ASU expands fashion program, embraces legacy of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

ASU FIDM will have more programs, students, employees in downtown LA


Exterior photo of a white building featuring many shapes of windows and trompe l'oeil architectural details

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (pictured) is just a few blocks from the historic Herald Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles, where ASU offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Photo by Armand Saavedra/ASU

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

Arizona State University has announced that the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles will be part of the expansion of fashion education at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

ASU’s fashion program will now be named ASU FIDM, incorporating both the FIDM community and campus, and it will operate in both Los Angeles and Phoenix.

ASU FIDM and the Herberger Institute will offer students pursuing degrees in creative industries enhanced educational opportunities by embedding world-class fashion education within a public research university with global reach.

The transition will provide students with access to a renowned faculty with extensive industry experience, and the school will offer career-focused programs and experiences that enable students to have a sustainable and creative impact on the world.

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising will continue to operate as a separate educational institution from ASU with a more intentional focus on academic programs related to business in the creative industries.

“Leveraging FIDM’s and ASU’s expertise and innovation around fashion and the creative industries will create significantly enhanced opportunities for students,” said Steven Tepper, dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Giving aspiring creative professionals the chance to study at a global research university vastly expands their choices and their ability to contribute to a fast-growing industry. I am confident that ASU FIDM can lead the world in educating for the future of an inclusive, sustainable and socially responsible fashion industry.”

ASU has already begun working with FIDM students to share ASU degree offerings that are available as a result of the expansion. Current FIDM fashion and design program students will be advised on opportunities to either complete their programs at FIDM or continue at ASU.

“We are so proud of the FIDM history and legacy,” said Barbara Bundy, vice president of education at FIDM. “What began as a dream five decades ago turned into a globally recognized creative institution that has served more than 70,000 graduates. Our tradition of excellence and inspiration will continue to thrive as a part of Arizona State University with students having expanded access to world-class facilities, faculty and programs to ensure they are prepared for a highly demanding, increasingly competitive and ever-evolving industry.”

Bookshelves full of cones of thread stand behind mannequins holding knitwear

Founded in 1969, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising offers cutting-edge fashion, design and business degree programs and has helped students build a vibrant network and launch successful careers including costume design for film and TV shows, art direction, marketing and more. Photo by Armand Saavedra/ASU

FIDM legacy

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising was founded in 1969 by Chief Executive Officer and President Toni Hohberg. In its more than 50-year history, FIDM has developed and evolved cutting-edge fashion, design and business degree programs. Alumni include world-renowned designer Monique Lhuillier; Rea Ann Silva, founder of Beautyblender; Sarah Truly Beers, Marvel’s vice president of franchise creative and marketing; Kia Ragland, director of global product development at Smashbox Cosmetics; and costume designer Trish Summerville (“Red Sparrow,” “Westworld,” “Gone Girl,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”).

FIDM has partnered and collaborated with some of the world’s most recognizable and influential brands such as Disney, Nike, Nars, Victoria’s Secret, PacSun, Converse, Levi’s, Pixar and more. Part-time work and internships partnerships have existed with companies like J Brand Jeans, L’Oréal, ColourPop Cosmetics, NBC Universal, Nordstrom and Anthropologie.

ASU’s fashion program

ASU's Bachelor of Arts in fashion is a professional, hands-on degree, providing students with a multidisciplinary foundation that enables them to work across many segments of the fashion industry and beyond. Course offerings emphasize key skills such as patternmaking, apparel construction, merchandising, supply chain management, retail management and branding. The principles of sustainability are embedded within all the courses, with an eye to producing the next generation of conscientious industry leaders.

The university’s fashion program — launched in 2017 and led by Dennita Sewell — has partnerships with industry and local collaborators across interdisciplinary fields, including Optitex, Dress for Success, the Arizona Humane Society and Phoenix Children’s. As of spring 2023, ASU has more than 500 students either majoring or minoring in fashion, with hundreds more from disciplines across the university who take individual classes to gain skills that complement their major or personal interests.

The ASU fashion program offers state-of-the-art technology at Fusion on First in downtown Phoenix. This high-tech innovation hub features a suite of industry-standard studio spaces and recording studios, digital media labs, performances spaces and an interdisciplinary maker’s space with laser cutters, 3D printers, felting and industrial knitting machines, and more. 

"Building upon ASU's longstanding success operating as one institution across many locations, ASU FIDM will offer students pursuing a career in fashion meaningful connections and practical experience within the industry while learning from a cutting-edge and multidisciplinary faculty in fashion, design and the arts,” Sewell said.

A professor works with fashion design students in a room with angled desks

Students in Clinical Assistant Professor Irina Tevzadze's Fashion Illustration II course explore advanced concepts about the promotion and documentation of nonbinary eveningwear on a variety of bodies. Photo by Ken Howie

ASU FIDM students will continue to benefit from FIDM’s strong relationships with leading companies and brands from around the globe. ASU's expansion will also sustain what has made FIDM special for many years, including the world-class FIDM Museum and other assets.

ASU students have embraced its expanding offerings in Los Angeles in recent years as the university has become a hub for educational opportunities in Southern California centered on its home at the historic Herald Examiner Building. The university’s presence includes its Cronkite News Los Angeles bureau, where digital and broadcast students create award-winning news and sports content; The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, which inspires the next generation of diverse filmmakers and storytellers; and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, which provides students with unique experiential-learning offerings and networking in the entertainment capital of the United States.. ASU has more than 62,000 alumni living in California and 20,000 California residents as degree-seeking students, and 13% of its graduates work in California.

Current and prospective students interested in learning more about the ASU FIDM transition should visit asufidm.asu.edu.

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