With the rise of the insta shop and digital influence, gone are the days when the only way to succeed in fashion was to make the move to the sartorial capital. The British fashion industry is booming, particularly in Manchester, Brighton, Newcastle and beyond – making way for tonnes of fashion jobs outside London. Amongst the thousands of individuals working in fashion outside of London, I spoke to three young women who are killing it in their sectors and proving that you don’t have to live in the big smoke to ignite your career.
Soraya Alavi (PR at KNOWN, a communications specialist based in London and Brighton), Bekki Ramsay (Founder of La Pique, in Newcastle) and Lettie Pattinson (Co-Founder of The Design Studio Hawarden, a faux-fur clothing brand based in Hawarden) all have profited from their firm decisions to remain outside of London to pursue their careers in fashion. Read on to find out how and why.
What influenced your decision to stay at home/work outside of London instead of move to the capital?
Lettie Pattinson: I was born up North and have lived here my whole life! I went to university in Liverpool and fell in love with the city. I feel the North offers so much real talent in a range of outlets, music, fashion, food, without the sometimes pretentiousness that’s often prevalent in London.
Soraya Alavi: Up until I was 20, I was adamant I wanted to live and work in London. But since finishing uni and now being 24, as much as I love London I have realised I don’t HAVE to live here in order to build my career. Most of my friends, family and boyfriend are here, so I took a step back and realised that I can actually work in Brighton. Also, I want to buy a house soon (I say soon but I haven’t saved a penny yet ha!) and ideally have a garden which isn’t something you can get in London that doesn’t cost the world + 100000x Gucci bags.
Bekki Ramsay: Ironically, I was actually planning on moving to London after graduating. But after heading down for Graduate Fashion Week, I surprisingly relieved when leaving Kings Cross to head back up North. For me, London is too fast-paced and overpriced but the real deal breaker was the lack of Greggs.
Cliche Northern jokes aside, my friends based in London had also informed me that their midweeks are automatically written off with long working hours, and a lot of commuting. Although I’m a hard-worker, I’d prefer to be less successful and have balance, than making a name and having less of a social life.
“I FIND MY LIFESTYLE IS SO RELAXED AND ENJOYABLE. I VISIT LONDON
QUITE A BIT AND I’M ALWAYS SO RELIEVED TO COME BACK”–
What challenges have you experienced working in fashion outside of London?
Lettie: I won’t lie, there are a lot more opportunities in London but I hope to see that change. We’ve missed out on quite a few exciting things, such as when big publications and celebrities/stylists want us to loan items quickly or on the day. Sometimes we’ve had really amazing overseas clients who have contacted us during their stay in London and they have asked where they can find our shop. Sometimes we find the ‘not what you know but who you know’ ideology to be extremely challenging, especially being based outside of London. We lose out on features/interviews/events because we aren’t ‘from London’ which is really annoying. Many publications don’t seem to realise you are still very relevant despite not being London-based, especially as we have been featured in American Vogue (and they particularly liked the fact we were based up North.)
Bekki: Firstly, fashion jobs outside London are *very* limited, if at all possible! I work as a PR & Outreach Executive for an award-winning SEO agency but we currently have no clients within the fashion industry. Instead, I’ve incorporated this passion into my own side business: I run my own fashion accessories company, La Piqué, which is where my Fashion Communication degree comes into play!
Soraya: In all honesty, I thought I was going to be at a disadvantage being out of London, but I was actually very wrong. Brighton is full of creativity and innovation and there are many companies that are now relocating to Brighton or other cities. I am in London 1 or 2 days per week to meet clients or press or for events and it’s only an hour on the train. I don’t think it is that much of a challenge. The thing I do obviously miss is the day/nightlife and my girls.
How has your lifestyle been impacted by living outside of the capital?
Bekki: It hasn’t – there’s a lot of culture in the North so there’s no need to travel to London to improve my lifestyle. We have lots of independent bars and restaurants, we’re currently hosting the Great Exhibition of the North and we have the most beautiful beaches and countryside. Unfortunately, our shopping scene isn’t as good, but that’s what the internet’s for.
Soraya: I have definitely saved a fair amount on living costs. I know how much some of my friends are paying and I honestly don’t know how they do it whilst also going out, saving and everything else too. Especially on a starting salary!
Lettie: I find my lifestyle is so relaxed and enjoyable. I visit London quite a bit and I’m always so relieved to come back. We’re an hour from coastal regions, the stunning Welsh mountains and 40 minutes from Manchester and Liverpool, so we have a great balance! Things are a lot more affordable here. There’s a wonderful community up North where people are appreciated with a kinder, more genuine and authentic approach.
