Bachelor of Fine Arts - Fashion + Sustainability

Fashion Design is an influential and creative medium offering a dynamic means of personal expression and design activism to create a sustainable and ethical future.

Fashion is fast to react to global socio-economic and cultural events and represents contemporary concerns of the designer and wearer, as well as providing a dialogue between the past and present.

Key dates

February 2022 Intake 14 • 02 • 22

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3 Years, full-time. Auckland


Bachelor's Degree (Level 7) 360 credits


2021 Domestic $9,051 + $300 Student Services Levy
2021 International $27,000 + $300 Student Services Levy
Fees free applies
All 2021 fees are subject to change and regulatory approval

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Bachelor of Fine Arts - Fashion + Sustainability Course Outline

The Whitecliffe Fashion + Sustainability pathway focuses on sustainable and ethical practices and encourages students to challenge the traditional boundaries of fashion, elevating the craft of making and fostering creativity to develop high levels of experimentation and technical skills and an understanding of fashion's environmental and social impact.

The Fashion + Sustainability pathway embeds sustainable and ethical practices within a strong focus on research informing innovative design development. Industry-targeted workshops include Pattern Drafting and Garment Construction, Design and Concept Development, Fabric Manipulation, Tailoring, and Entrepreneurship. Studio Practice is complemented by courses in Fashion and Sustainability, Fashion History and Theory, Fashion Illustration, Illustrator for Fashion, and Natural Dyeing. Classes are small and provide a nurturing environment with a strong focus on individual students and fostering their unique vision.

Students design and develop conceptually-based collections that reflect a personal design aesthetic and produce a professional Lookbook for their graduation portfolio.

Fashion + Sustainability students who continue into a postgraduate BFA Honours year specialising in Fashion + Sustainability, work independently on a conceptually-based sustainable fashion project that reflects original thinking, rigorous research, design innovation, design, and sustainable fashion theory, and executed to a high professional standard.

Industry professionals provide invaluable feedback during individual student critique sessions and are regularly invited to lecture on industry topics. BFA graduates with a Fashion + Sustainability pathway gain employment nationally as well as internationally as design assistants, patternmakers, sustainability consultants, workroom assistants, buyers and merchandisers, stylists, costumiers, and design educators as well as establishing their own brands.

Why choose Fashion + Sustainability at Whitecliffe?

  • The Whitecliffe Fashion + Sustainability department has a strong focus on sustainability within the New Zealand and international fashion industry and students are encouraged to embrace innovative and sustainable fashion practices throughout their studies.
  • Sustainability is part of an expanding branch within the fashion industry that focuses on social responsibility and environmental impact, the use of sustainable and organic materials, the disuse of harmful chemicals and dyes, and a reduction of textile waste. Whitecliffe students are given the opportunity to employ sustainable practices to address contemporary concerns within the industry and enhance their own design practice and become innovators within their field.
  • Students and graduates win national and international awards and are supported and encouraged to enter competitions.
  • We foster original thinking and individual design aesthetics. The educators at Whitecliffe are all practising designers and artists who provide an inspirational and professional learning environment.
  • Students learn design research, concept development, fashion history and theory, illustration, and contemporary sustainable fashion practices to create innovative collections that reflect re-thinking and re-evaluating of fashion for a sustainable future.
  • High professional standards of industry methodology are taught including patternmaking and garment construction, tailoring, and fabric manipulation.
  • Whitecliffe offers modern and industrial equipment in a spacious studio with individual study spaces in Year Three and BFA Honours.
  • Whitecliffe provides access to WGSN, a leading global fashion trend forecasting website, and EcoTextile, the environmental magazine for the global textile supply chain.
  • Students intern at New Zealand Fashion Week, alongside designers and international buyers, and participate in internships within New Zealand and overseas.
  • Industry specialists and business studies classes prepare students for the fashion industry. Visting designer critique sessions enrich their personal practice.
  • Years Two, Three, and BFA Honours students showcase their collections in exhibitions, and at the prestigious annual Whitecliffe Fashion Show. BFA Honours students participate in a retail store Window Display Project, contextualising their decisions through visual merchandising methodology.

Bachelor of Fine Arts: Core Courses + Supplementary Electives

The following Core Courses and Supplementary Electives are taught across all four of the Bachelor of Fine Arts pathways, along with specialist courses that are specific to Fine Arts.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Year One

Year One for the Bachelor of Fine Arts students includes a combination of both general arts and design with specialist pathway courses. The programme covers practical and theoretical skills and knowledge where students develop core skills in design, drawing, materials and processes, together with critical and contextual studies.

