A millennial car customizer who counts Lebron James and Kendall Jenner among his clients explains why he's expanding his business with a luxury shoe line
- Car customizer Vik Tchalikian has a client list that includes Lebron James, Kendall Jenner, and even singer Billie Eilish.
- In early July, Tchalikian expanded his car business, RDB LA, into the luxury fashion sector by launching a shoe line: RDB Shoes.
- In an interview with Business Insider, Tchalikian talks about the transition from cars to luxury fashion, and what he's learned about making high-end shoes.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
To car customizer Vik Tchalikian, it doesn't matter if you drive a Mercedes Benz G-Wagon or a Honda Accord — if you want a snowplow attached to the front of your car, he'll do it.
"Logan Paul had us put a snowplow on the front of his big G-Wagon Mercedes Benz," Tchalikian told Business Insider. "That job cost almost 30,000."
Apparently, according to Tchalikian, the snowplow was used just once for a Youtube video where Paul smashed through objects with it. After the video was finished, Paul removed the plow and hasn't used it since.
"He still has the snowplow," Tchalikian continued. "I guess it's at his house somewhere."
Unusual requests like that are common for Tchalikian, who is best known as the owner of the famed car customization company RDB LA. Located in the heart of Hollywood, the company's client list includes noteworthy names like Lebron James, DJ Khaled, Kendall Jenner, and even Billie Eilish.
The company, Tchalikian says, has grown "very rapidly" since its doors first opened 15 years ago — and it's not just celebrities who have taken an interest in his services. On social media, the company has amassed a sizable following: a Youtube channel with half a million subscribers and an Instagram page with over 600,000 followers.
In fact, according to Tchalikian, both cars and people from all over the world travel to RDB LA just to get a taste of their work.
"Usually we get a guy that gets a new car, and even though it's a very nice car, they want us to further customize it for them, personalize it," he said. "We can change the color of these cars, we can do whatever they want. We've done a lot of vehicles for music videos, album covers, even cars for Coachella."
Tchalikian is expanding his auto business into an unexpected direction: luxury fashion
Perhaps Tchalikian's experience in design should have given a hint as to where he would next take the creative ambitions of both he and his company. In early July, RBD LA released its luxury shoe line, RDB Shoes— a project Tchalikian spent a year working on developing. The shoes are currently available to purchase online.
"I'm very passionate about shoes," he said. "A lot of guys are."
But this shoe line isn't mere merch for the store: Its intended to develop into a luxury brand and Tchalikian says it was designed in the same factory that Louis Vuitton uses in Spain. Made with the "high-end driver" in mind, the hand-made shoes range in price from $350 to $525 and include leather loafers, high-top sneakers, and easy slip-on slides.
"I work with so many different types of people on their cars and realized that not everybody is exactly the same," he said. "Some guys wear high-tops all the time; some guys are into loafers. What I wanted to do was to get into all those aspects of our audience, so everyone could pick a style that they liked."
Tchalikian had been pondering the shoe idea for months with a friend, Stephen Blazick, who has since come onto the project as a business partner. Tchalikian said he has always wanted to expand into fashion, and that his background in cars really helped him when it came to designing some of the pieces.
"We have the runner shoe that is geared toward the sporty guy who's driving the sports car; there are guys that like to drive barefoot so we made slides," he continued. "High-tops are for going out at night, and then the [loafers] are, of course, the classy version where you can wear them anytime."
The pandemic briefly delayed the launch of his brand — but now he's back and better than ever
Tchalikian had been promoting the brand earlier this year but paused as the pandemic swept through the country.
Instead, the company teased the launch, and then, when July came around, decided to release a full-blown promo campaign: a very on-brand photoshoot that paired nice cars with nice shoes, Ferraris and Mercedes Benzes splashed all over the company's social media pages.
"We have two of the shoes on display at Cool Kicks LA, which is the biggest sneaker consignment shop in Los Angeles," Tchalikian said. "It's really about targeting our existing RDB audience."
He also told Business Insider that a few celebrities and influencers who were fans of the brand before have expressed interest in collaborating on shoe lines in the future. For example, he says, rapper Chief Keef saw some of the new shoes after RDB LA redid his Lamborghini. He then promptly agreed to promote a pair, which Tchalikian said was "really cool."
"We have a lot going on," Tchalikian said. "We already have a few [collaborations] in the works right now."
But for the most part, and especially as a pandemic continues to take hold of the nation, Tchalikian and the RDB family are taking it one day at a time. And when it comes to managing the new brand, Tchalikian admits that he never thought making quality shoes would be this hard. At least, not as hard as putting a snowplow on a G-Wagon.
"It's very tough to build a true business from scratch. A lot of people we see entering the market just get a product and change the color or something. That's pretty easy," he said. "But it's very hard to make a high-quality shoe … and I'm excited to finally launch this."
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