The Best US Schools for Performance Apparel, Fashion-Tech and Menswear

Updated: Apr 14

To outsiders, Oregon and Minnesota might not scream “fashion capital,” but if you’re starting your fashion education and passionate about a niche design market, put them on your list! Below are schools that excel in one of three targeted emphases: Sports and performance apparel, fashiontech and menswear. If you’ve got a specific focus, hone in on these great schools for a leg up in your target industry.

Sports and Performance Apparel

If you want to be a future player in the world of sports and performance gear, the Pacific Northwest is the place to be. Between them, Oregon and Washington are home to the headquarters of Nike, Adidas North America, Columbia Sportswear, REI, Eddie Bauer and many, many more. Regional school curriculum is designed to funnel students into this large potential workforce and internship opportunities abound.

The University of Oregon in Eugene, OR offers a Master of Science degree in Sports Product Design that focuses on design for the athlete, innovation, and sustainability. Couple that with the school’s dedicated sports marketing center and you’ve got a foot in the door of the performance apparel world.

Nearby Oregon State University in Corvallis rolled out a new Design and Innovation Management major, with an Apparel Design option that emphasizes athletic and performance soft goods.

Notable mention:

The Outdoor Product Design & Development program at Utah State University focuses on training the next designers and developers for the outdoor and active industries. Students intern for companies like Patagonia, Browning, Helly Hansen, and Cotopaxi, and program partners from the outdoor industry include Polartec, 3M, YKK, Gore and more.


For those interested in the smart apparel and fashion technology, The University of Minnesota (Twin Cities, MN) is home to the Wearable Technology Lab, an interdisciplinary research laboratory equipped with a running mannequin, an optical motion capture system, tensile testing and biomechanical testing equipment and more. The lab focuses on technology in tandem with apparel, and current projects include keeping astronauts’ hands dry, “persuasive clothing” that offers a wearable “nudge” to encourage desired behavior, and personal microclimate control (apparel that warms the body, not the environment around it).

Notable mention:

Kent State University (Kent, OH) boasts a well-equipped TechStyleLAB and hosts an annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon that gathers students and mentors from across the nation for 36 hours of fashiontech design and product creation.


If your true design love is menswear, you’re in luck: Two of the top design schools in the US, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), offer a menswear emphasis.

FIT’s Menswear program offers study abroad programs in Paris and Milan,internship opportunities at companies like Calvin Klein, DKNY, Marc Jacobs, and Helmut Lang, and students have a chance to create a collection, possibly for display in The Museum at FITfor exposure to reps from every major designer menswear label.

FIDM offers a 9-month Menswear Advanced Study intensive. Sample courses include Textiles for Menswear, Men’s Tailoring, Fit Analysis, and Marketing Communications for Menswear. Students learn design, sourcing, production, and marketing, and create a lifestyle menswear fashion collection.


Did we miss a school or focus you love? Let us know!

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