Undergraduate Program

Apparel Design Program

See below for more information about the Apparel Design program in the Department of Design & Merchandising.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the strengths of the Apparel Design program at CSU?

Apparel Design and Production (ADP) encompasses an emphasized study in apparel and textile design, and product development as well as the sourcing, production, marketing and retailing of consumer goods. A strength of ADP is the bridging of industry with academics. National and regional industry collaborations, particularly in outdoor and active sportswear, provide students with design assignments, internship experiences, industry tours, and knowledge of industry-based technology. These experiences have contributed to a strong placement record with approximately 90% of our graduates working in various aspects of the textiles and apparel industry.

Another strength of our program is the diversity in design experiences. For example, students have applied their creativity in designing products for high fashion, medical use, outdoor/active wear, menswear, accessories, and not-for-profit international organizations. The program emphasizes the marketability of product design including the costing, sourcing, and production phases.

Faculty are award-winning designers and mentor students in submitting their design work for juried competitions. Awards for Best of Show, Historical Context, 3D Visual Art, Excellence in Design Draping, and Design Award for Best Use of Technology exemplify some of the accolades that design faculty and students have received. Student work is additionally featured in the Department’s Gustafson Gallery, runway shows, Denver galas and fashion shows.

The Department of Design & Merchandising’s Avenir Museum houses over 20,000 artifacts that are actively used by faculty and students. The museum holds 19th and 20th century garments and accessories, flat textiles, and non-Western dress with special interests in Central Asia, India, China and Japan. Special collections include designer dresses from Calvin Klein, Arnold Scaasi, James Galanos, Carolina Herrera and Mr. Blackwell.

What kind of special coursework do you offer to ADP students?

Courses in the Apparel Design & Production concentration focus on understanding and mastery of apparel construction techniques, aesthetics, design, product evaluation and quality assessment, sourcing and production of apparel goods for a targeted market, and manual as well as computer-aided design skills.

Product development is currently the focus of two courses with additional courses in development. In the fall, student teams develop outdoor/active sportswear products for companies such as Pearl Izumi, an international cycling, running, and triathlon apparel producer based in Colorado. At multiple points throughout the semester Pearl Izumi designers and production specialists give input to student team designs and provide tours of the distribution center and offices.

In the spring semester, student teams develop product designs for AspenPointe, a large mental health services facility in Colorado Springs, using decommissioned military parachutes destined for landfills. The projects include development of Products that can be produced by small business owners who are military Veterans. This work coincides with provision of necessary mental health services as many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with combat stress disorders. Student designs from parachutes were presented in 2012 to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to raise awareness of CSU’s collaborative work with AspenPointe and military veterans.

How do you prepare students for new technologies in apparel design?

Technology has enabled a global textile and apparel industry where designers and product developers that can operate on multiple continents via platforms such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). The Department of Design & Merchandising recently received $72 million in PLM software from Siemen’s, enabling students to build a market-driven process-centered approach in meeting the top three product development challenges: collaborative line planning and calendar management; integrated specification development; and global sourcing and vendor collaboration management.

Our program provides students with a tool-box of software knowledge including Lectra and Mockshop, as well as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Students learn computer skills as well as hand drawing and quick sketching. In addition to computer programs, design students work with a variety of industrial grade equipment.

ADP students are also exposed to 3D foot and body scanning technology in judging fit and ease of movement in shoe and apparel design in our Human Body Dimensioning Specialized Facility.

How do internships fit into a student’s education?

Internships for Apparel and Merchandising students at Colorado State include a full semester in the professional field during the summer between junior and senior year or during senior year. Students take a pre-internship seminar to receive training in resume, cover letter, and professional portfolio development as well as interview skills and business ethics.

During the 12 week, full-time internship, students are required to work with their companies to identify five learning objective areas and set specific goals around each of the learning areas. Students are also required to select a significant project during their internship to document and develop for a case study. Students report weekly to the internship coordinator who relays information from the field to faculty to keep academic curricula consistent with professional practice. The majority of students have internships in New York or California with major apparel manufacturers and corporate retail. Many students intern in Colorado with major active-wear manufacturers.

What career placement services or on-campus recruiting efforts do you offer?

Fashion students are encouraged to meet corporate retail recruiters at career fairs on campus which occur in early Fall and early Spring. The recruiting process for corporate retailers starts in the fall for formal internship programs during the summer. Corporate retailers who recruit on campus include Kohl’s, Target, Sports Authority, JC Penney’s, Macy’s, and The Buckle. Many of our students are selected for the Nordstrom internship program, however Nordstrom does not recruit on campus. The internship coordinator has a large network of industry contacts and is often contacted regarding career opportunities. Additionally, the Career Center at Colorado State supports Career Shift, an online database available for current students to research companies.

Where are your graduates finding work?

Apparel design and product development students are being hired by activewear companies in Colorado and apparel manufacturers in New York. Merchandising graduates who intern with major retail corporations are often hired into management training programs. Many of our graduates are working in the industry in New York and have a good network to help new graduates find career positions.

Employers of our graduates include - Pearl Izumi, Spyder, Urban Outfitters, Coach, Nordstrom, Kohl’s, TJX, Macy’s, The Buckle, Sports Authority, Target, J. C. Penney, Dillard’s, Neiman Marcus, Alternative Apparel, Tracy Reese, Tory Burch, Betsey Johnson, Diane Von Furstenberg, Nanette Lepore, Go Lite, Sierra Designs, Goldbug, Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Z-Ply Corporation, North Face, Juicy Couture, Nautica, Element, Rocky Mountain Clothing Company, Burwell Industries, Grupo Denim.

What are some common misconceptions about pursuing a career in fashion?

The most common misconception about a fashion career is that higher education and a bachelor’s degree are not necessary for retail management, which is incorrect. In both retail management programs as well as design and product development positions, a bachelor’s degree is required for promotion to upper level positions. It is also a misconception that fashion careers are low paying; our graduates are promoted quickly into senior and management positions where they receive salaries equivalent to management in other industries.