How often do you travel to London for work?
Bekki: I’ve been at my current job role for five months, and have visited London once (for an awards ceremony) so not that often.
Soraya: Once or twice a week, which is perfect for me! I tried the commuting thing for 6 months and I can say it is definitely not for me! (I enjoy sleep too much!)
Lettie: I probably go to London 2-3 times every couple of months. The train is only 2 hours away so the journey is really great and so easy to do. (Except when you get to Euston and it’s just a sea of people rushing!) I am fortunate to have lots of friends there and it’s always a nice time.
“PEOPLE HAVE TO REALISE THAT THE
BRITISH FASHION INDUSTRY STARTED IN THE NORTH.”–
What are the main benefits of living outside London?
Bekki: Everything is so much cheaper! From cinema tickets to rent, and from eating out to a single gin – everything is a lot more attainable, although ironically, the cheapness can put you in a constant “treat yo self” mentality.
Lettie: Production and manufacturers are mainly based in the North. We have a wonderful sewing machine mechanic who is from our area, however he has to travel to London most of his time because there doesn’t seem to be machine specialists based there. We champion the North through our brand. All fabrics and materials are sourced from our northern shops, especially North Wales. When it comes to shoots, I use a range of locations and cities up here which make a wonderful setting, from the alternative streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter to the Welsh countryside! TDS is aimed at a diverse range of women so it’s always so wonderful to show that in our branding, with Northern locations and models.
People assume we are based in London because we run a fashion brand and we love proving we’re not. They cannot seem to understand how we do what we do, outside of London. We have also been asked what tube line ‘Hawarden’ is when Hawarden is actually our village up North! I think it makes us stand out. People have to realise that the British fashion industry started in The North. Our followers have been a huge part of our journey and success and we have stayed true to ourselves and still work from home despite the high demand and success of TDS.
Soraya: The SEA! Everyone probably says that in Brighton, but honestly it’s so nice just being able to go down to the beach after work or near the countryside. I don’t think there’s anything better than breathing in fresh air, which you don’t get in London. I would say the costs are a lot less, but Brighton is almost up there with London prices in terms of food and drink now so I wouldn’t say the costs are much of a benefit. However, I would obviously spend more if I lived in London.
What are your tips for working outside of London in fashion?
Bekki: Firstly, remind yourself that there are creative people outside London. Scope them on social media, befriend them, and help each other. Secondly, if you can’t find a job in fashion, create your own job in the meantime! Have a multi-hyphen job title like the incredibly inspiring, Emma Gannon. And lastly, create an online portfolio with impeccable branding which reflects your personality. Promoting your work online and sell yourself as much as you can – I once secured some social media marketing with a masseuse, whilst getting the massage.
Lettie: Look beyond London! If anything, London is the crazy option purely because of the competition. So many people in fashion have to ‘prove’ themselves and their worth. Many young people are working for free and doing so much work. Fashion itself is so inclusive and it is for everyone, so don’t assume you have to be in London to do it. I’ve been fortunate to travel lots with my job and have seen so many incredible places – it’s so important to be yourself and know that you don’t have to follow the crowd or do what everyone else is doing.
Soraya: Don’t be scared that it will hinder your career or progression! Admittedly, at first, I would compare myself to my friends in London and get down about it by thinking that I was missing out. But then I realised how silly I was being. If I’m happy and in a good job – why does it matter? Of course, there are SO many jobs in London and it can be easy to get disheartened when you don’t see as many roles come up wherever you are but you just have to do some digging and research and trust me you will find something without compromising!
I’ll be honest, this is my third job since graduating last year but I know I don’t regret anything and if I hadn’t been in those other two roles, I wouldn’t be where I am now. The first was at a head office when I was commuting to London, the second was a job I just took because I didn’t want to commute anymore and then I eventually found the job I am in now which I love. I now work for a cool, creative PR company called KNOWN, which is based in a shared office called PLATF9RM. It’s such a lovely office and environment and we get to meet so many creative and ambitious people, oh and you can bring your dogs which is always a winner! It took a while to get me here and as cheesy as it sounds, I don’t regret it one bit. London still has my heart, but Brighton is always going to be home.
There are a spectrum of benefits for staying at home and looking for fashion jobs outside London, from living costs to profiting from your city’s cultural identity. If you are currently considering a role in your hometown or are anxious to make the move to the capital, I hope that these tips and insights give you the courage and advice to make a more informed decision. If these wonderful women can do it, so can you!