Aviator Nation gears up to open its second New York store, with Nashville to follow
The easy California vibe has been bottled and sold through countless brands. To wit, Juicy Couture, Op aka Ocean Pacific, and more recently, The Elder Statesman and Simon Miller. It's no wonder Aviator Nation's relaxed and comfortable offerings of tees, sweats, shorts, hoodies, and more with familiar color scale stripes have bloomed into an impressive brand since launching in 2006. While mainly focused on West Coast outposts, the brand founded by Paige Mycoskie is rapidly eastward with the addition of a new East Hampton location with New York City and Nashville up next.
Aviator Nation's origin story reads like many fashion brands; the passion for clothing led to creative expression that caught the public's eye. In this case, Mycoskie, the 43-year-old who grew up in the Southern California lifestyle culture, worked in a surf shop and assisted with the buying when she began reworking 1970s vintage finds.
"I loved thrift stores and flea markets because the clothing was used, softer, and broken in, and loved the surfers, palm trees, mountains, and rainbows all over my room," she says.
A serendipitous cash gift led Mycoskie to buy a sewing machine with which she began customizing her vintage finds. After being stopped on the street enough to ask where she got something she was wearing, the budding entrepreneur stitched up a batch that led to $8,500 in sales at a street fair on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, Ca.
"People went crazy, and I sold everything I made. That's how it started," she explained. Thus, Aviator Nation, coined such thanks to Mycoskie's love of the popular Top Gun-popularized sunglasses and for bringing a sense of community together, was born.
While in the meantime, the brand evolved and boasted seven So-Cal locations and additional stores in San Francisco, Miami, Aspen, Vail, and Hawaii, it took Mycoskie over ten years to find just the right spot in New York.
"I found an insane spot in the heart of Soho on Mercer Street, over 4,000- square feet, so I can enter this market the way I always wanted. I've never moved out of a store I've opened, so I wait it out, find the perfect spot and then put my heart and soul into it and never leave," Mycoskie said over email, noting that the space will be unique and cohesive at the same time. "The stores are designed by myself, of course, so it kind of flows from whatever is going on in my creative brain that year," she said.
It's currently slated for a late summer or early fall opening.
The store comes as Aviator Nation opened its first New York store in East Hampton in time for the summer crowds and to sponsor the Palm Tree Music Festival co-founded by music producer and DJ Kygo that took place this past weekend and brings a tropical vibe to non-tropical locales.
"Kygo and his team are Aviator Nation fans and asked me to do the merchandise. So far, we have done three festivals—Aspen, the OC, and the Hamptons—with merchandise sellouts at each. Nothing is better than designing a collaboration for an artist you admire and then becoming friends. When I did the merchandise for John Mayer's Born and Raised tour, it was a similar exciting feeling," she continued.
While those Aviator Nation endeavors are not philanthropically positioned, Mycoskie follows her brother and Tom's Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie in giving back. (Mycoskie is no longer with Tom's, which has subsequently repositioned and ended its buy-one, give-one model).The brand has hosted events and donated to benefit Heal the Bay, Surf Rider, Charity Water, the Flatwater Foundation in Iceland, the Malibu Boys and Girls Club, and AIM mental health awareness.
The brand's lighter side, its party mood, is best expressed in the Malibu location AV Dreamland which features a club and restaurant decked out in groovy 70s and 80s chic hippie décor adjacent to the store, which sits off the Pacific Coast Highway. Mycoskie said offering a communal gathering place for music and libation was part of the DNA since the Abbot Kinney store opened.
"The Dreamland spot is directly across the street from one of the arguably best surf breaks in the world, and the music history here is completely epic. I knew the history of the Malibu Inn, the building's original name, and taking over the space to become a music venue and community center like its origins in the 60s and 70s was always a goal," she said.
During Covid, she was able to take over the lease from the existing restaurant and create a space that, beyond music, also hosts events such as yoga, sound baths, and round table chats with music industry leaders. The extension of the brand also includes Aviator Nation Ride, a branded spin fitness workout studio in Santa Monica.
Thus far, while no concrete plans are in the works, she hasn't ruled out recreating either vibe on the East Coast. For the moment, the focus is Manhattan and Nashville, and beyond.
"On the horizon, we are looking at new store locations in rad places all over the world. I'm in no rush at all, though, as I want to make sure we always choose the perfect most epic locations," she said in Cali-lingo, adding, "I wanted a brand that people wore and immediately looked rad and had a classic, timeless look that would never go out of style. It was never just a clothing brand; it was always going to be a lifestyle."
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