Fashion Education in China: An Exclusive Dialogue with Fashion Majors from the Donghua University

(Student fashion show–from College of Fashion and Design at DHU)

To enhance students’ global awareness and facilitate international exchange, we are very pleased to have three special guests from the Donghua University (DHU) to answer questions proposed by FASH455 students regarding the fashion education in China:

  • Caixia Chen: a PhD student in the College of Fashion and Design at DHU. Caixia received her B.S. in fashion design and engineering from DHU as well. Her research interests include fashion marketing and fashion supply chain management.
  • Zongyu Xiong: a M.S. student in the College of Fashion and Design at DHU. Her research interests include cost management in the fashion supply chain.
  • Jingjing Wang: a freshman majoring in Fashion Design and Engineering in the College of fashion and design at DHU.

Donghua University (DHU), located in downtown Shanghai and formerly known as the China Textile University, has one of the oldest and most prestigious fashion programs in China.

Question from FASH455: Why do you choose to be a fashion major—personal interest or guaranteed job offer?

Caixia: Personal interest.

Zongyu: Personal interest is the main reason above all. And I also hope that I can engage in fashion-related jobs in the future.

Jingjing: I choose to be a fashion major because of my personal interest. But my future work may not be in the fashion area.

Question from FASH455: What classes do you take as a fashion major in China?

Caixia: Fashion marketing, fashion manufacture management, fashion buyer, fashion English, Fashion trade, fashion forecasting, draping and pattern-making.

Actually, the Donghua Universty offers two fashion majors. One is fashion design which focuses on designing. The students majored in fashion design are good at drawing. Another one is fashion engineering, which focuses on draping, pattern-making, fashion trade, fashion marketing etc.

Zongyu: Global marketing of clothing, Market research and forecast, Consumer psychology, Clothing Materials, CAD, Fashion Illustration, Clothing craft, Draping and some theoretical course.

Jingjing: So far I’ve taken clothing marketing and merchandising, garment production management, fashion retail management, etc..

Question from FASH455: What is the percentage of fashion majors in your school that receive job offers immediately after finishing their studies?

Caixia: As I know,  around 100 fashion engineering majors graduate from the college of fashion and design at DHU every year. Among them, about 50% receive job offers immediately after finishing their studies, and about 20% will continue to pursue a master degree in China. Another 20% will choose to study abroad.

Zongyu: According to the official statistics released by DHU, the employment rate reached 92.18% for the total 729 class of 2015 graduated from the college of fashion and design.

Jingjing: About 90%.

Question from FASH455: How do your professors tell you about the fashion industry in the United States?

Caixia: U.S. is one of the largest textile and apparel importers in the world. China — by far is the largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S..

Zongyu: I’m sorry for my limited knowledge. I just know a little about the recent trend of American textile industry moving back to the U.S..

Jingjing: The fashion industry in the United States is quite developed, and it has an important place in the world. However, it also meets bottlenecks at its present development stage. Some classic brands are managed less well than in previous years.

Question from FASH455: How do you think globalization has affected China, especially its textile and apparel industry?

Caixia: It is of grave concerns to some Chinese manufacturers that more and more international buyers now switch to source from lower-cost countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. However, in my opinion, Chinese manufacturers still enjoy competitive advantages. For example, Chinese suppliers can provide better quality products and more value-added services. Furthermore, by adopting new technologies, Chinese factories are able to offset the impact of increasing production cost through improved efficiency and product quality.

On the other hand, globalization has made it more difficult for Chinese fashion companies to develop its own brands. In particular, the local Chinese fashion brands are facing grant challenges with the flood of international brands to the Chinese market.

Zongyu: For Chinese companies,  globalization not only has resulted in more competition pressures,  but also has created more opportunities to get access to the world marketplace.  Chinese companies realize that they have to embrace a global version and develop high quality and innovative products so as to stand out from the market competition.

In terms of the Chinese consumers, globalization has brought them with more choices of better quality and lower-priced products.

Jingjing: Globalization is a two-edged sword, creating both opportunities and challenges for China. In the past, low-cost labor is a major competitive advantage for China. But now China’s cost advantage is gradually diminishing compared with other less developed countries whereas China is still not “strong enough” to compete on technology with advanced economies.

Questions from FASH455: What are the working conditions of garment factories in China?