The study includes supervised studio practice, lectures, tutorials, and self-directed learning. Visual Theory introduces the vocabulary of Art History and Contemporary Theory in support of practical courses and Studio Practice.

The Semester One programme is specifically intended to best prepare students for one of the BFA specialist pathways (Fine Arts, Photo Media, Graphic Design, and Fashion Design). Students are guided through structured projects in the first semester and examine the process of drawing, art-making, and design within the compulsory courses: 5101 Drawing, 5102 Design, and 5103 Materials + Processes, before starting their specialist pathway in the second semester.

Students also participate in three, intensive week-long workshops that enable them to collaborate in teams and/or work independently to produce collective creative outcomes.

Critical and Contextual Studies

A fully integrated programme of Critical and Contextual Studies supports all studio specialisms. 5111a & 5111b Visual Theory Part 1 & Part 2 initiates students into the language of critical discourse and critique. Students learn to analyse, critique, discuss, write, and conduct research related to the practice of art and design. The Visual Theory courses also assist students in positioning their art and design practice within a broader cultural and historical context.

Year One Supplementary Electives

Additional to the specialist courses, students have an opportunity to select from a range of elective courses. Elective courses enable the Year One student to test out other specialist areas, before firming up their decision to specialise in a pathway. Elective courses may include the following:

  • 5202: Community Engagement
  • 5203: Painting
  • 5202: Screen Printing
  • 5402: Graphic Print Processes
  • 5404: Publication Design
  • 5502: Reading the Photographic Image
  • 5503: Video
  • 5504: Digital Imaging

Critical and Contextual Studies in Years Two and Three

The integrated programme of Critical and Contextual Studies continues in Years Two and Three. In Year Two students undertake a one-semester course in Modern and Contemporary Art and Design Survey, that addresses contemporary theory and debates around the subject specialism of their choice. Year Three students extend this learning in the Contemporary Issues in Art and Design course as well as Entrepreneurship II that includes the opportunity for applying knowledge in a work placement. During these internships, students gain valuable insight into working conditions and fostering significant networks for the future.

In addition, students select from a range of theory elective courses offered within a suite of Year Two and Year Three courses. The courses include a variety of topics that strategically deepen students’ contextual, theoretical, and practice-based inquiries. Students select from the following:

  • 6120: Sustainability Now
  • 6121: Contemporary Art: Asia and the Pacific Rim
  • 6122: Socially Engaged Practice
  • 6123: Scripting the Body: Curating Performance
  • 6124: Identity and the Construction of the Postmodern (Self)
  • 6125: Painting and the Expanded Field
  • 6128: Making Art in a Globalised World
  • 6129: Public Project
  • 6130: Revolution and War
  • 6131: Popular Culture: Warhol's Stepchildren
  • 6132: The Object
  • 6133: What is Cinema?
  • 6134: Spectacle and Seduction
  • 6135: Te Ao Māori
Tom Munday

Fashion + Sustainability Year One

Year One students wishing to specialise in Fashion + Sustainability will be required to complete the 5300 Studio Practice: Fashion Design course throughout the year. This course is considered fundamental to fashion and sustainability practice and will include a balance of contemporary and traditional skills, sustainable practice, and knowledge. For example, the course content may include the following:

  • Sewing Methods
  • Pattern Drafting and Calico Toile Construction
  • Garment Construction and Dart Manipulation
  • Sustainable Design Thinking
  • Research, Design, and Construction
Bianca Lim-Yip

Fashion + Sustainability Year Two

Year Two students can choose a specialist area to work in, either womenswear or menswear, within an overall framework of both historical and contemporary investigation and collection development. Sustainable design thinking and practices are embedded in the Fashion + Sustainability pathway and students are encouraged to consider environmental and social concerns within the global fashion industry and their own fashion practice. Students work with Natural Dyes, Craft Techniques, Organic Fabrics, Deadstock Fabrics, Upcycled Materials, and Minimal or Zero-waste pattern cutting methods.

Students participate in a Tailoring module, Fabric Manipulation, Fashion Illustration, Illustrator for Fashion Design, and make a collection employing sustainable practices, to present at the Whitecliffe Fashion Show. Students also gain industry experience through their participation in New Zealand Fashion Week.

Studio research assignments, projects, and/or workshops are mainly lecture-initiated but largely student-directed and are based around a series of in-depth fashion design topics that support students to evaluate complex issues and discuss critical frameworks relevant to contemporary fashion and sustainability.

