Author: Misty White Sidell
Rainbows, sunbursts, and surfing are among the fixations of Paige Mycoskie’s, a fashion designer whose label Aviator Nation was just named by GQ magazine as one of the best new menswear labels in America.
For Paige, fashion is a family affair. Her brother Blake Mycoskie is the founder of the insanely popular, good-doing shoe brand TOMS. They traveled together on the first season of The Amazing Race.
Aviator Nation, a line of bright surf and sweat basics for both men and women, has humble roots. True to its West Coast easy-living vibe, the label was essentially started by accident with a handful of home sewn staples.
It offers California’s trademark louche feel without its typical counterpart—that inimitable thrift store musk.
Paige did not follow the typical fashion trajectory: she didn’t attend fashion university or apprentice under a more established designer. But you may say that her hustle compensates.
While Aviator Nation has just been named one of America’s best new menswear brands, the label is actually eight years old.
Paige established Aviator Nation in 2006, after realizing that vintage stores were starting to run thin on Seventies’ relics. The dry well prompted her to buy a sewing machine and construct clothing for herself, all inspired by the effervescent hallmarks of her favorite decade.
‘I realized that it was becoming more and more difficult to find stuff from the Seventies so I learned how to screen print, how to sew, and basically making stuff for myself that looked like the Seventies,’ she told MailOnline by phone.
Her designs (priced from $55 to $175) fuse Seventies nostalgia with the lived-in sensibility signature to weathered surfers and snowboarders. Aviator Nation’s brightly-colored, soft sweatshirts, sweatpants, vests, and T-shirts for men, women, and children are printed with rainbows and graphic slogans like ‘Pray for Surf,’ and ‘Another Day in Paradise.’
Their rainbow, sunburst, and assorted athletic-inspired graphics are equally popular among men as they are women, the archetype which you could both imagine as sun kissed, tan, and toned.
The brand’s Californian tranquility is accompanied by the clothes’ worn-in wash. Paige says that, when worn, her designs ‘feel like you have had them for years since they day you put them on.’
That sensory experience comes courtesy of techniques that Paige developed ‘in my own home washing machine, learning how to break things down.’ When Aviator Nation made the transition to a larger (privately-owned) production facility, Paige says ‘there are a lot of things we [developed] to still accomplish that feeling, and it’s not something a lot of people have been able to nail,’ she said.
Paige’s signature touch is imbued in the Gap capsule collection that she created as part of her GQ accolade, which she received alongside fellow honorees Bespoken, Ernest Alexander, and Baldwin. She says that most of her Gap collection’s designs sold out within 24 hours of their release.
While her pursuit of fun-loving, bright clothes spurred a brand that is now retailed in 80 stores worldwide she insists that she ‘had no intention of making a business.’
In 2006 her few homemade preliminary designs were met with unprecedented reception, motivating her to spin her aesthetic know-how into a collection of samples.
She took the resulting wares to Fred Segal, the cult-inspiring Los Angeles boutique that hit its last stride in the mid-aughts with an innovative mix of casualwear, emerging designers, and frillier attire.
‘I got a call from the buyer almost immediately,’ Paige recalls of the experience. She added: ‘They bought a ton and after that I decided that if I had Fred Segal that it would be easy to sell to other cool stores.'
Paige sewed the expansive shipments in her Venice, California garage for the next three months. She says she received reorders from all of her initial retailers immediately after the collection’s delivery. ‘I think it’s then I realized this stuff would be really successful,’ she said.
Paige’s vision of relaxed Cali cool has inspired fans in countries as diverse as Germany and Kuwait. She operates independent boutiques in Venice and Manhattan Beach as well as maintaining a miniature store within Fred Segal’s Santa Monica location.
‘Naturally the concept applies to the rest of the world,’ she said of the allure surrounding West Coast living. ‘Who doesn’t want to be comfortable?’
Comfortable, however is not a word that Paige would use to describe her 2002 reality TV experience on The Amazing Race’s second season, in which she competed alongside her brother Blake Mycoskie, who is the founder of TOMS shoes.
Then twenty-one years old, Paige feels that her participation in the show taught her how ‘you can actually go a lot further than you think you can,’ she recalls. ‘I remember hiking a sand dune in Namibia and thinking I could not take one more step…but I got there.’