Caixia: Below are the pictures I took when visiting some garment factories in China. From these pictures, you can see how the working conditions look like.

factory 1

factory 2

Zongyu: Dragons and fishes jumbled together, meaning there are companies in either good or bad conditions. But compared with the past, working conditions in the Chinese garment factories overall have much improved. Most factories have met the 5S (5s is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five words: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain) or 6S(5s plus safety) requirements.

Jingjing: Following the principle of 5s management, Chinese garment factories overall are getting cleaner, more orderly and more modernized.

Question from FASH455: Does it bother the Chinese people that American companies send work to China to produce cheap labor?

Zongyu: It is just my personal view: exporting textile and apparel is necessary for China as a developing country to generate economic growth and create job opportunities. But China is also transforming and upgrading its economy.

Jingjing: I think it is a normal phenomenon in the developing world. Actually, Chinese companies have started to offshore production to less developed countries with cheaper labor.

Questions from Caixia, Zongyu and Jingjing for FASH455 students:

  1. What do Americans think of “Made in China”?
  2. Do the classes you take help with your career preparation?
  3. Have you taken any internship classes at UD? What did you do?
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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

29 thoughts on “Fashion Education in China: An Exclusive Dialogue with Fashion Majors from the Donghua University”

  1. I think it is so interesting how both alike and different our schools are. Some of the students are studying fashion, but may not go into that field after they graduate. But in the US most of us study fashion for our future careers rather than for fun.

  2. In regards to everything above, it is so interesting to see other students perspectives on the Fashion Industry, specifically from China, who is so involved in the textile and apparel industry. It is also really good to hear that the factories in China are in pretty good working conditions, by staying clean, and organized.
    In regard to their questions, I believe that most of my classes are all very helpful for my career preparation. While i am not 100% positive with what I want to do, i know that classes like apparel product and development and textiles will both have such a strong impact on my knowledge of the fashion industry. Even though i am studying merchandising, it is extremely important that i know these specific topics. Also, classes like this class on global apparel and textile trade are extremely important for my career. It is so important that i am aware of trade because it could easily affect any job i have in the future in the fashion industry.

  3. I found Jingjing’s response to what students get taught about the United States very interesting. I think that we overlook some of the bottlenecks that have formed because of the globalization process. I think that one of these bottlenecks that is currently coming to light is companies trying to find factories that are safe and ethical. Some fashion brands are now trying to rebrand themselves as “ethical” after some of the factory accidents.

    For the first question they asked us, I think that perceptions of “Made in China” are shifting from what they once were. In the early 2000’s, “Made in China” was thought of as cheaply made, but has now shifted to more quality. With more technological advances in manufacturing, the production quality has gone up. This has changed perceptions as have better factory environments.

  4. I think it is very interesting to see how fashion students in other parts of the world learn and study fashion. Fashion engineering is not something I would first think of when when studying fashion, however I do think it is a very important part of the industry.
    I also am very pleased to see through the pictures and Caixia’s experience to see that factory working conditions in China have improved so much. I think it is extremely important that those workers are in a safe environment when producing a huge majority of our clothes.
    In response to their question about the “Made in China” tags, I definitely think that what once may have been a sign of cheap clothing, it is now changing to be some of the best quality clothing that we wear. China has greatly improved their product quality which I think is a huge advantage for them.

  5. It’s so interesting about how many of the students get jobs right out of college. I wish I knew what the statistics were for Delaware! In regards to the label “Made in China”, it doesn’t really phase me anymore because most goods seem to have this tag. I do find it interesting that it may not all be made in China though. Different pieces could be from different parts in the world and just their last stop is in China. Maybe labels should be more descriptive about each part in their making. In regards to internship classes, we take one seminar class that prepares us for the real world. It shows us different websites to upload our resume to and we had guest speakers from different companies come in. It was really helpful and quite refreshing to see Delaware alumni making it big in the fashion world!

