Paige Mycoskie started Aviator Nation in 2006. Today the Texas-born entrepreneur is one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world. Her estimated net worth is $380 million.
She started her company in Los Angeles and spends summers in Aspen, but her home base is Austin. We caught up with Paige, whose brother is TOMS Shoes founder Black Mycoskie, to learn more about why she chooses to hub in Austin, what drives her, upcoming collaborations, her advice for aspiring fashion designers and more.
Most of your sales come from online, what keeps you in brick & mortar?
I feel strongly about having a brick-and-mortar presence for the brand. It’s definitely not the biggest money maker and it requires by far the most work but for me, it’s what keeps us real. I’m old school when it comes to shopping and I believe in walking into a store, experiencing the brand all around you and meeting the team. Each of our stores is a personal art project for me which I love and enjoy creating. I grew up doing art and one of my favorite things to do today is designing my stores. I get to paint, buy vintage furniture, find old, rad posters and cool wallpaper and create a space for people to not only shop but come into for music, yoga and other cool events.
The stores are a shopping destination but also a community gathering place.
When I started Aviator Nation I wanted a place where I could build a stage and have my friends over to play music and hang out. It was never just about the clothes, creating the brand was always about bringing people together, hence the word “Nation” in the name. It all truly happened organically. For me, work and life were one. If I was going to build a place for work, it had to also be a place for fun and that’s what my first store on Abbot Kinney was all about. I worked in the back and we played ping pong on our lunch break and then we had friends over to jam after work on the stage. We pretty much lived at the store, it was awesome. If I ever had a question about something I was designing, I could just walk into the store and ask my customers what they thought. It was not only fun, it just made sense.
Right now, I’m designing murals for our upcoming New York Soho location and it’s so fun to design art that we will then get to paint on the walls. That art will live on for years and people from all over the world will get to enjoy it. I love making each store unique and a true destination experience. So maybe the brick-and-mortar stores are more about me having fun, but it is definitely something I feel passionately about and I’ll never stop doing.
Are there any events coming up at the Austin store this fall?
We have live shows at the Austin store weekly and the bands we find are always amazing. We will have special after-parties during ACL of course, too. If you want to enjoy rad up-and-coming bands for free, follow our social media so you don’t miss out!
You do a lot of fun collaborations, any coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
I am super excited this year to be doing a collaboration with Shark Week. I’ve been watching Shark Week since I was a little girl and I think it’s an awesome way for people to learn about sharks. I’m a big scuba diver, so sharks are close to home for me. The gear we did for Shark Week is super rad and it’s fun to be part of something that spreads awareness of such an important species. In addition to the new Shark Week collab, we’re going to continue creating merch for select music festivals this summer – which, of course, I love doing!
Why did you choose to make Austin your home base?
After living in California for about 15 years and building my company I was ready to get back to my roots and be closer to family. I love California but I really love a small town and Austin is the perfect small town with a lot going on to keep me from being bored.
When I moved to Austin to build my store I realized how much I love Austin and decided then to make the move back. I spent the last 15 years traveling around opening stores and growing my team and company. I was 24/7 only focused on work for a very long time and that was what I had to do to build this brand. Now that I have a team I can trust and things are rolling along pretty good, I can work remotely. Now I have a great balance and can really experience other parts of life like travel, family and building a home. I also love being on the central time zone. I have a couple hours before my LA team wakes up where I can grind which is nice, and I’m closer to the East Coast which makes working with my East Coast staff easier.
Where are some of your favorite places in Austin?
There are so many! I love Lake Austin the most. Nothing beats a surf session late in the day on a weekday when I have the lake to myself and the sun is going down. I love to grab food at Ski Shores Cafe on the lake. I also love mountain biking in Austin and my favorite trails are over by Barton Springs. It’s so nice to take a dip in the springs after a ride. My favorite place to spend the day shopping would still be South Congress. It’s fun to drop into my store and say hi to my team and it’s also fun to see new shops popping up among the many original ones. South Congress is a great mix of new and old and I love that. My favorite thing about that street is that I can see the Capitol building while I walk around.
What Aviator Nation piece is currently your #1 seller?
Our number one seller continues to be our Five-Stripe Hoodie in Charcoal, but we also sell a ton of the Ninja Hoodie these days too.
What advice would you give an aspiring fashion designer?
My advice is to go for it. A lot of people tried to scare me in my early days telling me it was an impossible industry. The truth is it is extremely difficult and I would tell the aspiring designer to not expect anything less than a giant challenge and a lot of hard work, but if they are willing to do the work, be patient and overcome adversity and troubleshoot on a weekly basis, then they should go for it. It takes super thick skin and long hours but if it was easy then it would not be near as rewarding either. The reward of making it happen is worth it and to me, all the hard work is worth it because I get to do what I love for work. Nothing beats that. But you have to know that it’s never going to be easy!
Anything you’d like to add?
I love Austin and I am so grateful for the continued support from this community. From one Texan to another I just want to say thank you. Austin is not only my home but one of Aviator Nation’s biggest supporters and has been for many years. I’m excited to continue to grow with you.
Aviator Nation is located at 1325 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Find them on Instagram @aviatornation @paiegemycoski