Victoria Tik looks more like she should be modeling the sleek, sustainable dresses of FROCK Los Angeles instead of designing them. But Tik has far bigger plans, as founder and designer of a line of eco-friendly, women's ready-to-wear designed to buck fashion trends.
She hopes for nothing less than establishing a classic style whose individual pieces are loved by those buying them today — and are later worn and coveted by their children.
FROCK might never have been if Tik hadn't been laid off from her San Francisco advertising gig five years ago. After briefly searching for a job, she decided to create her own. She parlayed her hobby of making her own clothes into a line that produced nearly 25,000 pieces in 2014.
"As awkward of a time that it was, it was also like there wasn't a better time," Tik says.
With the help of her photographer, marketing guru and BFF Ian Maxion, Tik moved FROCK from the Bay Area a few years ago, setting up shop in downtown L.A. The company soon grew from two employees to nine and expanded its retail reach globally.
Tik and Maxion now operate out of his spacious loft, just a few blocks from where FROCK's frocks are produced.
Most of the company's lush dresses, tops and pants are solid colors, and they find their distinct look in the seemingly effortless way they cling to curves, as well as their geometric cutouts, baring of skin and unique necklines.
Each piece is inspired by and named after a style maverick or feminine icon. Tik cites Marilyn Monroe and supermodels Chrissy Teigen and Kate Moss as among her inspirations.
"I've just put trends out of my mind and I think more about the woman itself," says Tik, a humble woman whose eyes communicate sheer focus. "What does she want to wear, not what Vogue is telling her to wear."
The Kate dress is, well, like the British babe herself: boho, sexy and draped with fringe. Luckily, you don't have to be as slim as Moss to wear it. To dispel misconceptions that one must be "a stick" to wear a FROCK, the company brought in women of all shapes — including a new mom — and dressed them, Maxion explains.
"We were able to prove that theory wrong," Maxion says. "As long as you're a confident girl, you can rock anything, especially FROCK."
If you're lucky enough to be a relative, Tik might name a dress after you. In honor of a family wedding, the designer added to her collection a sleek evening gown named Corrie and a bridesmaid-inspired dress named Noelle.
Tik now is designing a piece inspired by actor Blake Lively, the blond bombshell and fashionista, with whom the FROCK team is salivating to work.
"Blake Lively, if you're listening, call us!" jokes Maxion, an energetic guy with a look fit for a model.
The partners have lots of opportunities to promote the line out there in L.A.'s unnatural habitat — after all, celebrities need a new outfit for every magazine launch, movie screening and grocery-store outing. When celebs are spotted in a FROCK — as Leighton Meester, Laverne Cox and Britney Spears have been — it puts FROCK on the radar of big-name stores.
But seeing celebrities wear her clothes is "not the heart of the business, it's just the sprinkle on top," Tik says.
The company is focused instead on appealing to the "everyday" girl, or, to be frank, the slightly more high-end everyday girl willing to pay up to $350 for a dress. FROCK's chatty blog, written by Tik and her team, helps customers accessorize purchases, convert or layer items for use in multiple seasons — or even turn a FROCK item into a Cleopatra or Marilyn Monroe costume for Halloween.
The customer service reps double as fashion consultants, Tik says, helping customers pick the right dress with little more information than the client's bra size.
"We teach our clients how to wear it," she explains. "And how to dress. And how to accessorize it."
Even Tik needs help once in a while to pull off a look she sees on a model.
"I'm just a foot shorter than everyone, so I have to kind of tailor it to myself," she says. "I can't just throw anything on and look the way that girls do in the magazines."
FROCK dresses aren't cheap; among the costlier ones are floor-length pieces with detailed cutouts and sheer patchwork. But Tik says the prices are competitive, especially in the eco-friendly clothing market, which hikes costs at the mere mention of "vegan material."
"We priced it strategically so no one felt like they were being punished for wanting to go green," Tik says.
It seems as if everything FROCK does is strategic, which is a lot of what has made Tik a successful entrepreneur. For instance, while "sustainable" may seem to be a buzzword going the way of "organic," Tik uses it to refer to not only materials she uses — such as vegetable dyes and bamboo — but also her styling, which can be worn in many combinations and over many seasons.
Take the convertible Angie dress, designed to be backless, which can be turned around and worn as a plunging V-neck. Nearly all the materials are machine-washable, a rarity for pricier pieces that feel like softened butter.
FROCK has produced two collections each year rather than four, in part because Tik's items are intended to transcend weather conditions. Next year, FROCK will release a bathing-suit "cruise collection," with tops that also can be worn under a blazer or sheer blouse.
Tik contracts with L.A. seamstresses, pattern makers and other production personnel. As the company has grown, department-store buyers have advised her to move her manufacturing to China and begin replacing her jersey fabric with lower-quality stock.
"That's not our motto. That's not why we got in business," Tik says. "We're not going to move our manufacturing overseas. It's completely doable here — you just have to be smarter about your choices, and you don't cut corners when it comes to production."
But knowing where to cut corners is the key to success, she adds. Look no farther than the explosively successful retailer Nasty Gal for proof. The party girl/rocker-chic brand expanded from a home operation to a massive online store and, recently, to a brick-and-mortar spot on Melrose Avenue. Annual sales? About $100 million in 2012.
Tik attributes some of that company's success to the frugal nature of Nasty Gal's founder-CEO, Sophia Amoruso. Known as #GIRLBOSS, her money savvy got its due, thanks to an anecdote she's shared in media interviews. As Amoruso tells it, she returned from a trip to find $12,000 worth of designer chairs in her offices, got pissed about the wasted money and sold the chairs on Craigslist.
Tik would like to think of Amoruso and Nasty Gal as her predecessor, noting that FROCK is producing about the same number of units as Nasty Gal when it began.
Maxion offers this analogy: If Nasty Gal is Beyoncé, then FROCK is her less-known but equally stylish little sister, Solange.
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"It's kind of almost silly looking back at myself thinking that here's this girl with, like, no fashion experience, fresh out of college, who thinks she's going to have her own line," Tik says. "But that kind of fearlessness got us really far."
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