Academics

Apparel Design

a model stands in front of stained wallpaper and a bureau, wearing a translucent, face-obscuring coat by RISD alum Andrew Kim

In Apparel Design, students prepare to be conscious leaders in the field who approach fashion as a platform for cultural dialogue. Through immersive, studio-based practice, they establish unique design languages and clearly articulated creative processes. Makers of thoughtful and thought-provoking garments, majors generate both fashion and knowledge, continually reimagining what apparel and the systems for producing it can be.

Degree program

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Taking fashion as a unique form of self expression, the Apparel Design BFA program provides a strong base in making and craftsmanship and prepares you to impact an array of creative industries.

In the studio

With an intense focus on craftsmanship, Apparel Design majors develop diverse creative practices rooted in an awareness of clothing as an emotional medium as well as a material and visual one. Emphasizing ethical sourcing and production, the program encourages students to challenge industry conventions and work toward positive, sustainable change.

Featured stories

Fashion on Film

Apparel Design seniors present their thesis collections via (Un)finished, an intensely personal cinematic compilation.

Symbols of Resistance

A new cross-disciplinary Wintersession studio focuses on the act of protest.

What to Wear on Orion

Students in a fall Apparel Design studio construct gender-neutral capsule collections for 18 astronauts flying to the moon.

Student work

Detail of Apparel Design student-made dress

After graduation, Apparel Design alumni set their sites on changing fashion and the surrounding industry as a whole. Whether they launch their own studios, pursue careers with retail leaders or enter into related fields, graduates of the program employ sustainable practices that respect craft and labor, while centering the wearer throughout the design process.

Alumni at work

Nicole Miller BFA 73 | industry leader

Popular around the world, Nicole Miller’s designs continue to stand out on the runway. In 2013 she earned the Spirit of Design Award for outstanding contributions to the world of design and for her generosity in working with students and young designers. Launched in 1982, Miller’s label now includes women’s apparel, handbags, footwear, jewelry, bridal wear and men’s sportswear. She credits RISD with inspiring her sense of freedom and creativity, and remains connected with the college as a visiting critic and mentor to RISD students and as a trustee.

Mel Ottenberg BFA 98 | stylist

Mel Ottenberg, one of the industry’s most sought-after stylists, is well known for shaping the singular style of global pop icon Rihanna and for lending his aesthetic vision to ad campaigns for commercial clients like Dior and Nike. Now the creative director of Interview magazine—which he helped relaunch in 2018—says that RISD suited him well because he needed a bit of distance from the intensity of the NYC fashion world. “I wanted to figure out what I was about before being drenched in… what everyone else was doing.”

Apparel Design dress forms