Life has changed a lot in the past year! I feel like I crammed so much information into my brain while at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). I’ve compared my experience at the University of Southern California with my experience at FIDM and come up with a list of things that I wish I had known before entering a fashion-focused college. Having come straight from USC into fashion school, there were several unique things that stood out to me about FIDM, which you’ll hear about below.
At FIDM, my assignments never felt like “schoolwork.” Instead, they felt like one huge and seemingly never-ending project. There was so much going on at once and the whole experience felt very different than my time at USC (when I lived practically across the street from campus!). I commuted from Orange County to FIDM’s Downtown Los Angeles campus for class 3-4 days a week, which is about an hour-long drive each way. It was super important that I had everything I needed for class, didn’t leave anything until the last minute, found parking quickly, knew exactly where my classrooms were, etc. since I was driving over 100 miles a day and had very little time for “slip-ups.”
Since I know many future FIDM students are going to be in the same boat, here are some of my words of advice and other information that I wish I had heard before attending FIDM. These tips are also helpful for students that are living in campus housing! I hope that you find them useful 🙂 Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.
1. KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING.
Okay, so you’re probably thinking this is the most obvious part of any information regarding FIDM to ever appear on the internet...but many new (and returning!) students struggle with finding the correct building. FIDM’s Los Angeles campus includes 6 buildings, which I wasn’t aware of before beginning my studies at FIDM. If you think you’ll never stray from their eye-catching main building, you might be surprised when you notice a little letter next to the classroom that denotes an entirely separate building in Downtown.
With that being said, some students with certain majors may never even see the other buildings. Some of the buildings (such as the Jewelry Design Studio) may not house any of your classes. As a Merchandise Product Development major, I had the majority of my classes in the main FIDM building, which is super modern looking and takes up nearly an entire city block between Olympic & 9th St and Hope St & Grand Ave (it’s the huge star on this map). If you look at the map, you’ll notice that there are THREE buildings with the word “annex” included in their title, which gets super confusing.
While at FIDM, I had classes in the Hope Street Annex building, which is located on Hope Street, one block up from the main building and right across the street from Philz Coffee (my favorite!). This was my absolute favorite building to have classes in since it houses the fashion design labs and looks very Project Runway-esque. The classrooms on the 5th floor are complete with sewing machines, large work tables, dress forms, irons, and really pretty large windows. Almost every classroom has views of the city (if you follow me on snapchat, this is where most of my FIDM Snapchats were sent from, haha).
The other building that I had classes in is the called The Annex – yeah, I told you this whole “annex” building business was kind of confusing! This building is also referred to as the Standard Oil Building as it is a registered historical monument in Los Angeles, which is pretty cool. This is the building that I always make sure to point out to my friends/family while driving through Downtown because it is just so charming from the outside! The inside of the building looks a lot like FIDM’s main campus building (it has been renovated and is very modern) and it is complete with huge work tables, dozens of computers + printers, and some really quirky lounge chairs with desks that you can do homework in. This is probably the location you’ll recognize from all of FIDM’s marketing materials!
2. COME PREPARED.
Some students do not know that they will be receiving a ton of supplies and come unprepared. Lucky, FIDM does a great job of passing out everyone’s supplies on the first day of classes. You simply come to class with a valid student ID and walk down to the supplies distribution area as a class and pick everything up. Super convenient, right?! At Parsons/USC, we received a list of books and materials to track down and you had to hope that we purchased exactly what the professor wanted us to get. Thankfully, this is not the case with FIDM and you can be 100% certain that every single cent of the “books + supplies” portion of you tuition is being used well.
The only negative aspect of this distribution system is that some people don’t have any idea that it is happening and come unprepared. A small (but still important) tip for the first day of classes is to leave your mini crossbody purse and platform wedges at home…it may seem like it will be an easy “syllabus and introduction day,” but picking up supplies can be quite a task if your class ends up being in one of FIDM’s Annex buildings and you are lugging all of your supplies around all day. Come prepared on the first day of class with comfortable shoes and a large tote bag (or you can go all out and purchase one of FIDM’s rolling totes that are usually on sale when the summer quarter begins…it may seem suuuuper dorky at first, but almost everyone has one since some classes require large toolboxes or even large bolts of fabric!).
