textile printing. There are dedicated facilities for cutting, draping, knitting, and sewing.

Learning Environment

CCA prides itself on interdisciplinarity. The Fashion Design studio spaces are adjacent to a vast central open area in the main building in which students from all programs intermingle and see one another’s works in progress. There is a constant, enriching flow of ideas, presentation aesthetics, and media.

Several Fashion Design studio courses are open to students in other majors, for instance Local Fiber Incubation and Fashioning Functional Gear. These courses ask students to question, and blur, traditional categories related to materials and end use.

Career Prospects

Our alumni have landed amazing and varied jobs worldwide as designers and design directors, entrepreneurs, and business owners. They are active in menswear, womens wear, outerwear, and children’s wear, in companies large and small, from high-end to mass-market. They are tenacious, focused individuals determined to make their mark in the global industry.

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