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New School of Fashion Program to Focus on Footwear & Accessories

Students to develop 2-D and 3-D design skills in latest accredited major offering

Photo4_Student Nancy Zhao, BFA Fashion Design, is making a sneaker shoe. Photo by Danielle Rueda

Student Nancy Zhao, B.F.A. fashion design, making a sneaker shoe. Photo by Danielle Rueda.

No outfit is complete without the right pair of shoes and a killer bag to match. 

Footwear and fashion accessories are major sources of revenue for the fashion market, sometimes keeping brands afloat among the competition. Yet, very few design schools offer specialized programs to educate the development of such goods; in the U.S., only three schools offer a degree in accessory design. Now, starting in Fall 2018, the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University is offering new degree programs in footwear and accessory design; both programs have accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

To begin their footwear and accessory programs and learn the language and construction specifications, students will be educated about the core concepts of 2-D and 3-D design. Education about materials, manufacturing, market trends, and technical specifications primarily used in this field will round out the B.F.A. programs, whereas the M.F.A. programs will embark on fast-tracking the core concepts and focus upon a comprehensive approach in innovating and conceptualizing an individual aesthetic. Aligning with Academy standards, students completing either the B.F.A. or M.F.A. footwear and accessory degrees will produce industry standard portfolios. 

“We’re in a unique position at the Academy,” said Footwear and Accessory Design Program Coordinator Damion Le Cappelain. “The advantage is that we have very little competition in accessory design, and, at the same time, we have the full support of the School of Fashion to secure the right tools, equipment and resources. We are working to develop curriculum that is in touch with the latest trends in footwear and accessories.”

Photo2_Bag designed by Saya Shen, MFA Fashion Design. Photo by Danielle Rueda

Bag designed by Saya Shen, M.F.A. fashion design. Photo by Danielle Rueda.

Photo1_ Black and white ballerinas by Lin Mei-Hsiu, BFA Fashion Design. Photo by Danielle Rueda

Black and white ballerinas by Lin Mei-Hsiu, B.F.A. fashion design. Photo by Danielle Rueda.

Le Cappelain has worked as a consultant with brands such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Tom Lipop and Roots Collective. As a student, he studied footwear at London’s Royal College of Art. Prior to arriving at the Academy in Spring 2017, he taught footwear and accessory design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. 

Unlike SCAD and most other design schools, the Academy‘s San Francisco location places students within a burgeoning cosmopolitan city. According to Le Cappelain, metropolitan areas are chock full of inspiration: “Students are exposed to more culture, more fashion, art, people, experiences, more things to look at and be informed by.” 

And, of course, there’s the benefit of San Francisco’s market. With 11 bag brands and manufacturers in San Francisco alone, there’s plenty of potential to build new relationships and opportunities with companies such as Chrome, Timbuk2, Everlane, Peak Design, Dsptch and Aer. This local industry component will help Academy students apply their comprehensive ‘head-to-toe’ fashion education. There’s also the fact that the School of Fashion is just one of 22 other creative disciplines within the Academy—this is another leg up, allowing for creative collaboration between disciplines. As it stands, select footwear and accessory classes were adopted from both the School of Industrial Design and the School of Jewelry & Metal Arts; there’s no shortage of collaboration opportunities and cross-departmental learning. 

Since it was founded, the Academy’s School of Fashion has tallied a number of successes through fashion shows, awards, and scholarships, internships and the employment of their students. Fashion alumni have been hired by brands such as Gucci, Free People, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Nike and Abercrombie & Fitch. If the past is any indication of its newest program’s future, students pursuing a career in footwear and accessories are in good hands. “This is a perfect combination of circumstances to design and grow a new kind of program,” Le Cappelain said. “I’m very excited at the prospect of building the best accessory design program in the U.S.”