Is Aviator Nation's California Lifestyle Brand Worth It?

One woman, one sewing machine, and a deep love of vintage '70s vibes: That's how the Aviator Nation story begins. Paige Mycoskie created the brand steeped in the casual, sun-softened mood of the California surf scene. She loved the time-worn mood of vintage '70s fashion and the music scene that seemed to still linger in its fibers. In short, she was all-in on the aesthetic, which seamlessly channeled her personality.

This is so true that, while working at a surf shop in Venice Beach, she started to hand-sew vintage-inspired clothes. Eventually, she upgraded to a sewing machine and started churning out clothes that are the dreamy embodiment of a soulful surfer mood board. The brand's lowkey sex appeal has even been described as embodying "'Top Gun' swagger" by the Los Angeles Times.

What started in 2006 as a garage-based passion project has grown into a global brand, but not without hustle. Over the years, Mycoskie lovingly shlepped her wondrous wares to music festivals and created retail partnerships, folks who would allow her to have an independent display in their stores. Fast forward to the here and now, Aviator Nation has 16 retail stores, including a flagship store at the legendary Haight-Ashbury intersection in San Francisco. But it's always good to peek behind the curtain. So, is Aviator Nation's California lifestyle brand worth it?

The Aviator Nation price tag includes 350 important considerations

Fact: there are a lot of cheap clothing products and brands out there, but Aviator Nation is not one of them. A pair of the brand's sought-after Retro Sweatpants will run you about $150, but there's more to them than the price tag. Founder Paige Mycoskie prioritizes manufacturing in the United States. In fact, the brand's clothing — like the Ninja Pullover Hoodie — is handmade in a Los Angeles-based factory, where Mycoskie employs 350 people.

"I do my best to contribute to my country and to take care of my team. I am proud to say that not a single employee on my team went unpaid through Covid," Mycoskie mentioned on Aviator Nation's website. "Aviator Nation is my way of spreading love by giving people clothes that make them look and feel good. Aviator Nation will always be a made in America company."

She ultimately explained that it's more expensive to manufacture locally than abroad, but the designer decided nonetheless to include only a portion of that additional cost in the price tag. The rest comes out of her potential profit.

The brand keeps authenticity close at hand

A factory full of employees is a far cry from one gritty gal grinding it out in her garage. But Paige Mycoskie has maintained her dedication to her original mission: to create handmade vintage-inspired clothing. Like their signature rainbow jacket, all of the brand's designs are hand-drawn to preserve authenticity before incorporating into the manufacturing process.

Authenticity is at the heart of the brand, per Mycoskie, who explaiend, "...people who love Aviator Nation, and myself are all living this lifestyle that the clothes represent and that word of mouth is our marketing." She continued, "The garments are directly inspired by my lifestyle and my experiences, which really makes the brand more authentic."

However, producing clothing on a large scale requires efficiency, so the entrepreneur has to balance productivity and authenticity. So that iconic "AV" appliqué is hand-cut and hand-sewn, and the same holds for the neck labels as well. Their signature butter-soft yarns are custom-made for Aviator Nation, and the brand's luxe-leaning Vintage Cabin Cashmere Sweater Pants are no exception.

Still, the businesswoman is always up for a challenge. She even competed on "The Amazing Race" with her brother, TOMS shoe company founder Blake Mycoskie (via Athleisure Mag). Now, the brand's momentum continues as Aviator Nation creeps up on a quarter of a million followers on Instagram at the time of writing. Ultimately, we can't help but feel that this brand is worth the hype.