For most aspiring fashion designers, it seems like enrolling in a prestigious fashion school is the only path to success. Of course, that comes at a price, as fashion schools throughout the world have some of the highest tuition fees.
At Central Saint Martins, the annual tuition ranges from £9,250 to £23,610 as of 2022. And that’s just the tuition. Factor in boarding, books, and supplies, and the cost goes way over. In the US, the cost is even higher, with most top-level fashion schools costing upwards of $75,000 a year.
That all said, the fashion industry has seen many designers rise to the top who either never attended a fashion school or dropped out halfway. Even without fashion education and training that many schools market as essential, these designers made it in the industry and stamped their names in the history books.
So here are five such fashion designers you should know about:
Armani never really thought about becoming a designer or owning a luxury brand. His dream was to become a doctor, and for that, he even attended medical school at the University of Milan. It wasn’t until after the war and the 50s that the designer found himself working in a department store. From there, he started working in the clothing industry, eventually deciding to open his own eponymous brand.
Jean Paul Gaultier
The famous French designer, never really went to any fashion school. He started his career by sending his illustrations to couture houses at the time. His talents were recognized by Pierre Cardin, under whom he trained to polish his design skills. His design aesthetic and skill came purely from learning directly from the professionals outside the traditional classroom.
The legendary British fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, dropped out after just one term when she went to study jewelry at the University of Westminster. Whilst working as a school teacher, she started making jewelry on the side. She then started sewing clothes, eventually opening her first store in the 70s. For her, becoming a designer was a self-learned experience.
The American designer famous for her sophisticated yet chic bridal wear, made several detours before starting her brand. However, nowhere did it include attending a fashion school. She was actually a figure skater training to participate in Olympics. However, when she couldn’t make it to the games, she decided to pursue a career in fashion. She started as an editor at Vogue (the youngest ever), then worked at Ralph Lauren before starting her namesake bridal brand.
The current creative director of Louis Vuitton has been one of the most notable designers in fashion in recent history. With his previous stint at Balenciaga and now his new take on LV, he has proven to be a force to be reckoned with. However, he never received any formal fashion education. He paved his way to this role by working under designers, most notably Jean Paul Gaultier. Unlike other designers, he always wanted to be a fashion designer and planned to attend school too, but never really did.