When the fashion week season comes every spring and autumn, the population of the world’s fashion capitals swells considerably. The airports for New York, London, Paris, and Milan suddenly become even more manic than usual, as armies of designers, models, photographers, agents, journalists, and assistants descend on these four pantheons of global taste.
These many thousands of workers are crammed into the most fashionable hotels on the most iconic thoroughfares of these cities – Madison Avenue, Bond Street, the Rue de Rivoli, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II – only to be whisked away again a few days later.
During the buzz and blur of fashion week, little attention is given to the full-time inhabitants who work in the massive fashion industries of these cities. If you have any familiarity with the industry, you will already know that the vast majority of jobs in fashion are, while very rewarding, also generally poorly paid.
This leads to questions of affordability, to the point where the archetype of the highly successful young designer, model or photographer having to share a 20sqm studio with a stranger in these cities is almost a cliché. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how housing affordability compares among the fashion capitals of the world.
Home to the likes of Burberry, McQueen, and Vivian Westwood, the average house price in the British capital now sits at around £509,000, making it one of the most expensive cities in Europe. However, it is worth noting that prices in many parts of the capital have fallen in recent months, as wealthier residents have decamped to the English countryside.
For someone earning the average London salary for a fashion designer – £27,964 – getting an affordable mortgage is definitely possible in the cheaper suburbs of the capital. As long as a particularly dedicated aspirational homeowner makes use of appropriate mortgage advice services to help them find the cheapest UK mortgage rates, ownership is definitely within reach for some.
In the UK, online mortgage advice providers like Trussle are even helping to democratise the property search by offering free advice in 24 hours for prospective owners.
Paris, arguably the most elite destination on the fashion week roster and home to such illustrious fashion houses (and employers) as Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton, is one of the more affordable options, relatively speaking.
Although rents in Paris, especially in well-heeled fashion districts such as the Marais and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, can be crushing, buying is cheaper. The average house price in Paris stands at around €473,000, while fashion designers in the City of Lights earn an average of €40,000 a year. This makes the dream of homeownership somewhat more attainable.
The city that never sleeps, NYC is truly the envy of the fashion world. Home to major labels such as Tiffany, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren, as well as the US offices for pretty much every important brand in the world, New York, is the place to make your career in fashion happen.
However, it also happens to be the least affordable place on this list, with the average house price sitting at $750,000, rising to $920,000 in Manhattan. However, it is worth noting that this is offset somewhat by much higher salaries than other cities on this list, with your average fashion designer pulling in $88,000 a year in the city.
Without a doubt, the fashion capital of Milan is the most affordable place to live on this list by any metric. The average house price stands at around €260,000, while rents, eating out, and groceries are quite literally a fraction of what you would pay in New York or London.
Home to some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses, including Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada, there is no shortage of work for an ambitious designer. What’s more, average salaries remain high, with designers earning around €48,000 on average, making Milan the most affordable fashion capital to live and work in.
While each fashion capital has its own unique strengths and a place to live and work, some are more accessible than others. Whether affordability will tilt the scales in favour of one city over the others remains to be seen.