Sunday, September 28, 2008

[ FIDM / Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. ]

fidm demystified: hotbed of creative talent percolates behind fortressed walls

nick and classJust what goes on behind that impenetrable fortress known as FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Downtown’s South Park district?

The answer may surprise you.

FIDM is much more than a fashion design school. In fact, the Los Angeles campus — one of 4 locations, the others being Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco — offers 16 majors and two degree programs including jewelry design, graphic design, interior design, visual communications, digital media, beauty industry manufacturing & marketing…and a whole lot more.

FIDM is a fully accredited private institution offering Associate of Arts degrees, and graduates have the option to continue on to a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. General education classes such as history, chemistry, and biology (albeit with a fashion slant where possible) are all taught at FIDM. Who knew?

The college is accredited by NASAD: National Association of Schools of Arts and Designs and WASC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

All photographs graciously provided by FIDM.

Exciting projects bear fruit at FIDM

A large part of the FIDM educational experience involves collaboration. For example, third year advanced degree students across disciplines work together on a final project culminating in the annual Debut fashion runway show at Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica airport. In fact, the interior hallways of FIDM prominently showcase stunning designs from projects years past.

fender showThe photograph, right, from the Debut Show 2007 is the result of a collaboration between graphic design student Jen Whitaker and fashion design student Tiffany Kline. Their rebellious and edgy guitar motif art and matching rock star dress were inspired by Fender Guitar. Professional models are hired for the show and the event is televised on KLCS, the educational PBS station in Los Angeles.

Another example of a collaborative final project is “Chairing Styles”. This effort involves chair design and construction by interior design students, fabrics designed by textile students and a complimentary garment designed by fashion students. As one can imagine, interdisciplinary collaboration is an essential skill for designing in the real world, a skill which FIDM strives to teach in addition to the technical know how.

FIDM students: a diverse group from all walks of life

Approximately 40% of FIDM’s students enroll after graduating high school according to Kathi Gilbert, FIDM’s Assistant Director of Admissions. The remainder of the student body consists of adults holding prior degrees or partial degrees from other institutions. FIDM offers a flexible quarterly academic system on a rolling admissions basis, night classes, online courses and a tiered degree system to fit even the busiest lifestyle.

Students may earn a 2-year Associate of Arts degree with the option to continue towards an advanced study degree (year 3) and/or a Bachelor of Science in Business Management (year 4). Students may be admitted during any quarter of the year and have the freedom to study at their own pace.

graphic design classThe FIDM admissions process is a bit unconventional. Aside from the usual submission of transcripts, letters of recommendation and essays FIDM also assigns a project to each applicant.

This may sound intimidating but Gilbert assures the projects are well within the capabilities of anyone without prior design experience. The projects are meant to be fun while providing insight on an applicant’s thought process. A personal interview follows if a candidate is selected for admission.

Cutting edge resources at your fingertips

The original FIDM campus at Flower and 5th streets, at the Barker Brothers Building where Wokcano presently resides, opened in 1969 with twenty students. The Downtown campus moved to its current location at Grand-Hope Park in 1990 and the student body now exceeds 7,000 between all four campuses. Satellite classrooms and facilities peppered throughout Downtown provide hands on experience and high-tech resources.

Design Studios at the Standard Oil Building provide a quiet and relaxing environment equipped with laptops and desktop computers fully loaded with the latest design software (Auto CAD, Maya, the Adobe suites, Dreamweaver, Final Cut Pro, etc).

design studiosOther satellite classrooms include jewelry workbench studios at St. Vincent’s Jewelry Building and a clothing production loft in the garment district.

The FIDM Museum Collection, housed at the main campus, consists of over 12,000 costumes, textiles and accessories dating as far back as 1785. These pieces are preserved under special conditions and available upon request by students and staff. A separate Study Collection of costumes is kept for examination by students under the museum curators’ tutelage.

What does it take to be a FIDM student?

While tuition is certainly not cheap (program fees range from approximately $23,000 to over $34,000 a year, depending on degree type) FIDM students are treated to small classes taught by dedicated and accomplished faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, access to exclusive design resources and databases, a central location to Downtown’s fashion, flower and jewelry districts and opportunities to study abroad and work with industry leaders.

textile classYearn to let your inner artist take wing? Those interested in FIDM’s programs are encouraged to attend the next Open House event on Saturday November 15 from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Tours of the campus will be held during this time and admissions and financial aid staff will be available to answer questions.

An initial “informational interview” is also encouraged for potential students, the purpose of which is to answer questions and assess if FIDM’s programs are a good fit for the individual. An informational interview may be arranged by contacting Kathi Gilbert (

The FIDM Scholarship Store, run by work-study students, provides a portion of the college’s merit-based financial assistance. Clothing items donated by large manufacturing companies and retailers offers steep discounts for the public and tax deductions for the donors; all proceeds from the store go toward the FIDM Scholarship Foundation.

Last but not least, FIDM is also home to the Annette Green Perfume Museum, FIDM Galleries and Museum and the FIDM Museum Shop, featured in a previous post by angelenic.

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising 919 S Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90015 800-624-1200

FIDM Open House Event Saturday November 15, 2008 11:00am to 1:00pm


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