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Battle of America's fashion capitals: New York City or Los Angeles

By Aileen Yu


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The East Coast and the West Coast of the United States have always been compared whether in terms of lifestyle or most notably in popular culture-from hip hop to films. In fashion, it is no different that the two cities are the top destinations for professionals looking to work in the American fashion industry.

As one of the “Big Four” global fashion capitals, New York City is home to luxury conglomerates such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as well as media giant Condé Nast. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is quickly becoming a platform for emerging designers and homegrown brands that manufacture their products all within the state. Celebrity founded brands are also shaking up the industry, an example is the LA-based lingerie disruptor, Savage x Fenty by Rihanna. FashionUnited breaks down the deciding factors that affects most of us when making the move-from career opportunities, cost of living, income and even the fashion style between NYC and LA.

Career: Global fashion headquarters, publishing houses versus homegrown manufacturers and emerging designers

900 fashion businesses have their headquarters in New York City and the fashion industry employs 6 percent of the city’s workforce. It’s also home to a pool of the world’s top creative talent-from renowned photographers to stylists and major fashion publishers such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. On the other coast, Los Angeles is becoming a fashion hub in its own right due to content driven e-commerce platforms such as Revolve and celebrity brands Good American and Fabletics.

Major brands are now planting their showrooms and seeking local manufacturers in the City of Angels. Los Angeles Fashion Week now serves as a platform for emerging designers from around the world to showcase their collection. As more and more influential designers such as Tom Ford, Hedi Slimane have come to call Los Angeles home, designers are also choosing to show their collection in this growing fashion hub over others.

Fashion style: Timeless business chic versus effortless cool

New Yorkers are well aware that one’s fashion style is a reflection of who you are. In a busy city where people are always running to the next meeting, your outfit needs to make a good impression at all times. The timeless business look, a structured bag (which doubles as your ‘car’) and an overall chic aesthetic rules the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Black is also the unofficial uniform of New York’s fashion scene.

The sun always shines in LA and the SoCal beach culture is all around. Angelenos like to dress up, but being cosy, laid back and effortless is the theme of this city’s style. Looking healthy and enjoying what the Californian outdoors has to offer has made athleisure and fitness wear staples and even everyday business attire. A pulled-together look that doesn’t seem like you’re trying too hard is what LA fashionistas stand by.

Lifestyle: A New York minute versus a health-conscious lifestyle

There comes a time for every adopted New Yorker when they start to yearn for more temperate weather, a garden and a slower paced lifestyle. A turbulent city where time is money, life in New York can make strides for a young person’s career, but tough on health and the sacrifices on the fundamental qualities of life are high. Therefore, many New Yorkers are willing to trade in the subway commute and the tiny apartment for more closet space while being stuck in LA traffic.

According to Whitney Eaton (Director of Brand Relations) who called NYC home for a decade, “a major difference is the importance that Los Angeles places on wellness and leisure. It’s a big part of the LA lifestyle and also affects our clients’ showrooms. For example, it's entirely possible for me to just pop by for a store visit without prior appointment. Also, as most people living in LA would like to avoid traffic, working late in the office is not usually much of an option for most.”

New York City:

  • Fashion companies: LVMH, Condé Nast, Rent the Runway, Outdoor Voices
  • Rent for a one bedroom: $2,299
  • Business lunch: $20
  • Average income for a fashion designer: $73,167

Los Angeles:

  • Fashion companies: Lucky Brand, Nordstromrack.com, Nasty Gal, Revolve
  • Rent for a one bedroom: $2,293
  • Business lunch: $17
  • Average income for a fashion designer: $69,638

What fashion professionals say:

“New York is a window to the world – most of the companies have an office here. Editors, photographers, stylists are based here; there is a continuous movement in the industry.” --Carmen Castiñeira, Communications Manager at Derek Lam

“I enjoy the diversity of food, people and especially the fashion of New York City! On my walk to work, I’m always looking to see how women are dressing. I get most of my ideas from observing what people wear and then incorporating that into my own style.”--Johanna Ante, HR Business Partner at Calzedonia

“There definitely is a fashion hub here as all the major brands have showrooms in LA and there are also many manufacturers. However, if it’s high fashion or major publications and photographers you’re looking for, then New York City is still the place to be. It really depends on what kind of fashion hub one wants to be part of, and the facet of the industry they are most passionate about.” --Whitney Eaton, Director of Brand Relations at Ambassador Retail

“If America is a melting pot, Los Angeles feels like the melting pot of fashion. There appears to be a level of freedom in terms of what people will wear—perhaps that's due to the weather and we can wear anything anytime. While there are definitely certain aesthetics that stand out, like streetwear, bohemian-inspired pieces, I feel like there's a really broad sense of fashion here—and I love it because it feels more creative.” --Dale Arden Chong, Freelance Fashion Writer and Editor at FashionUnited, The Zoe Report, Who What Wear

This article was created with information collected from Glassdoor and Built In to promote working in fashion.

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Photos: Michał Ludwiczak from Pexels, Public Co from Pixabay

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