167: Paige Mycoskie – Designing Your Life Through Your Art With Products

Podcast

“Once I started sewing clothes for myself, I realized it was something I was wildly passionate about.”
Paige Mycoskie

Welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio) the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey.

I’m extra excited about my guest today because I’ve known her for 10 years. I have worked with her on creative photography on multiple campaigns for her brand one of my absolute favorite clothing brands. You’ve probably seen me wear some of her stuff on my Instagram

Her name is Paige Mycoskie, and she’s the inspired creator behind Aviator Nation’s luxury seventies hoodies and sweatpants. 

Paige masterfully understands how to develop her craft and express her creativity in a way that becomes a beacon of positivity in the world. Here’s a preview from our interview:

How can I use [a bad experience] to create a positive experience for the world and make a positive difference? [Making a positive impact] gives me a lot of satisfaction, and so when young girls reach out and tell me I’ve inspired them to do what they want and start their own business and stuff like that that makes me feel better than selling hoodies.”
Paige Mycoskie

I resonate deeply with that. Paige’s story is fantastic, and I’m excited to share it with you today.

In this episode, we talk about how she started sewing clothes, the inspiration for sewing her first collection in her parents’ house in Texas, her creative way of approaching buyers for the clothes, and how she hustled to build her empire into what it is today. Paige will give you some excellent advice on applying yourself diligently in pursuit of your creative expression, so let’s go! 

Who Is Paige Mycoskie?

Paige attended college at Arizona State University where she studied journalism and was an avid athlete, and she continues to enjoy surfing, scuba diving, water skiing, and snowboarding. Paige did The Amazing Race with her older brother Blake (the founder of TOMS Shoes). The Amazing Race pulled Paige to California, and she fell in love with Southern California’s wilderness between Calabasas and Malibu — particularly enjoying the mountains to hike and ocean to surf. 

“I came out to California for the race and also for an internship working for Shape Magazine for a summer after my junior year of college. I was at the beach a lot because I was staying with a friend in Malibu, and I pretty much fell in love with surfing and spent the summer doing that internship, and as soon as that internship was over, I packed up my bags and pretty much moved to LA. I made a lot of friends through The Amazing Race, so they gave me a job casting for Survivor.”
Paige Mycoskie

Paige explored her creative side by doing photography on the side and even began shooting weddings and whatever other small gigs she could to make money and keep surfing on her downtime. The surf community connected her with a surf shop looking to hire someone part-time. 

“I just loved the people I was working with and kind of fell in love with that retail world, but specifically the small mom-and-pop retail world. While I was working there, I was also shopping at flea markets and thrift stores. I realized my style was super soft t-shirts, hoodies, and sweats, but all the brands selling in the surf shop [didn’t] feel right for me. I could never find something I really loved, or I would find stuff I love, but it was never the right fit. Finally, I just bought a sewing machine, some dyes at an art store, and I started learning how to make clothing.”
Paige Mycoskie

If you can’t find what you’re looking for — make it! Paige was simply trying to satisfy her own desires. Through finding the soft fabric and a comfortable fit, Paige, being a nature lover, also realized she wanted to put designs like sunsets and mountains onto her clothes. Paige would find designs and then learn the single needle technique synonymous with the brand — sewing stripes and designs on top of clothing, all done by hand.

It didn’t take long for people to start asking Paige about her clothes, which made her realize she could turn this into a business, and so Aviator Nation was born.

Aviator Nation’s First Sale

It’s one thing to enjoy making clothes for yourself — it’s another to turn your talent into one of the most recognizable clothing brands! Paige’s love for sewing her clothes unearthed a major passion that she obsessed over.

“I would stay up all night long making stuff because I wanted to get it right. It was so obvious to me that I needed to be doing that. I was at the end of a lease, so I had to move out. I said, ‘I think I want to go home to Texas where my parents were and just sew up a collection and then take it to a boutique and try to sell it and see if I can turn this into a job.’”
Paige Mycoskie

Paige turned her stress of being kicked out into an opportunity to reimagine her future.

Being home meant fewer bills to stress over and more time to throw into sewing day and night. Paige was honing her craft and even started developing patterns. 

Three months later, Paige finally felt like she had a solid little collection and a rack full of clothes. Returning to California, she decided to approach Fred Segal in Santa Monica — she felt if she could break into one of the most iconic surf stores, everyone else would follow.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I went over to Fred Segal [with] some photographs that I’d taken of the clothes. I walked in and just said, ‘Hey, I live in Venice. I made these clothes. They’re amazing. They’re super soft. Everyone stops me [and tries] to buy them from me. I really think you guys should carry it.’ The girl working there, of course, was, ‘Ah, well, the buyer’s not here. I don’t know what to tell you.’ I left some photos of the clothes, and I left my phone number. I was in the parking lot starting my car, and my phone rang — it was Fred Segal’s buyer! She said, ‘I just saw you, I loved what you were wearing, and I love the photos of your clothes. I would love to meet with you. When can you meet?’ I was like, ‘How about tomorrow?’”
Paige Mycoskie

I love Paige’s confidence in her product to boldly dive straight into the best boutique store and leave photos of her collection. Her confidence was rewarded immediately with a meeting with their buyer. The meeting went so well that the buyer bought almost everything off the rack — an $8,000 order. That is a significant order for a wholesale account!

The big question the buyer had was, “How soon can I get it?” Paige used her experience to commit to three months and sealed the deal. 

