Why Leaving New York City Actually Helped My Fashion Career

Recently, there has been a fair amount of chatter on the internet about the growing trend of people opting to leave New York—once considered the mecca of fashion, publishing, art, culture, and pretty much any and everything remotely interesting—in favour of other less fast-paced, glamorized locales.

An essay popped up from Thought Catalogue’s Ryan O’Connell, who left the city for Los Angeles after living there for more than five years. And a similar piece on Elite Daily went viral after its publication late last year. The latest version of this tale hits a bit closer to home—it comes from incredibly successful fashion editor Laurel Pantin. After major stints at both Lucky and Glamour, Pantin left it all behind to move to South Africa, and recently told her story in a refreshingly honest piece for Refinery 29.

I have a similar tale, but in as many ways as it’s similar, it’s completely different. In her essay, Pantin shares the details of her exit from NYC: Her boyfriend of more than eight years had been relocated to South Africa for work, and he invited her to join him there. The native Texan took the decision very seriously—but after she made the choice to accept his invite, she had a tough time ultimately breaking away from New York and the career she had built there. Once she finally did, a period of professional challenges followed, but she ultimately found herself happier for it.

In my case, my decision to leave the city was equally important and difficult—but in many ways it was the opposite of Pantin’s. I left New York in spite of a relationship, not because of one—and I did it to benefit my career, not as a risky move that might end up threatening it. After more than five years working in editorial on both the print and digital sides, I was approached with this amazing opportunity at Who What Wear. The only hitch? It was based in Los Angeles.

Serendipitously, heading to L.A. was something that was already on my mind before the Who What Wear job ever materialised. My boyfriend is from the L.A. area, and we had had brief conversations before about potentially starting our real life together out west—“real” meaning a bit more settled, a bit more accessible, and (most importantly) a bit less difficult than everyday life in New York. The one thing that always concerned me during these conversations was my career; how would I be able to continue to focus on growing professionally in a city where fashion isn’t exactly the prominent industry?

In fact, a few hours before I got the email from the Who What Wear team, I had drinks with my boyfriend and brought it up again. I outwardly mused about opportunities in L.A. that would be a logical next step from my current role in New York.  You can imagine my feelings of amazement when I received a message later in the evening asking me if I would be open to moving to L.A. to grow my career in fashion. 

For me, New York was once a magical place, brimming with the opportunity to make yourself into whatever you wanted—and in just over five years, that’s exactly what I did. I decided, almost on a whim, that I wanted to be a fashion writer—and that’s what I did. Had I been living anywhere else at the time, I may not have had as much success. So, for me, New York had served the purpose I intended it to serve. And once that purpose was complete, I found the city to be little more than a daily struggle of subway rides, heavy bags, disgusting weather, and grime—the magic was gone, just as clearly as it had first appeared to me years before.

In Los Angeles, I feel much lighter, much freer—I have much more time in the average day now that I don’t spend more than an hour on the subway per day. The added free time and feelings of lightness mean that I can devote more time and energy to my career. The result? Increased productivity, happiness, and success on the job. Moving from New York to L.A. was a professional upgrade for me in every way: a higher-ranking title, more take-home pay, more control of my own schedule, more paid time off, and generally more positive feelings.

Much of this, of course, I attribute to working for a great company—but some of it, I believe, comes from the absence of the struggles of everyday life in New York. When people used to ask me if I miss the city, I would take pause to consider the question. But now, after much reflection on what leaving that city did for me, I do not hesitate when I say, “Not at all.”

Do you think you have to be in New York to have a career in fashion? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!