Is LA or NYC Better for a Fashion Career?
You’re ready to start your fashion career—but where? Both NYC and LA have a lot to offer budding fashion professionals, you just have to know what you’re looking for.
Comparing two major cities can be a bold move; no two cities are alike, and people are usually biased in their preference. Comparing two vastly different cities on opposite sides of the country is hardly worth the effort. Our preferences are subjective – so can one city really be better than the other? When you’re making the choice of where to start your fashion career, it can be a difficult call to make.
Considered the fashion capital of the United States, New York City has always drawn creative professionals to its midst with its unique blend of culture and fast-paced way of life. When you think of fashion in the United States, chances are you think of Fashion Week. You think of the Garment District. You think of New York street style. Yet, over the past few years, Los Angeles has gained momentum in the industry and become quite a contender as a fashion leader.
So how to know whether Los Angeles or New York is the right city for you? Let’s take a look at what each city can offer:
For aspiring fashion professionals, the Concrete Jungle really is what dreams are made of. Every year, thousands of bright-eyed students flock to New York to attend some of the best fashion schools in the country – Parsons, FIT, and Pratt to name a few.
These determined fashionistas have the right idea in making the move to the Big Apple. NYC is home to over 5,000 fashion showrooms, 75 major trade shows, and countless top designers, making it a pretty foolproof choice for those seeking a career in fashion. Even the more niche careers aren’t hard to find (looking at you, aspiring Embellishment Designers, Email Analysts, and CAD Designers).
So, what is it that makes NYC such a hot spot for the fashion industry? Unlike southern California’s warm climate, this east coast city has four distinct seasons. The widely varying temperatures give designers way more opportunities to put out unique collections and pieces, from breezy summer frocks to chic winter outerwear.
The drawback—you can come to New York with a suitcase, a college degree, and a dream, but that’s not always enough to land your first job. While opportunities for junior fashion professionals aren’t hard to find in NYC, the amount of people gunning for the same positions means there is a pretty substantial amount of competition. It’s vital to gain real world experience through internships and networking opportunities to really start making a name for yourself in the city that never sleeps.
LA-based designers are growing in numbers, making the City of Angels an up-and-coming major player in the fashion industry (and a great place for aspiring fashion professionals to plant roots). Top designers like Saint Laurent and Tom Ford are showing their collections in LA, a huge stamp of approval from some of the fashion industry’s key players.
One major reason for LA’s boost in fashion jobs: there is simply way more warehouse space in California than there is on the tiny island of Manhattan, and that available space is a huge draw for fashion houses and designers.
For junior fashion professionals, it’s very important to consider logistics like cost of living when deciding where to start your career. The cost of living in NYC has skyrocketed over the past decade, while incomes have primarily remained the same. The average rent in LA is 40-50% lower than in NYC, which means you’ll be pocketing much more of your paycheck. Take that paired with the attractive weather and laid-back culture of SoCal, and Los Angeles shapes up as a pretty great place to jump start your fashion career.
But let’s be real—competition is pretty stiff in La La Land. Despite the growth of the industry, the demand for fashion jobs is not as high as it is in NYC and you may struggle with finding a more specialized role in LA.
Which is right for you?
You need to figure out which city’s culture best suits your lifestyle and your goals and expectations for your career. New York has the appeal of a big city, fast-paced and crowded (there are supposedly 26,400 people per square mile) and it’s filled with diverse cultures. Its occupants are known for being career-focused and direct. Los Angeles is highly populated and spread out, leading to a slower city pace. Its streetwear and overall ambiance is considered more casual and laidback. You’ll still work hard, but you might be wearing jeans and a t-shirt. And if you’re lucky, you might have a dog or two in the office.
It all comes down to preference. New York City is generally considered the traditional route for a career in fashion; it has the top schools, renowned designers and brands, and a variety of specialized careers. Los Angeles is more of a wild card without such a distinct reputation, but it has the space and the room for growth that might be the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.
When you do decide where you are headed, be sure to check out Fourth Floor’s Job Seekers page to find your perfect career match in either city.