The FIDM Story

FIDM and California Emerge as Global Fashion Forces

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising was founded in Los Angeles in 1969 by visionary Tonian Hohberg. Ours was the first fashion college of its kind on the West Coast. Since the start, President Hohberg has consistently placed the student as the first priority and this remains true today.

Over time, we have developed excellent relationships with industry leaders, from Smashbox to Guess, Inc. to NBC Universal. Our Advisory Board includes industry giants such as Tim Gunn, Diane von Furstenberg, Emanuel Ungaro, and Fred Segal. These partnerships keep us up-to-date on changing trends and community needs, so our curriculum stays ahead of the curve. The results speak for themselves. Our students graduate and go on to rewarding careers, including designing gowns for red carpet celebrities; creating television and movie sets, costumes, and posters; launching their own fashion companies; and working as fashion buyers, graphic designers, digital artists, product developers, interior designers, and industry executives.

Here's the story of how it all began…

Four California Campuses

FIDM was created in direct response to the growing needs of the fashion industry in California. In the late 1960s, sportswear apparel manufacturing and the entertainment industry were well established in the region. California was considered the second largest fashion center in the United States. The birthplace of casual wear and iconic swimsuit labels, it was home to the movie stars and the people who dressed them. After fashion designers flocked to the land of sunshine in the 1950s, apparel manufacturers followed. It was the ideal location for a West Coast fashion college.

From the beginning, FIDM's mission was to build industry relationships in order to benefit both the industry and the students. The college was strategically placed in the garment district in Downtown Los Angeles on 8th Street, in a small facility close to the major department stores of the time—across the street from the May Company and just blocks from the Broadway and Bullocks. Early essential partnerships were created with these major department stores, and students were hired.

Industry Partnerships Are Key to Success

Today, FIDM's trademark is our industry partnerships in fashion, beauty, interior design, digital arts, and entertainment. Not only does FIDM work diligently on internships programs with these companies, but many top-level professionals serve on the Advisory Board, committed to keeping the college abreast of the ever-changing needs of their industries. FIDM responds quickly to new trends and technologies and easily incorporates changes into the curriculum.

One of FIDM's early priorities was to employ working professionals as faculty and to create a strong network for helping students find employment. Our educational process includes consulting top decision makers in the industry to determine the knowledge and skills needed for successful industry careers. Built on this foundation, the Career Center works hand in hand with faculty and the industry, and works creatively with employers and students bringing them together through internships and jobs all over the world.

FIDM Reaches Out To Educators

A pioneer in specialized education, FIDM felt a responsibility to connect with high school educators. In 1970, the Community & Educational Affairs Department was created, to serve high school educators, administrators, counselors, and students.

As The Industry Grows In California, FIDM Leads The Way In Education

The college grew and in 1973, a branch campus was established in San Francisco to meet the needs of both students and the emerging fashion industry in northern California, the headquarters of retail giants Levi Strauss and GAP. FIDM continued to respond to the fashion industry and took note that the entire southern California region was becoming a major retailing center. We opened a campus in Orange County in July 1981, and another in San Diego in July 1985.

FIDM started with a specialized accreditation, and in 1978 became the first college of its type to receive accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), an institutional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In 2003, we applied for and received accreditation for their design programs from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the most prestigious accreditation for art and design colleges in the U.S. FIDM was accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commision in 2013.

Specialized Services

The college created the FIDM Museum in 1978. The concept of the college's Museum dates from 1973, when the Fashion Design department insisted that students studying clothing design and construction examine actual garments firsthand in order to fully understand textile drape, pattern structure, and finishing techniques. The Study Collection now has over 2,000 pieces representing the last 200 years of fashion history. Students, researchers, designers, and the public are welcome to visit by appointment. The FIDM Museum & Galleries mounts two major exhibitions each year, in addition to smaller installations, and hosts conferences.

The college's unique and focused mission also led to the establishment of a network of educationally affiliated fashion libraries. The FIDM Library currently provides print, non-print, and electronic research materials available to students and alumni, as well as industry professionals.

President Hohberg has a natural affinity for creating alliances with top influencers. Early on she forged a remarkable friendship with Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles at that time, who encouraged her to establish FIDM in South Park, adjacent to Grand Hope Park. In 1990, FIDM became a new landmark on Grand Avenue, beckoning businesses to the area, and remains the present location for the Los Angeles campus.

A staff of three educated a student body of seven in Merchandising and Fashion Design when the college opened its doors in 1969. Today, there are over 5,300 students actively enrolled. The college offers bachelor's and associates degree programs in 25 majors. Distance learning courses are available, and some programs may be taken entirely online. With a loyal faculty of over 300 strong that embrace the unwavering philosophy and mission of Founder Tonian Hohberg, FIDM remains dedicated to preparing leaders in the global industries of fashion, visual arts, interior design, and entertainment.