Whether it's on wheels or on heels, it makes no difference to RDB Shoes founder Vik Tchalikian — he wants yours to be tricked out. Tchalikian, famed owner of RDB LA, a luxury auto shop that designs rides for celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Billie Eilish, and DJ Khaled, just launched a direct-to-consumer men's footwear collection inspired by his need for speed and love of shoes.
Designed in L.A. and produced in Spain, the debut RDB Shoes collection includes ergonomic runners, Italian full grain leather high tops, calf skin slides, and suede loafers ranging from $350 to $525. With names inspired by L.A. sights, each pair's exterior and interior incorporates Tchalikian's penchant for luxe finishes, like high-tech carbon fiber and artisanal Italian tanned leather. Black and white colorways with a hint of blue or red add to the sharp aesthetic.
"Automotive design and footwear come hand in hand for me. RDB Shoes is a natural transition from driving in style to walking with style. It is all about the highest quality," says Tchalikian, who opened his car studio RDB LA in 2005.
Tchalikian and his business partner Stephen Blazick, an entrepreneur and digital marketing pro, have been working on RDB Shoes since 2019 and launched during the summer.
We recently spoke with Tchalikian to learn more about how he married his passion for cars and shoes, what it was like launching a shoe brand in the age of coronavirus, and the most surprising thing about his job as a high-end car designer. Keep reading, and check out @rdbshoes to get you and yours some kicks that can be dressed up or down.
Tell us about your journey to opening RDB LA Auto Center.
This journey really started when I was very young. As a kid, I always remember helping wash my father's car. I was obsessed with real cars and toy cars at a super young age. I would tend to break a lot of my toy cars and try to fix them myself. As I started getting into my teens, I started building RC cars and upgrading them. I would literally make my parents drive me to the Hobby stores daily! Once I hit my teenage years, I also started to geek out over shoes and always wanted to have the newest and coolest shoes.
When I was able to actually drive, I already started to upgrade any vehicle I got my hands onto. I would spend all night in my parents' garage installing and removing parts on my BMW. At one point, I started an e-commerce website selling auto parts. I was also a customer for a few small car shops out in L.A., spending so much of my time at some locations that I eventually had to open up my own shop. That was about 15 years ago!
How has business at RDB LA been since the onset of the pandemic?
Business has increased! People have more free time and have nowhere to go, but they still love their cars!
What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your job?
We like to work on all types of vehicles, from $2,000 cars to $2 million ones.
When did the idea for RDB Shoes first enter your consciousness?
I always like pursuing my passions and as a shoe collector I always thought about making my own shoes. I couldn't find something that checked off all my boxes, so I thought, well, I should just make my own.
What was the inspiration for the collection?
Footwear and exotic cars go hand in hand for me. Launching RDB Shoes is a merging of doing something you love and marrying your business with your passion. I always loved fashion and shoes, but making a brand new business/product is very difficult. Stephen [Blazick] helped push the idea into an actual brand/product!
How did you and Stephen Blazick meet and start working together?
Stephen would bring his vehicles over for makeovers and we always loved to talk business. He also knew how much I loved shoes so every time he would come by with his cars we would talk more about it. Eventually, our conversations turned into RDB Shoes.
Who are your style icons?
My good friend Mike Amiri started his own luxury clothing/shoe brand and it really took off over the years. He has a cool rock-and-roll streetwear aesthetic, but still very high-quality and luxurious. Seeing a real guy like Mike build this brand has always been inspiring for me.
How did your passion for luxury cars inspire the design and materials of the shoes?
Most luxury cars have really amazing interiors. I get to see many different colors and materials used with different models of cars. The material carbon fiber is used in most exotic vehicles either inside, outside or even structurally, so I was inspired to use carbon fiber in our shoes — all of our shoes have carbon fiber incorporated in them somewhere.
Also, for example, our tan leather material used on the shoes is very similar to what Ferrari traditionally uses in their interiors. We also use a lot of perforated leathers, which can be found in many luxury vehicles and supercars.
Describe the RDB Shoes customer.
Most of our customers are very like-minded individuals. They love style, they really appreciate quality craftsmanship, and are almost always passionate, business-minded people. All our customers are very personable, unique, and talented. We have a truly amazing clientele that we appreciate.
What was the most challenging part about creating and launching the line?
Definitely timing and budget! This is where Stephen and his help came in. I'm super busy at the shop working and dealing with my own customers, so building a team to help out with the shoe line was really helpful. Once the line was established, the most difficult part was really creating the actual shoes. Sampling and designing requires much more time than I realized..
What do you think is the most special part about the collection?
I own hundreds of shoes and the interiors of our shoes feel the best. Really, the interiors of all of our shoes are amazing. They are literally as good as the outside! Too many shoes focus on making the exterior look cool and forget about how the shoe feels to wear. After all, your foot is actually inside the shoe.
Which pair of shoes was your favorite to design?
I would have to say the runners and sneakers. They're very technical and have a lot of parts to them, so even though they took a lot of hard work, it was very rewarding to finally see the finished shoe. We are actually in the process of creating a new sneaker, which I'm very excited about!
What was it like launching a shoe collection during a global pandemic?
Tough, for sure. Our launch event and pop-up shop had to be cancelled entirely, and production got pushed back a few months as factories in Spain had to shut down. But just like my other business, we continued meeting and working on designs, which paid off in the end!
When can shoe lovers expect the next drop?
We are pushing to have a new drop ready by November 2020! We'll do our first announcement on our Instagram @rdbshoes.