  6. 1. When I think of “Made in China”, I think of reading it on the bottom of several products that I have purchased for example, my stainless steel water bottle that is sitting next to my laptop at the library as I type this or the sweater I am currently wearing. It is definitely, by far, the most common label that you see in the US. It is almost surprising to see a product or an item of clothing that is not made in China. It was only since I started taking this Global Apparel Trade/Sourcing class that I really began to think about the implications of the label and the affects of globalization on the textile and apparel industries.
    2. I think that the classes we take definitely help to prepare students for their future careers. I think they are helpful in forming a basis for our work in the industry. I think it can definitely be dependent on the exact career path students plan to take, but nonetheless, classes like Merchandise Planning, which provide us with the knowledge of retail math, give us good practice with skills that can be important. In addition, many classes help students start to think like professionals in the industry. Our Assortment Planning, Sourcing, and Buying class helps us to understand the topics and issues surrounding the planning and purchasing of foods by a retailer for their consumer. All in all, many of the classes we take will be beneficial for many students’ career paths.

  7. I think it is so different that they have a fashion engineering major. While we have design and merchandising, they have design and engineering. I feel like those two majors would overlap since design majors should also know how to drape and use other fashion techniques. I am curious as to what a fashion engineering major will do in the future, how they will apply these very specific skills to the industry. I would also love to see some of their work, I feel as if their designs will be very precise and detailed. UD should add a fashion engineering class for design majors to give them more knowledge and skills about this aspect of the field!!

    1. Actually, the full name of the major is Fashion Design and Engineering. We always call it fashion engineering for short. Most students work in fashion companies after they graduated from school. For example, most of my undergraduate classmates work for brand companies such as H&M, Ecco and Uniqlo. The type of work could be sourcing, merchandising, production management, etc.

  8. Thank you so much for your insight! Its extremely helpful to hear things from a different POV and from the other side of the world, literally. I find it so interesting that you have both a fashion engineering major and a fashion design major. I am also impressed about your knowledge regarding 5s management and standards. The pictures are also really cool! To answer your following questions please continue reading below.

    1. What do Americans think of “Made in China”?
    As an senior studying fashion merchandising in the United States, when I hear the word “Made in China,” I know it means so much more than just being manufactured there. After taking our FASH 455 Globalization class, I started to think more about the industry standards, safety regulations, and working conditions in factories overseas. Made in China has become so common in America that at this point I think many people that do not studying fashion do not think too much into the label. It is just assumed that it is made there.

    2. Do the classes you take help with your career preparation?
    Yes! Actually, many of the classes you take we also take here at UD. The most significant fashion classes I have taken at the University of Delaware include Sales and Assortment Planning, Textiles 1 and 2, marketing, costume history, trend forecasting, and many more. My textiles classes, although most challenging, were some of my most important ones when I learned the most. I was able to receive several internships at companies including Rebecca Minkoff and Elie Saab. However, I am graduating in the Spring and not working in fashion.

    3. Have you taken any internship classes at UD? What did you do?
    I have taken one internship class at UD. During my internship for Rebecca Minkoff I was required to take the online internship course over my summer in conjunction with my hands on internship in RTW and handbags. I was required to write weekly blog posts describing my experiences at Rebecca Minkoff and write what I learned during those weeks and what trade shows I attended, etc. At the end, I had to create a large PowerPoint presentation that included pictures of the showroom and me while I voiceovered each slide answering the questions required by my teacher.

  9. I find their responses very interesting! I have not had the opportunity to hear directly from Chinese fashion students and found this to be a great learning experience. I found their responses particularly interesting because I am an IBS minor so I typically study various cultures but never with such direct communication to get a first hand look.

    I also would like to give these students some insight into an American fashion student’s opinion-

    1. What do Americans think of “Made in China”?
    I have no negative connotation about “Made in China”. When I see this I assume the product was mass produced for a larger retailer and is not the highest quality. But, I feel no resentment towards “Made in China” products for taking manufacturing from America.

    2. Do the classes you take help with your career preparation?
    I do believe the classes at UD help with career preparation, some more than others. Particularly, Fash330 and Fash420 are key to my future career and I find these classes very beneficial.

    3. Have you taken any internship classes at UD? What did you do?
    I have not taken any internship classes at UD but I have has multiple internships at home over summer break. I interned for a knitwear company, Twenty, as a sales intern and sat in on buying meetings and met with various retailers that carrier our product. I also was a management intern for Nordstrom where I learned all of the aspects of managing a department and a team. I created sales goals and tried to drives sales to surpass my goals.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I wanted to give my own insight on a couple of the questions asked.

