Fashion Design Schools – Survival of the Fittest: Parsons School of Design Vs Fashion Institute of Technology.

by Calvin Cox on May 20, 2008


I’m sure you’re familiar with the hit series Project Runway, the show where fashion designers compete for the chance to showcase their collections during New York’s Fashion Week. Project runway introduced designer competition to the world stage but surely did not initiate it. Fashion design schools in New York have been in competition for years. Parsons School of Design whose alumni includes the likes of Donna Karen, Anna Sui and Narcisco Rodriguez, and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) who boasts fashion designers like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors have been instrumental in perpetuating the continued competition between fashion designers.

Now it’s long noted that the major difference between Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology is their approach to design; FIT while creative tends to be more technical in their approach (I should know… I’m an alumni) and Parsons, while also creative, tends to take a more theoretical approach to design; hence their names Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design We can argue that one is more design pure and more close to the true essence of the “art form”, but we can also argue that a designer without a plan and business savvy would find it difficult to make a name for themselves.

So which school is better? You can look at the raw competition data from fusion, an annual design competition between FIT and Parsons, where these schools compete in a fashion show for the top spot. Here is the breakdown of how things turned out in past few years, complements of

Past winners of Best Overall Fashion Design School:

2008 – Fashion Institute Of TechnologyFashion design black and white mini dress
2007 – Fashion Institute Of Technology
2006 – Parsons School for Design
2005 – Fashion Institute Of Technology
2004 – Parsons School for Design
2003 – Fashion Institute Of Technology
2002 – Parsons School for Design
2001 – Parsons School for Design
2000 – Parsons School for Design

As you can see, they are just about even; not very definitive. So maybe we need more traditional data. So let’s look at Tuition, Specialization, Reputation and Student Opinions.

Fashion Institute of Technology will set you back about $3,732 for instate tuition and $10,316 for out-of-state tuitions, where as Parsons tuition is bit more expensive, about $34,460 for Instate and out-of-state students. You can find lots more information on Parsons and Fashion Institute at,

Regarding Specialization, you’ll find that Parsons really dig into the theory and history of design, cultivating the design experience as is evident from courses like Perspectives in World Art & Design, History, Culture, Society and History of Design; whereas Fashion Institute tends to focus on the more practical marketability of your creativity whose curriculum includes classes like Draping Fundamentals, Sewing Techniques and Flat Pattern Design. Both schools have a pretty strong reputation for producing quality designers as noted from their celebrity alumnus.

Regarding Student opinions; opinions are always great because it reveals the day to day experience of students that have attended these schools but should not be your only measure, after all, experiences are individual to the ones experiencing it. is a good place to start when looking for student opinions on these schools.

Now that you have an overview of each fashion design school, which school should you choose? Well, as you might have guest, it depends on the designer or artist of course. I would tend to say that if you have an entrepreneurial spirit with the gift of design, Fashion Institute of Technology might be a good choice for you; on the other hand if you’re extremely design focus and have no intentions of managing your own business then Parsons might be a better match for you. Or…why not both: Here is a scenario: Graduate from Fashion Institute of Technology, create an awesome name for yourself, get hired to be a celebrity judge on the Parsons hosted hit series Project Runway and live happily ever after… Designer Michael Kors did it, why not you?

What has been your experience on these two design schools?

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