Posted by Collectively.org on August 31, 2015
I met Victoria Tik and Ian Maxion at their manufacturer's workshop in downtown L.A. so they could show me some new pieces from their brand Frock L.A., and take me on a little stroll through LA's garment district. When they began Frock five years ago, their small start-up fashion brand's emphasis on local manufacturing and sustainability was far ahead of the game. From the fabric they use to the people they employ, this team manages to keep their costs low and prove how attainable environmentally-conscious fashion can be.
They started out in San Francisco after both being laid off from advertising jobs. Victoria decided she was going to pursue a more creative life and delve into the world of fashion without very much industry experience or the degree to back it up, but she had gumption and drive, and a willingness to put the work in. "The best way to get into that industry is to dive in head-first and that's really what we did," Victoria said. "'Let's just start and learn as we go,' and we really have learned everything along the way." Victoria went to school for film on a scholarship so she didn't have a lot of debt to contend with. "We were able to start the company with very little money. At first we just had a five-piece collection," she said.
Having a background as an art director for advertising, Ian was able to utilize his skills to save the company money. "He learned how to be a fashion photographer," Victoria told me. "We used fresh faced models, and new photographers, and did as much as we could on our own. Victoria said that she felt like she would be missing out if she didn't learn about each part of her business. This commitment to know-how allowed Frock to become as sustainable as possible.
Ian and Victoria work well together, which may in part be because they've known each other since kindergarten. They have been life long friends and have started businesses together since they were teenagers. "The first day we really started hanging out I asked her if she wanted to play jump rope and we've been inseparable since then. She's always been a tomboy and I've always been a little flamboyant," Ian said.
Victoria and Ian as teenagers
Wether it was hosting garage sales or selling things online these two have always been working. They originally started Frock in the Bay area. "There just isn't enough production opportunities there," Ian said.
"It was 2009 and, if you remember, there was a recession, people were laying off sewers and manufactures," said Victoria. "So I said I was making clothes and wanted to hire locally, maybe get some of the sewers back to work, but eventually we moved to LA for the manufacturing." Ian lives very close to their manufacturers now, and Victoria is constantly in downtown to monitor production. "We do it in LA for quality control and ethics." They work very closely with the maven of the business, Marcella, who sews with her employees in a sun-drenched room, tending to the needs of her designers.
"We use bamboo because it absorbs the vegetable dye faster and uses way less water," she said. The import their fabric from Shanghai from a company that mechanically separates the pulp from the tree rather than using quick but harmful chemicals to do the same. "We have a great cutter and we use a low-waste cutting technique," Victoria explained. "Cutting down on waste really starts with the design process."
If they have an extra fabric left to a side of a cut out she will try to find a way to use it, or even make another, smaller garment from the excess. "Of course there are small scraps we can't use," she explained. But instead of throwing them away Frock donates the extra to a reusable baby diaper company or makes and stuffs pillows with the scraps.
"We used to have a younger demographic," Ian said when I asked why they switched to bamboo fabric from cotton. "We had a lot of t-shirts and t-shirt dresses. We got older and wanted to do more evening wear. Bamboo is so luxurious, it feels amazing." The Frock dresses are very sleek, and really sexy. "Our number one priority is to make a great product, we want you to be able to wear these forever," Ian said.
Cecilia Street with Victoria and Ian
Victoria and Ian didn't have to weave their own fabric or charge a huge amount of money for their clothes in order to produce a line of well designed, sustainable, urban women's wear. They just had to try.
"Sustainability doesn't just mean using bamboo, it goes way beyond that," said Victoria. "It's something any designer can do and any brand can do. It just requires a little bit more careful thought and a little bit more planning."