About the programme

Fashion Design as a Profession

Eve Hanson (the head designer for the Ivo Nikkolo brand, twice winner of the Golden Needle Award and one of the creators of the HULA brand):
“The path to my current profession has been based on chance and conscious choices. I think that I’ve been receptive, and have designed my educational path so that my profession today is its logical continuation.
The work of a fashion designer is interesting and diverse. It is creative and inspiring, as well as requiring strict discipline. It combines a good sense of style and colour perception, composition, knowledge of materials, awareness of a person’s proportions, communication skills, teamwork and lots more that is interesting. The fashion education at the Academy provides a basis for all these skills, which makes for a good and secure support system in the future.”
Since fashion artists and designers have been educated in Estonia for more than 70 years, the main strength of the department can be considered to be the continuity of the specialised education. To date, the list of graduates has reached three hundred. And many of the graduates, seasoned by work experiences, have continued as faculty members. The studies are also diversified by the involvement of experts from other fields, as well as by foreign faculty members in the study process. The knowledge and skills that are acquired are strengthened by practical training in fashion industry companies.
For many of the students, the first big challenge is the demonstration of their collections in the annual ERKI Fashion Show. The event, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, has been the springboard for many young fashion designers, by exposing them to the behind-the-scenes preparations for a fashion show, i.e. the backstage activities (selection of models, makeup and hairdos, sound and movement rehearsals, communications, sharing responsibilities, etc.).
The HULA brand, which resulted from the teamwork of the students in the master’s programme from 2000 to 2002, and was patented in 2004, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Initially, the idea was to create a brand that would not be dependent upon trends, and for which small women’s wear and men’s wear collections would be designed by young local designers, and which would be produced in Estonia. The new designs are created in the course of the studies, by both BA and MA students, as well as by graduates. HULA has participated in many exhibitions, fashion shows and fairs in Estonia and abroad – in London, Paris, Milan, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm and elsewhere (Cumulus Fashion Parade, Paris Expo, Season, Rookies, Who’s Next).
One of the strengths of the department is also the fact that the first agreement for collaborative projects was concluded 15 years ago (since 1997, the department has had a cooperation agreement with the Baltika Group, which continually needs new designers). Other partners include Kaubamaja Tallinn, Bastion, Sangar, Ilves Extra, Tallinn Creative Incubator, etc.

Department mentality and philosophy

Head of the Department, Prof. Vilve Unt: “It is the diversity that piques one’s interest in exploring and discovering the various aspects of fashion design, but also in implementing the acquired knowledge and skills, and sharing them with others.”

Marit Ahven, HULA Project Manager: “In the study process, great emphasis is placed on individual tutoring and teamwork.”
Triin Loosaar, BA III: “The creating of garments is not always based on external factors, but rather on a person as a being, not a consumer, or a target group member.”

  • Innovation 
  • Proceeding from the needs of the target groups 
  • Environmentally aware thinking 


What are the studies like?

In the course of the auditory studies, the student acquires knowledge about the principles of fashion design and the basic truths about the design process in the fashion industry. The output of the course projects, based on practical skills, consists of finished garments or entire collections (e.g. ETNO and HULA).
Practical training at museum and fashion industry enterprises helps to strengthen the acquired knowledge.
Based on the expectations of society and the needs of the labour market, the content of the BA and MA curricula are constantly updated. It is important to be receptive, and to react proactively to the changes occurring in society and the fashion world.

  • Theoretical knowledge. The acquisition and development of basic knowledge.
  • Practical experiences. Technologies, utilisation of the equipment in a sewing workshop, and specialised computer programmes. 
  • Project-centred work and teamwork. In cooperation with other disciplines and the fashion industry. 

For more about the curriculum and class schedule


Fashion design at the Academy of Arts

Since the teaching of the speciality dates back to the days of the Women’s Handicraft Studio established as part of the Tallinn Industrial Art School, the Academy is one of the oldest providers of fashion education in Europe. The development of a new curricula, and the involvement of experts in the field as faculty members (Ella Vende, Silvia Vasmuth, Saima Loik, Agu Pihelga, Hilja Kulles, Leida Sumendu, Karl Sokk, Raoul Koik, and others) dates back to the decisive period following the autumn of 1940, when the basis was established for the continuity of the speciality. In the 1950s, the State Art Institute of the Estonian S.S.R. was one of the few institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union that is known to have educated costume designers.
Until the re-establishment of Estonian independence, future fashion designers studied the Costume speciality in the Textile department of the State Art Institute. At the time when the academy was renamed the Tallinn Art University, an independent Department of Fashion Design was established, and soon the length of the course was reduced from five years to four, and thereafter to three. A specialised master’s study programme was established.
Today, in addition to full-time studies, students can also study fashion design at the Open Academy, and about 80 students currently attend the various courses.
In the 2010/2011 academic year, the department celebrated the 70th anniversary of Natalie Mei, who designed theatrical costumes, being named the head of the programme at the Jaan Koort State Applied Art School, which was a precursor to the Academy. The students of fashion design compiled a retrospective exhibition of the projects from that period.
2017 marked the passage of 70 years since costume designer Leida Klaus was granted the first applied arts diploma.