Source: The Tailored View
By: Kevin Tansey
Here’s something you might not know about me: I went to school to be a journalist. Well, a television reporter, if we want to be more specific. There was something about interviewing people that really resonated with me, maybe because I like good conversations with rad people. After school ended, I was able to nurse this thirst by interviewing my favorite bands on a podcast I used to co-produce. Since then, I think it’d be fair to say my interviewing days were on pause. But I always had grand plans to build this into The Tailored View in some form. I’d think, “How great would it be if we could talk to the designers behind our favorite brands? Would they ever be down for that?” Enter our newest series, Behind The Seams.
We couldn’t be more excited to kick off this series with a conversation from Aviator Nation‘s founder, Paige Mycoskie. Paige has been re-defining casual sportswear with her ultra-cozy, ’70s-inspired sweats and we’re thrilled to get the inside scoop on how she built her brand and did everything on her terms. So without further adieu, let’s GET. AFTER. IT.
Aviator Nation is obviously heavily inspired by 1970s California surf and skate culture. What specifically drew you to this particular era and setting, and when did you see an opportunity to design clothing that reflected it?
I grew up on wheels and water. I’ve always felt at home skateboarding, water skiing, surfing, snowboarding, etc. The 1970s era is my favorite because of the colors, music, and the general style that came from that time period. It was a time when people were experimenting with music and art more than ever. I guess people felt more free at that time because of what was happening in the world. I started making clothes for myself as a hobby and they naturally resembled the ’70s. I’m not exactly sure why, but the style of the ’70s is definitely in my blood. Drawings I did even as a child reflected this time period. People often don’t understand how I’m the age I am, but I’m creating experiences in my stores that feel like years past. The only way I can explain it is I just do what feels right to me. It’s not really strategic; it’s more organic.
Aviator Nation started when you taught yourself to sew, which I know from personal experience is difficult AF. How long did it take to hone that skill until you felt confident enough to design and produce products to sell?
It took about three months for me to get comfortable enough to start trying to sell the clothes I was making. It went pretty fast for me because I literally sewed every day and night during that time. I look back now on that time and it really blows me away how obsessed I was with it. I remember literally sewing through the night because I was so anxious to figure out a fit or a style that I had in my mind.
I know music plays a big role in your designs and your aspirations for Aviator Nation. How are you able to connect music to what Aviator Nation hopes to accomplish as both a clothing and lifestyle brand?
Music is a thread that runs through the company. It’s connected to everything we do. The stores play vinyl and all have stages where artists can come and play. I’ve always loved giving artists a stage to perform on. It’s something that brings me a lot of joy, and it was one of the primary reasons I opened my first store seven years ago (in Venice on Abbot Kinney). Over the years, I’ve gotten involved in music festivals and had the pleasure to work with some amazing artists on collaborations, too. I love creating a garment that authentically represents a particular artist or event. Fashion is such a natural extension of music. My goal is always to make something people want to wear for years after they attended the event.
I was first put on to Aviator Nation after a co-sign by Aziz Ansari and then when GQ named you one of the best new menswear designers of 2013 (major congrats, by the way). Per the commendation, you were given the opportunity to design a capsule collection exclusively for Gap. What was this process like? How did it differ designing for a large, mainstream retailer versus the brand’s usual target customer?
Thank you! Designing that collection was an awesome experience. It was the first time I ever had to stand up in front of a room full of high-power people and “present my designs for approval.” It was a little scary, but amazing all at the same time. It gave me a window into how things work in a much larger company which was super interesting. I remember asking questions to the Gap production team and they kept telling me, “Oh yes, we can do that for you” and I was like, “Wow you guys should come work for me.” (Laughs). The collection itself was definitely an extension of classic Aviator Nation designs. Obviously, I wanted it to look like Aviator Nation [product] so it captured my existing customer and also the customer of the Gap.
“It’s hard to sleep at night because I have so much going on that I’m excited about. I want to take the brand exactly where it’s supposed to go.”
Where are you hoping to take the brand next? Are you hoping to open more retail locations, secure more partnerships, or introduce new kinds of products?
All of the above. It’s hard to sleep at night because I have so much going on that I’m excited about. I want to take the brand exactly where it’s supposed to go. I pay attention to the signs and I do what feels right at that moment. I’m definitely on the hunt for the next great location to open an Aviator Nation store. I love building stores. I’m also super picky with our locations, so it’s hard to predict when I will find a spot I feel is good enough. It’s so important for me to choose locations that really breathe the brand. I’d rather take my time and do it right. Brand partnerships are definitely important to me as well. I love working with other companies, artists, and festivals when the synergy is right. New product is super heavy on the radar right now. I’m spending a ton of time in product development, constantly pushing the envelope testing fabrics, washes, prints, and new fits. I’m SUPER excited about the launch of some new categories, too.
What’s your hot take on the term “athleisure?” One could say that Aviator Nation produces garments that fall within this category, but the brand is more than that. Have there been other areas where you’ve felt like people have tried to put you in a box?
It’s an interesting word. I’m not really up to speed with all the fashion terms and trends but I’ve always had a passion for being comfortable. My goal is to make clothes that are super comfortable and stylish at the same time. I’ve always thought it was sexy when people look like they aren’t trying too hard. Throwing on an Aviator Nation t-shirt or hoodie gives you instant style without a lot of effort. I want my gear to be the “go to” that looks great anytime/anywhere. As far as being put in a box, everyone has their opinion of what it is. I don’t really care too much about that, I just do what I do and I feel lucky so many people are into it.
The Tailored View is all about helping dudes feel more confident about themselves and how they dress. As a woman, what are some of the key things you notice about a guy’s outfit? Do you have any preferences? Any deal-breakers?
Generally, I think dudes should take more risks in fashion. I absolutely love it when dudes wear color and wild prints. Anyone can do simple and plain but it takes personality to wear color. I see super rad guys wearing our most colorful hoodies and it makes me stoked. The bottom line is the guys wearing more color are definitely going to get noticed more. Who doesn’t want to be noticed? Deal-breaker for me is wearing bad shoes. I’d rather see a dude barefoot on the street then wearing bad shoes.
And now, let’s get into a few rapid fire, finish-the-sentence statements we’re calling Unfinished Edges. “My favorite piece of clothing right now is…”
Tank tops with big arm holes are super sexy on girls and guys both. I wear my men’s-cut tank almost everyday because I like how big the armholes are.
“The one menswear trend I wish would just die already is…”
Sagging jeans, pants, shorts super low halfway down your ass is not sexy.
“The song I can’t stop listening to is called…”
“Young Souls” by Broken Back…. Soooooo good.
“In 2017, I think a lot of men will be wearing…”
Louder, more colorful clothing. I’m starting to see guys taking more risks and it’s rad. I think they are finally catching on that color is good.
“The best vacation I ever went on was…”
Maldives with my brother, for sure. Every morning we did yoga at sunrise, went for a surf, went for a dive, went for another surf, and then got a massage. Seriously, we did this everyday for about 10 days. It was insane.
“If I wasn’t designing clothes, I’d be…”
Recording music and performing rock shows.
“One thing people don’t know about me is that…”
I’m actually from Texas. Everyone thinks I’m from California. I’ve lived in California for about fifteen years, but I’m a country girl at heart.
“If I didn’t live in California, I’d live in…”
I can’t live anywhere but California. Okay, maybe Hawaii… But I’d have to be at least part-time Californian.
We’d like to give a huge thanks to Paige and her team for collaborating with us on such a fun piece. Stay tuned for a second feature soon, and if you haven’t yet, check out Paige’s latest collection at AviatorNation.com.