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Jaye Brown, academic director of fashion programs at the Art Institute of California – San Diego, offers options for your inner fashion designer

Tell me about the Art Institute. What does it offer?

The Art Institute is a postsecondary institution. It’s a multidisciplinary school that offers programs in culinary, advertising, interior design, graphic design, gaming arts and design, fashion design, fashion marketing and management, web design and interactive media, audio and media arts, and animation.

I’m the director of the fashion design and fashion marketing and management programs.

Let’s talk about those programs. What do they entail?

Fashion design specifically is focused on the creative. Students are trained toward understanding the construction of garments and creating collections that are responsive to an established consumer market. They start off in the first couple of quarters with the fundamentals of construction, patternmaking, and draping. They also learn computer skills, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, because the computer is a key tool. Toward the end of the program, they’re primarily focused on creating a final senior collection.

Fashion marketing and management is a business driven program. It’s more of a theoretical, strategic application of their creativity. They’re taught the fundamentals of marketing, advertising, business management, and then they move into applied courses such as visual merchandising, brand marketing, and fashion show production. As they move further through, there’s the public relations and promotions class, product development, business ownership, and executive leadership. There’s more to both, but that’s the gist of the programs.

We also put on a big fashion show every year. The show is scheduled this year on Friday, May 27th, at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. The students work on it for a whole year. We pick students that have taken certain core classes. For the show part, you see the designers’ collections, and that all represents fashion design majors. Then all the promotions that you see, whether that’s an ad, tickets, VIP invitations, or work on the website, all that’s done with the marketing interns.

And how long are the programs?

Both programs are three years, and that’s part of what we call our competitive advantage. It’s year-round. There’s no summer break. The bachelor program for fashion design is a bachelor of fine arts, and the fashion marketing and management is a bachelor of science.

Is your program growing?

I think across the country for a while there was a significant growth because of shows like Project Runway and Launch My Line. So people consistently have an interest in fashion. We’re at about a combined number of 160, which makes a lot of sense considering that in the general area there are about five or six art institutes that offer the same program. The fashion programs have been a part of the school’s curriculum for about four years, so still relatively new and maturing. The program is growing, but it’s a slow growth because we strive toward welcoming students who have a clear vision of their career goals and understand the rigors involved in being successful in fashion.

How so? What qualities and characteristics are you looking for in a candidate?

First, whether they’re in fashion design or marketing, they have to know they want to do this. Our business is not an easy industry, and people don’t make it easy for you to succeed, so you have to be very dedicated and driven. If you come in here, you’ll see the fashion design students putting in 12 hours a day not just in classes but working on the assignments and projects. The industry itself is a 60-hour-plus week. And the marketing students have to be comfortable with numbers because of course they do merchandise management and inventory and stock control. Most of all, they have to really love what they do.

What kind of opportunities and salaries do your students receive after graduation?

A lot of our students do get jobs within the first six months after graduation, working for companies such as Roxy, Quicksilver, DC Shoes, JC Resorts. They are getting really good opportunities when they get out. A recent grad can expect maybe something in the mid-30s — at the most — in terms of entry-level salaries.

So who’s in your programs. Recent high school graduates? Career-changers?

Our emphasis is with people coming out of high school, but we do have a small percentage of career changers. We actually have one lady who is an OB/GYN working on a fashion design degree. She’s about 50-something, and she raves every day about how much she loves the program. She takes advantage of every resource we have here. Our mature students tend to excel because they know the importance of taking advantage of the resources.

Any advice for those interested in applying?

I’m a true “Garmento.” That means I have clothes flowing through my veins. You never get rid of that. It’s a real passion, and it drives you. You have to know this is what you want to do. The success stories eat, sleep, and breathe it.

Art Institute of California - San Diego

7650 Mission Valley Road, Mission Valley

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