By Rosalind Fournier
How do you evoke a city, great memories and a journeyman’s sense of adventure with just three letters?
For Ben Lancaster, Birmingham native and owner of the lifestyle brand Aviate, it can all be captured in an airport code. Lancaster first founded Aviate in 2015 with the idea of “bringing a sense of community and city pride to Birmingham” by emblazoning BHM on high-quality, classic caps, says Randall Porter, Aviate’s director of brand communications. The first 100 samples sold out in under two days.
The company has since expanded to dozens of other cities—so far the most popular (in this order) are St. Louis (STL), Atlanta (ATL), Charleston (CHS), Charlotte (CLT), Nashville (BNA), Houston (HOU), Dallas (DAL), Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW) and Birmingham (BHM). But that’s only a small sampling. Porter says Aviate now has products designed for more than 140 cities throughout the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
While the caps are sold in a couple of actual airports—namely Denver and Charlotte—most are found in retailers and chains outside of airports. All told, 500 retailers in 30 states already carry Aviate products, which have now grown to include a handful of T-shirt and sweatshirt styles along with hats, some featuring new designs without codes that simply celebrate the spirit of aviation. Meanwhile, a true Millennial brand, Aviate has leveraged the marketing power of using campus ambassadors, social-media influencers and bloggers to help build brand awareness at the grass-roots level.
Porter says philanthropy is also a cornerstone value of the company, which works with organizations such as Make-a-Wish Alabama, the Exceptional Foundation, and His Hands Mission.