As students progress from Year One into Year Two, their ability to apply more advanced skills and knowledge and critically reflect on their research is developed through their studio practice.

Kim talava keil 005

Fashion + Sustainability Year Three

Year Three students concentrate on developing a conceptually-based, innovative and sustainable collection of garments that reflect their personal style and prepares them for the fashion industry. Local fashion designers visit the studio to give students critical feedback on their design process. Students expand their knowledge of Sustainable Practices, Pattern Cutting, and Garment Construction employing industry methodology and workroom practices. At the end of the year, students produce a graduate collection lookbook and present at the Whitecliffe Fashion Show.

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Life After BFA Fashion + Sustainability

A career in the fashion industry can take you from the initial stages of concept development and design through to production and merchandising or buying.

Fashion + Sustainability graduates may choose to work in Designer Workrooms, Production, Visual Merchanding for Product Display, or in Fashion Styling for magazines and photoshoots, Costume Design for theatre and film, and teaching at secondary and tertiary levels are other excellent career opportunities.

Designers, Patternmakers, Visual Merchandisers, and Stylists work at the creative end of the market; and Sustainability Consultants, Merchandisers, and Buyers are involved in fashion forecasting and sourcing, and presenting international trends to the local market.

Fashion + Sustainability graduates usually begin as Workroom or Merchandise Assistants before moving into Patternmaking, Designing, or Senior Merchandising and Buying positions. They can also become involved in Fabric Research and Development. Participation in New Zealand Fashion Week, and Year Three and BFA Honours internships, enhance the studio learning by providing the opportunity to gain practical work experience in the fashion industry and increase graduates' changes of employment and career possibilities.

Careers can, for the dedicated, lead to the development of a designer's own label which is why the Whitecliffe degree includes compulsory business studies in Entrepreneurship. Many graduates begin working with a prominent designer and, after gaining experience, create their own design house.

The Fashion Design sector in New Zealand has grown significantly in the last ten years. This has created more opportunities than ever for graduates, such as online fashion businesses, public relations, and marketing, styling, creating fashion blog sites, and journalism.

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Key Information for Students

NZ Government key information link for students, that provides more information to support your decision making for this programme

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Admission Requirements

Domestic Student Entry Requirements:

  • Completed application form
  • Minimum Age: Students must turn 17 within their first year of study at Whitecliffe
  • NCEA University Entrance or equivalent
  • CIE / IB Award
  • Discretionary Entrance is available to students who have gained exceptional marks in NCEA Level 2 and wish to embark on higher-level study. These students must display a high level of motivation and maturity
  • Some of the above academic requirements may be waived for students over the age of 20
  • Interview: All applicants for this programme are interviewed, and students should come to the interview prepared to discuss their work and ideas freely
  • Portfolio: This is brought to the interview and should include between 12-24 examples of original work showing breadth of ability. The portfolio can be specific to one genre if that has been the student's body of work. Digital copies of your portfolio will also be accepted
  • Letter of Intent: A 250-word letter of intent outlining reasons for wanting to study the BFA programme and desired pathway

International Student Entry Requirements:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copy
  • Minimum Age: Students must turn 18 within their first year of study at Whitecliffe
  • IELTS Academic overall score of 6.0 with no band less than 5.5 or equivalent
  • Academic Transcripts: School or previous tertiary results
  • Interview: All applicants for this programme are interviewed. International student interviews are conducted via telephone or online
  • Portfolio: This is brought to the interview and should include between 12-24 examples of original work showing breadth of ability. International students may submit their portfolio digitally
  • Letter of Intent: A 250-word letter of intent outlining reasons for wanting to study the BFA programme and desired pathway
Fashion + Sustainability

Where could this programme take you?

A career in the fashion industry can take you from the initial stages of concept development and design through to production and merchandising or buying for high fashion chain stores. Fashion Design graduates may choose to work in designer workrooms, production, visual merchandising for product display or in fashion styling for magazines and photoshoots. Costume design for theatre and film and teaching at secondary and tertiary levels are other excellent career opportunities.

Jobs related to this programme

• Designer

• Design Assistant

• Workroom Assistant


• Sample Machinist

• Production

• Buyer

• Merchandiser

• Fashion Stylist

• Wardrobe Assistant

• Visual Merchandiser

• Fashion Retail

• Fashion Public Relations

• Fashion Marketing

• Fabric Range Designer

• Fashion Journalism

• Design Educator

Find out more about career opportunities

Industry Partners

Fashion + Sustainability

Talk to our team

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