    1. What do Americans think of “Made in China”?
    After taking this class I have thought a lot about “Made in China” and how it is just made in china. I started thinking about what parts are actually made in china and where they import things. This class talks a lot about globalization and its impacts. I think that Made in China is pretty outdated and we should start talking about where each part is made so consumers are more aware.

    2. Do the classes you take help with your career preparation?
    The fashion classes that I take are very useful in preparation for my future. One class in particular Fash420 is very beneficial to me because we learn how to use excel from a buying and planning prospective so it will give me in an upper hand when entering the work force. Fash330 was also great in teaching me excel. I want to be a buyer so learning how to use excel and analyze spreadsheets with numbers that I will actually be seeing is extremely helpful to me.

  11. What do Americans think of “Made in China”?
    I think most American consumers are uneducated about the apparel industry and “Made in China” typically has a negative connotation. Americans view things made in china as products that were produced in China, therefore, taking away from U.S. business. I think most consumers also expect the cheapest goods to be made in china because it is widely known that it is more expensive to produce in the U.S. than it is to produce in China.

    Do the classes you take help with your career preparation?
    The classes in the fashion department definitely help with career preparation. We are able to meet and listen to many outside sources from the industry. We are also given many real-world design opportunities and we are taught the business and computer-design skills needed to do well in the fashion industry.

    Have you taken any internship classes at UD? What did you do?
    I interned for Sam Edelman apparel and graphic design as course credit. I worked in their NYC design house and helped with CAD design, mood boards, and sketches.

  12. I think its interesting to compare the US schooling to China schooling. although many people study fashion, textiles and apparel in china, many of these student go on to do other things while in the US we “are” what we study. This just shows how adaptive the Chinese populous is and how open minded they are about career opportunities. I believe that there is a lot of pressure on American students to study in a field, work in that field, and never change their career paths.

  13. What first drew my attention to this article was the comparison of US school and China school. First it is clear to see they are technically better. There fit was impeccable and the hems were flawless. The looks didn’t look like student work they looked like actual designer looks. Additionally, the venue was so much more professional than what we usually use here at UD.

    Next what i found interesting was this articles tie in with “Made in China”. This term isn’t all good nor all bad, however it tends to have a negative connotations tied to it. When many American’s hear the term “Made in China” they believe it is taking away jobs or making America weak. However this label virtually means we have strong global trade relationships with China. Exports and Imports are necessary for the flow of our economy. We also cant make everything and as we learned in class we are better at producing large machinery like cars and airplanes. Thus, it is better for us to place more time an energy into those areas verses producing clothing. The reason why “Made in China” is such a common label because it is on cheap products that we use everyday. We aren’t looking for any labels on the airplanes we travel on.

  14. It’s great to see how students in China respond to things we deal with as US students everyday. I like mostly that although they are fashion majors by personal choice, they do not feel the need to solely go into the fashion field. I think it is smart that they do not necessarily jump right into a job, and may take time to continue their studies elsewhere and find a job that really suits them. We can learn a lot about ourselves by listening to these other students, and how they think and operate. I also really enjoyed their views on sourcing in China. It is nice to know that American’s are not viewed as cheap by looking for cheaper labor in China, but that they are helping the ever developing economy in China.

  15. I had an internship this past summer with Kenneth Cole, who works with some factories in China. The quality of products made are really great, and I can agree with Caixia saying Chinese suppliers make quality and high-valued products. So for me, my thought about “Made in China” drastically changed when I worked at Kenneth Cole, I found that things made in China were of good quality and a resource American companies should go to, especially for high valued products of a brand.
    I find it interesting that the school has “Fashion Engineering” as a major, which I feel is so important, especially in an industry of less and less artisans and very talented pattern makers. This major seems so important for technical design, since fit is what brings consumers to purchase and consume certain garments.
    This interview definitely gave me more insight about what Chinese students are learning about the industry and how we could ultimately work together to influence the industry in a possible way.

  16. I loved reading about the comparison between China and the US studying for the same industry that we are. I was really glad to hear that working conditions have improved because that is something that really concerns me when I think about the fashion industry in that part of the world and it was interesting to hear about it firsthand and see pictures. One thing that is really impressive is how they get jobs right out of college (I wish that more of us did here!) so that was cool to read about. It is good to hear that they also view our relationship with China as a positive and strong one because that is important.

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