After a few years of practicing human rights law overseas and working as a project manager in international development I decided I wanted to do something more creative professionally, including owning and operating my own business. My partner and I decided that we could combine our skills (his are in home renovations, interior architecture and interior design) to break into the fashion industry – something we both felt a strong affinity for.
We chose the BMC after talking to a recent grad, researching and comparing reviews by graduates online, touring the school, examining their course selection, and speaking to their career counselor. Versus other fashion design programs in the city, BMC was the strongest school for us based on its short program length (one-year), course selection, tuition fees as compared against other similar programs, and credentials and industry experience of its instructors. It was also clear from my research that many grads had developed successful careers in the fashion industry after attending at the BMC.
Prior to admission into the program, we had basic skills in sewing, nothing more.
Prior to admission into the program, we had basic skills in sewing, nothing more. It is definitely advisable that you are proficient at sewing and garment construction before enrolling – it will just make your life a lot easier.
A Jam-Packed Year
The program is broken down into four semesters and the classes teach you fashion history, elements and theory, in addition to the practical skills involved with fashion illustration, developing a collection, pattern drafting, garment construction, and portfolio development. These include fabrics and textiles, marketing strategies, the manufacturing process, and identifying trends and forecasting (style, silhouette and colour). Each semester’s classes build upon the previous in that you are continually sharpening your newly acquired skills in new classes until you design and finish three full, head-to-toe looks that will be presented at the grad fashion show.
The best parts of the program are significant. The instructors and the BMC staff are extremely knowledgeable, supportive and flexible. You work with them to develop your looks and define your personal aesthetic, while balancing commercial sensibility with creative vision. When undertaking major projects I was able to negotiate modifications in requirements with my instructors in order to explore aspects of the industry and fashion that I was most interested in learning about. Even after graduation the administration at the BMC supports and encourages its grads. They have provided me with valuable contacts (agents, emerging and established designers, models, hair and make-up services), feedback, as well as leads that helped me secure an internship and gain access to industry pros who assisted me in drafting my business plan. I was provided with the academic knowledge, pragmatic skills, as well as having been afforded a wide berth with which to explore my ideas and tailor the coursework to my personal objectives.
I completed law school (a three-year program) and I can honestly say that my year at the BMC surpassed that experience in its challenges.
The worst part of the program was the course load, though this is to be expected. I completed law school (a three-year program) and I can honestly say that my year at the BMC surpassed that experience in its challenges. Specifically, the number of projects and assignments due on weekly and per semester basis. This tends to weed out students who are not really serious about fashion design as a career, particularly since as a design intern you end up learning that production and manufacturing schedules within the industry operate under just as stringent deadlines as our coursework did during the school year. It was a tough but a very fulfilling year that pushed my boundaries and forced me to step up my game.
The school provides all of the background, knowledge and skills you need to work in the industry in a variety of fields (fashion design, production, illustration, etc.), albeit as an employee working for another designer or label. Since my partner and I were interested in starting our own business, this was information we needed to acquire on our own. This involved learning how to develop our business plan and marketing strategy, how and where to source fabric and subcontractors, determining methods of sale, contracting sales representatives, website development, pricing, etc. Our goal did not involve working for anyone else. Instead, we were seeking creative entrepreneurship, so the learning curve in how to operate a fashion design and apparel manufacturing business was steep but by no means impossible.
A Cautionary Tailcoat
You will most certainly get out of the program as much as you put into it, so if you are prepared to immerse yourself in the courses, say ‘goodbye’ to your social life, take instruction from the teachers and TA’s, and focus on building your capacities for one entire year, this program can lay the foundation for a successful career in fashion design.
It’s important to mention that the BMC invests heavily in its facilities. All of the equipment at student disposal, like sewing machines and pattern drafting tables/tools, are in great condition, well-maintained and accessible during class hours. You definitely must have your own sewing machine for the duration of the program to work on garment construction samples and you will absolutely need additional cash beyond tuition to pay for magazines, fabric, and project materials throughout the year to complete assignments. You should budget for an additional $5000.00 (minimum) over and above tuition fees.
It’s also critical to look for internship opportunities during your academic year and to network at every opportunity even though it’s just as vital to work part-time (at least) in order to pay the rent. If you’re a good time manager who can deal with more than a handful of all-nighters, you can make this work. You will be surprised by what you end up achieving and by how far the limits of your creative imagination stretch.
Class size is usually high during the first few months (20-25 students) but drops significantly as each semester passes and students drop out due to the course load, are expunged as a result of poor attendance, and as less committed students drop out, bringing class size down to as few as 12-15.
I am proof that [BMC] provides the education and the post-grad support necessary to survive and thrive in the industry.
I would highly recommend the fashion design program at the BMC because I am proof that it provides the education and the post-grad support necessary to survive and thrive in the industry.
My partner and I are currently producing our second collection after having redefined our aesthetic, we have completed our business plan, and also finalized our road-map for where we would like to take our brand. I work full-time in the non-profit sector to help finance designing/manufacturing, I teach beginner sewing classes from my home studio to 6-12 year olds and have, in the past, occasionally substituted for fashion illustration and portfolio development classes at the BMC. I was also offered a position at a competing design school to teach fashion illustration, which I had to turn down due to work scheduling, and I am currently working with a fashion photographer and stylist to put together a photoshoot in the Spring to promote the next collection. I am definitely utilizing the skills I learned in school at every stage of the design and manufacturing process.
Had I known in the beginning just how tricky it can be to launch a business in the fashion industry I may have given it a second thought but we love what we do and the obstacles have taught us how to improve our operations and methods. Do not make the decision to enroll lightly – it is not an easy industry to get into. You have to absolutely love the work in order to own and operate a business because it goes beyond a full-time job and there are many facets of business, employment, taxation, sales, and pricing that you need to learn to do things right. If you’re motivated to make it happen, this program can set you in the right direction.
The program exceeded my expectations, particularly with respect to the care and attention paid by instructors. I’ve learned things I never expected to, have made contacts with incredible designers, photographers, stylists, models, agents, sewers/jobbers, and built capacities that I was very tentative about in the beginning, having come into this career with virtually no experience to speak of.
You can check out our designs at: www.retardedvelvet.com and our next collection will be showcased in Spring 2011. If you have any specific questions about the Fashion Design program at the BMC, feel free to get in touch with me via the contact submission form on our website.