“I had this huge order, and I knew I was going to go home and make the clothes. I knew I had three months, so I [stopped in this] other store called Planet Blue and said, ‘I may close Fred Segal, you guys are gonna want to have it because you’re going to miss out.’ I had all this confidence, and luckily the buyer was actually there, … and he was the men’s buyer for Planet Blue. I had sold the women’s sizes to Fred Segal, and then [Planet Blue} wanted it all for the men, so it was great because now I had a great store carrying the women’s sizes and great stores carrying the men’s sizes.”
Paige Mycoskie

By day’s end, Paige finished with about $13,000 in orders to work on! Paige had a spark of inspiration to use the purchase orders to ask Wells Fargo bank for a small business credit line. They immediately gave her $8,000, which she used to buy fabric and dye. 

Once again, Paige spent the next three months sewing clothes by hand, and all of a sudden, she had a brand. Now she needed a name.

How Paige Mycoskie Chose “Aviator Nation”

I love the brand name Aviator Nation, and I’m always curious to hear the backstory of how founders come up with their brand name.

“My favorite movie of all time was Top Gun — I was obsessed! There was just something about the style of what was happening in that movie, and a big consistent part of the style was their aviator sunglasses. I always felt like aviator sunglasses were super rad, and from that movie, I kind of developed this love of aviator sunglasses and that classic California style. I feel like no matter what you’re wearing or who you are — if you put on a pair of aviator sunglasses, you instantly look cool. I was sitting in my room trying to figure out what to name the clothes, and I [pictured] a photoshoot [with] people wearing aviators and my clothes. I started thinking, ‘Okay, I like the word “aviator.”’ Then I really wanted this brand to bring people together and do something more than just be clothes on someone’s back. That’s where Nation kind of came in — it’s this group of people brought together by these clothes.”
Paige Mycoskie

I love the intention behind the creation of the brand name and how it expanded to bring people together. Paige’s unique brand was creating waves and bringing people together in the most unexpected way.

“When I was making [the clothes] for myself, people literally walked up to me out of nowhere and were like, ‘What are you wearing?’ The clothes got attention, my style was bold, the colors were bold, and people really came out of nowhere! Turning [my clothes] into a brand to sell. I wanted to tell people about that [experience]. So in the label, it says, ‘When you’re wearing these clothes, people will come out of nowhere and want to know who you are.”
Paige Mycoskie

Paige’s heart and soul are in her clothes and designs. With her bold expression using color and style, she has her recipe for Creative Alchemy. 

Overcoming Struggles and Challenges

Creatives have two challenges to overcome constantly: tuning into their creativity and monetizing their craft. I was curious to learn about one of Paige’s biggest struggles since creating Aviator Nation in 2006 and how she overcame it.

“Over 13 years, through hiring different people to help me with the clothes, some people have stolen from me and taken a big deposit of money and disappeared. One time specifically, I had a lot of big orders that I needed to fill, and I hired this new group of people to help me. I gave $35 thousand, and they disappeared. It was a moment where I was confused and felt like I was on the right path, and this huge thing set me back.”
Paige Mycoskie

Paige stumbled that season and was unable to deliver on time. She had to ask favors from smaller suppliers, and thankfully, they pulled through for her — but it became a huge turning point and realization for her.

“I learned that I needed to have my own factory. I realized I couldn’t trust [many] people out there, and I became a little bit harder [to] trust. I had to figure out how to have my factory, and I wanted [the workers] to be paid properly. I did that — and that was a game-changer for me. It was a big investment, buying a lot of machines and [ensuring everyone had] workman’s [compensation] and insurance — but it was definitely the way to go.”
Paige Mycoskie

The financial outlay was substantial, but the reward was more control of her supply chain and the treatment of the people making her clothes. Paige takes great pride in building a fantastic working environment for her staff, and her care shines through in all of Aviator Nations’s 14 stores.

Paige understands that her success doesn’t have to be at the expense of others. She’s proud that her clothes aren’t just an experience for the owners — but every maker too. 

The Formula for Creative Alchemy

Paige has given us genuinely impactful wisdom and is an example of how to follow your Creative Alchemy. She has great insights into how powerful we can be when we tap into who we are and what we love. Paige only designs clothes she would wear — and that authenticity continues to draw people to Aviator Nation.  

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens through which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes, but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes. 

If you loved this episode, make sure to connect with Paige and visit her company website, Aviator Nation, and follow them on social media — Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Paige is also sharing her creative process on her personal Instagram page, which is worth checking out. 

And by the way, don’t forget to check out my website too. There, you can find a quick ten-question quiz designed and get some of my best free content to help you out on your creative journey.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag Paige, @paigemycoskie, and me, @nickonken. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple Podcasts. I’d love to hear your feedback.

I’ll catch you guys next time — now go live the creative lives you were meant for.

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!

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“Having this retail store is really helping me understand where to take the clothes, and it’s just a fun experience.”
Paige Mycoskie

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • How Aviator Nation got started [5:05]
  • How Paige bootstrapped her entire business [9:31]
  • The process of growing the company [28:53]
  • When Aviator Nation moved into retail and what Paige learned along the way [35:55]
  • Paige’s views on spirituality, the universe, and God [50:21]
  • What Paige sees in the future for herself and Aviator Nation [1:04:35]

Connect with Paige Mycoskie on AviatorNation.com | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Different strokes for different folks.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or full time creative hustler, everyone needs something a little bit different on their journey.

Take the Creative Identity Quiz

to figure out what type of creative you are, and get a customized guide to help you figure out where to go next – totally free.

Take the Quiz Now!

Different strokes for different folks.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or full time creative hustler, everyone needs something a little bit different on their journey.

Take the Creative Identity Quiz

to figure out what type of creative you are, and get a customized guide to help you figure out where to go next – totally free.

Take the Quiz Now!