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WWD Feature // A Bigger Aviator Nation: New Laguna Beach Store Launches in Swim, Activewear and Winter Jackets

Source: Women's Wear Daily 

By: Khanh T.L. Tran

The Mycoskie family likes adventures in retail.

As Blake Mycoskie has been spreading the philanthropic commerce at Toms with Wi-Fi-enabled stores that double as community hubs, his sister Paige Mycoskie is opening the fifth store for her Seventies-inspired casual fashion brand, Aviator Nation, and expanding into swim, activewear and winter jackets.

Unveiled last Friday, Aviator Nation’s store in Laguna Beach, Calif., evokes a beach bungalow with a stained glass window designed like a setting sun that fills a room with warm light; striped murals; vintage floral wallpaper, and white plank ceilings that match the glossy floors. The nine-year-old brand’s signature hooded sweatshirts for men, women and children, which start at $105.99, claim most of the space. Hats, T-shirts, sweatpants, blankets and surfboards fill up nearly every inch of the 800-square-foot store, which also resembles a time capsule with macramé hangers and album covers from musicians such as Jefferson Starship, Joni Mitchell and Heart.

“Everything is inspired by music, surfing and the California lifestyle of the Seventies,” Mycoskie said. “It’s the time when life was a little more simple. It was about free love and community.”

Located a block away from the beach on South Coast Highway, the shop continues Mycoskie’s rollout along the coast. With fewer than 50 employees and annual sales under $25 million, her first retail location opened on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles' Venice neighborhood in 2009. She followed with additional spots at Manhattan Beach, in the Malibu Inn and at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco.

“Having a brick-and-mortar store is the only true way a customer can feel connected to the brand,” she said. “Building a brand is not just about the product. It’s about the relationship you grow with your following and fans.”

To solidify that connection with her customers in Orange County, who had been making the hourlong drive to shop at her Venice store and convinced her to expand south, Mycoskie plans to fill the raw wood shelves with swimsuits and activewear in late summer, then with outerwear in the end of the year. The swimwear is available in three different fits for tops and bottoms, which sell for $80 each. Retailing from $80 to $120, the activewear line includes yoga pants that are ubiquitous in Southern California. Mycoskie, who’s snowboarding when she’s not surfing, is readying to offer puffer jackets and vests, bomber jackets and one-piece snowboard suits. “We’re probably going to do snowboard jackets and pants, too,” she said, noting that the jackets are slated to retail for between $250 and $350.

The only drawback of the new space is that, at about half the size of her other stores, it’s too small for staging musical performances. Creating a memorable experience for customers is also a strategy she shares with her brother, who ventured into retail with Toms after she did.

“It’s definitely important to both of us to build a brand and have a relationship with our customers,” she said. “I was always about building this community.”

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