Vik Tchalikian made a name for himself in the car customization world, giving exotic makeovers to the cars and trucks of celebrities including Kendall Jenner, Chris Brown and Billie Eilish at RBD LA. And now, he is looking for a stake in the luxury sneaker market.
On June 15, he — alongside sneaker business partner Stephen Blazick — will launch RBD Shoes, a company rooted in automotive passions with silhouettes inspired by auto enthusiasts. The brand will launch on RDBshoes.com with four styles, which are produced in Spain and made with premium Italian leather. Also, the label said it will use carbon fiber in its shoes in a way that’s atypical from regular sneakers that utilize the material.
Below, Tchalikian and Blazick discuss what separates RBD Shoes from others and the challenges of launching a high-end footwear brand amid a pandemic.
Footwear News: What does RDB Shoes offer that other players in the market do not?
Stephen Blazick: “The goal was to create a shoe that paralleled the car world. Matching interior and exterior color schemes of super cars and aftermarket carbon fiber kits was for sure a priority and we wanted to transfer that look to our shoes. We decided very early on that carbon fiber needed to be part of all of our shoes, to really portray that luxury car feel and to set us apart in uniqueness. Because we chose to go this way, it is a natural evolution of RDB’s combined million-plus followers to be interested in a shoe that resembles their dream cars.”
How did your car customization background prepare you for the footwear market?
Vik Tchalikian: “Footwear has always been a passion of mine — almost as long as cars, actually. The designs, details, color combinations all fascinate me. It’s something that has inspired my work on cars over the years. I’ve built a reputation for customizing some of the best cars in the world and now I want to use that as inspiration for this collection. If you think about it, some of the same basic principles apply to both customizing a head-turning car and designing footwear.”
Why launch your brand with four silhouettes?
VT: “Sometimes you need convenience, comfort, to look polished or all the above. Sometimes you need a shoe that performs when you’re hugging those tight corners in your exotic car. Each of the silhouettes is designed to walk you through a different part of your life or suit a different situation. For example, the supportive Runner is perfect for easy lightweight driving and the Slides for easy barefoot pedal access. For the launch, the shoes are limited to 100 of each color.”
Who is your target consumer? And what is your retail strategy?
VT: “Our customer is an auto enthusiast, someone who appreciates the technical details of the shoes and the auto design influences. RDB’s audience is global, and so is the RDB Shoes customer. Our retail strategy is to launch direct-to-consumer through RDBshoes.com. When social distancing is no longer a concern, we have events — some of which will be co-hosted by friends and customers of RDB LA — and pop-up shops in the works. We plan to own the customer experience at launch. However, we aren’t opposed to retail collaborations in time.”
What fears, if any, do you have of launching a high-end footwear brand amid economic uncertainty?
VT: “We are keenly aware of the tough situation many have been put in due to the worldwide pandemic. This project has been taking shape over quite some time to perfect the product and unfortunately has come to a head in less than ideal times. However, we are hopeful the success of our launch will not be drastically affected thanks to our dedicated community. We have an anxious 1,500-plus person wait list for the shoes and it’s growing daily. This collection was made for our community of auto enthusiasts and we’re confident in their support.”