USC ought to consider adding a fashion program

As USC continues to expand and  add new majors and minors, such as the recently announced minor in health innovation, the University should consider adding a fashion program, as well. Fashion is a vast area of study that can be explored across other disciplines like merchandising, business, design and marketing. 

Although the Roski School of Art and Design offers a couple of courses in fashion design (Graphic Design in Fashion is the only Roski course offered this semester), students would benefit from the addition of a comprehensive fashion industry program. 

The fashion industry has a significant role to play in the national and global economy. According to the Joint Economic Committee, fashion is a $2.3 trillion global industry. In the United States alone, consumers spent over $380 billion on apparel and footwear in 2017, and New York Fashion Week even has a greater annual economic impact upon the United States ($600 million) than the Super Bowl ($347 million). 

It seems obvious that USC would have a clear interest in providing its students with the tools to work in whatever industry they desire, especially one as lucrative as the fashion industry.  

While New York City is recognized as the United States’ hub for fashion, there is room for contributions from California to the industry as well. 

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and Otis College of Art and Design are two hubs of fashion study in the Los Angeles area. However, neither school offers intersections of the industry with programs as strong as what USC could offer, like a joint program in fashion journalism through the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism or business of the fashion industry through the Marshall School of Business. Meanwhile, the undergraduate BA/BFA Roski programs are ranked No. 1 in the nation for design and No. 7 for art schools, outranking both FIDM and Otis. 

Also unlike FIDM and Otis, students interested in studying fashion at USC would be able to do so in a more traditional university setting rather than at an arts college. FIDM and Otis are small art schools enrolling less than 3,000 students each. 

Other universities like USC don’t offer fashion programs either. Maybe a fashion program is the type of edge that could distinguish USC from UCLA or UC Berkeley in the rankings, all while reinforcing the school’s ability to provide students with interdisciplinary study across a variety of schools and greater variety of study offered in the arts. Additionally, a fashion program that prepares students to work in the industry would only make USC students more competitive than UCLA or UC Berkeley graduates in the job market. 

A program at USC could establish its uniqueness by taking on the sustainable and environmentally conscious clothing culture now sported by many California brands, something that isn’t as prioritized by the New York fashion scene. With growing concern over the environmental impact of the industry, many California-based brands, such as Reformation, Patagonia and Re/Done, have grown in popularity, proving that there even is room for environmental activism in fashion. USC has the resources to add to the movement, with programs offered in engineering and environmental sciences that can further advance the industry. 

USC prides itself on being an innovative university that pushes the boundaries of traditional disciplinary study. By providing schools and programs across many disciplines, the University encourages students to forge connections between their different interests. 

The study of fashion ideally builds upon this principle, as it pulls from so many different fields. An interest in fashion among USC students is already evident, from student-run fashion publications, like SPEC Magazine, to student-made clothing brands and clubs on campus. 

Ultimately, the establishment of a fashion program would serve students and the University, advancing both the arts at USC, as well as other fields of study that intersect with fashion.