3. TAKE EVERYTHING SERIOUSLY.
At FIDM, if you do something right the first time, you won’t have to do it all over again once you graduate and go job hunting. This one is plain and simple! FIDM has a very fun and exciting atmosphere, but trust me, it is hard work and you will thank yourself later on if you commit to doing and turning in everything on time. It will also make you a better future employee if you are able to stick to a timeline and get things done right the first time! Make sure to post your work to the FIDM Portfolio Gallery as the quarters pass by so that you have work uploaded and ready to go once you graduate. I sure wish I had known this tip earlier!
4. PICK THE RIGHT MAJOR.
Ok, so this one is a little more serious than the other tips. It is important to understand that some majors are more specific than others – which can be freeing (example: land you a career in a very specific part of the industry) or it can be limiting (example: you want to work in fashion-related social media but have devoted all of your time to studying footwear). If you know for a fact that visual merchandising is 100% what you are interested in doing, then it is a wise decision to pick that major and devote all of your time to classes related to visual merchandising. With that being said, there are many classes that overlap between the majors. For example, I was a Merchandise Product Development major and had several classes with the Merchandise Marketing (different major) students.
If you are interested in gaining an overall understanding of the fashion industry and learning the many aspects of design, merchandising, line development, etc. then it would be smart pick a major that covers a wide variety of fashion-related career paths. Even better, the professors at FIDM have always been super helpful in gearing the discussions towards what you are interested in. If you tell your Sourcing professor that you are interested in working in footwear design, there is a good chance that they will provide you with special materials and insight into that particular area of the industry.
There are pros and cons to every major and you should seriously consider your program based on the schedule of classes. In contrast to my very “open” course plan at USC, FIDM strongly encourages (basically requires) that students follow a very structured plan that is outlined for each major’s specific required courses . If you are deciding between several majors that sound appealing, make sure to request a copy of the courses offered in each major. You might just find that several courses overlap and some stand out as more important or interesting to you, which could ultimately sway you in the right direction.
5. AVOID PARKING HEADACHES.
Last but not least, parking. Luckily for you, I will offer my parking advice in downtown to literally anyone and everyone who will listen (not kidding). Parking in downtown can be easy or impossible depending on what time you arrive for classes and what day of the week it is. Street parking can be difficult since some streets are closed pretty often for construction or events going on in Downtown. The parking signs can also be a little tricky depending on what day it is, so you probably do not want to risk getting a ticket or towed. If you have morning classes at 8am, you can probably find parking at one of the parking lots recommended on FIDM’s website (page 2 of this link). Unfortunately, if you have class at 12pm, parking will be a lot more difficult as the recommended lots are mostly full by then. I have always preferred to park in the LAZ lot on Hope St (conveniently located between the FIDM main campus/The Annex and the Hope St Annex, so getting to any of those buildings is super easy). They charge the standard price for parking around FIDM ($8-$10, depending on how long you stay) and I consider it to be the best option since it is an indoor, secured lot.
6. EMBRACE DIFFERENCES.
FIDM attracts a unique and creative group of people. There will be individuals from all over the world and from all different backgrounds, age groups, and belief systems in your classes, just as there are in other schools. This should go unsaid, but at a school with such an expressive student population, FIDM really stands out as institution full of unique people that you can learn from.
It is such an interesting dynamic – there are students that are 20+ years into their career in the industry that come back to school who are mixed in with students that are 18 and straight out of high school. The students with industry experience are able to offer contacts and invaluable “real-world” advice to the students who come to FIDM straight from high school, while the students who come to FIDM straight from high school are able to offer information and advice about digital marketing and how to operate the latest & greatest digital programs. It truly is such a collaborative and unique environment that you can only benefit from. Since it is such a collaborative environment, it is easier to give and receive feedback in critique sessions. It has always felt like a safe place to (respectfully) voice opinions and receive valuable feedback from classmates and professors.
I hope that you found my tips helpful! I’m also thinking about doing a “FIDM Admissions Advice” post soon, so make sure to subscribe via email (in the sidebar!) if you are interested in that. Best of luck to anyone applying to FIDM!