NY vs LA: A Coastal Style Showdown

Forever rivals, New York City and Los Angeles are like two beautiful women, yet very different.

One sits at an espresso bar on her way to a meeting with an investor/graphic designer/Broadway understudy. The other orders a cleansing smoothie with at least one obscure unpronounceable fruit– but she’ll assure you that it’s the newest super food! Can you guess where each one is from? Sure, these are vast generalizations but the stereotypes do make a point. The urban concrete jungle and the sunshine coast couldn’t be more different from each other, and their approach to style is no exception.

A little bit of history

To better understand each city’s aesthetic, it’s important to look at their fashion history. During the early 20th century, Los Angeles had the upper hand when it came to glamour. What is now known as Old Hollywood style ruled the world. Some may argue that the entertainment industry has lost that elegant poise, but that change was evident as early as the 1960s.

The hippie counterculture had a lot of influence and the trend towards looser, more organic looks still dominate the Los Angeles style seen today. Amidst all this are some design superpowers that really set the bar: Max Azria (BCBG), celebrity stylist turned designer Rachel Zoe, wedding gown expert Monique Lhuillier and last but certainly not least the sisters behind Rodarte, Kate and Laura Mulleavy.

  • Looking for that piece in LA? Be sure to stay at the O Hotel.

To say New York City had a grittier start is quite the understatement. With an important influx of immigrants and gang violence, the Big Apple wasn’t always the fashion capital we know today. However, with the arrival of immigrants came a skilled workforce ready to work. The Garment District arose from this immigrant influence and has been the city’s fashion center for decades.

Today it is home to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), further proving the importance of this part of town. New York was always seen as the innovator when it came to design in America. While early 20th century shoppers limited themselves to 5th and Madison Avenues for retail therapy, today Soho and the West Village are added to the list. The city’s great fashion houses prove its pedigree: Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren to name just a few.

The definition of chic

Whether a New Yorker goes for a more streamlined or eclectic look one thing is for sure, the final result channels tough couture chic. For ladies, no need to show off skin to feel sexy while men are comfortable wearing runway looks. Khaki jackets on top of leather pants ramp up the fierce factor for both men and women.

In Los Angeles, the constant sunshine fosters a much more casual approach to fashion. Kimono vests, chiffon tops and ripped denim shorts cater to a bohemian aesthetic. L.A men also prove to be bold with vibrant color and pattern choices. Does this make one city more of a fashion heavyweight than the other? Not necessarily. One thing is for certain though; New York and L.A have similar goals – to get noticed.

Two versions of eclecticism

It’s no secret that both cities like attention. Sidewalks filled with eclectic looks are proof enough of their residents’ constant need to be seen. However, the biggest difference is the approach towards grabbing the limelight. New Yorkers may get into more alternative looks but even these can get categorized – Lower East Side, Soho, Harlem, Williamsburg, Park Slope. Within these indie micro trends are many rules to achieve a complete ‘look’. There is a long thought process behind an ensemble.

This isn’t to say that Los Angeles doesn’t have its distinct looks from one neighborhood to the other – it’d be tough to confuse a San Fernando Valley mom from an Echo Park hipster. However, LA’s approach to eclecticism isn’t one for rules. Want to wear pink Ugg boots with a pair of Daisy Dukes on your way to Whole Foods? Go for it, the sky is the limit!
Comparing NY to LA is like comparing apples and oranges or in this case, pastrami and kale salad. What they do have in common is a desire to live a bold, stylish life.

Which of these two fashion-loving cities calls out your name?