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IN CONVERSATION Brock Collection

Guest columnist, Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine sits down with Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock, the couple – in both life and work – behind Brock Collection.

While Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock were giving birth to their professional baby, Brock Collection, they also fell pregnant with an actual baby. ‘We did the math and realised that we got pregnant the night after our first presentation in Paris,’ Brock recalled. And in the two and a half years since its launch, Brock Collection has become one of the most exciting labels to emerge from New York. (The couple’s son, Charlie, ‘an intuitive Sagittarius who knows exactly what he wants,’ as Vassar explains, isn’t bad either.)

Although they have moved to California and are now in the final stages of transitioning a bulk of Brock operations out of New York, the brand remains anchored there as a sort of symbol of the new American fashion. It’s romantic and feminine at its most literal, but when you get deeper, it’s also emotional and amorphous – reflective of how it feels to wear someone else’s heart, heck, their whole family, on your sleeve. I met the designers to discuss partnership, how the CFDA has affected their business and the importance of doing what’s best for them.

Brock: ‘We met at Parsons [School of Design in New York] in 2010 during our second-to-last semester when we were spending 24 hours a day at school.’
Vassar: ‘Kris was never in class! I always thought, “Who is this person who doesn’t do any of his projects?”’
Brock: ‘That’s not true.’
Vassar: ‘You didn’t do a single thing! The night before our final project was due, he looked over at me and was like, “Can I borrow muslin and scissors?” I noticed he’s sewing on the machine – fitting something and I’m just thinking, “Oh gosh, he’s so far from finished.” When we got closer, he would ask me, “Why don’t we just work on my project for a few hours and then we’ll work on your project for a few hours?”’
Medine: ‘So you were a collaborator out of the gates, Kris?’

We romanticise the pieces that [the Brock woman] lives in. We make pieces that she has to have… Our goal is just to make her feel good.

Brock: ‘I guess so. Right after school, I worked as a tailor and Laura started styling again and we worked together. Before we started Brock, we were essentially a stylist/tailor duo.’
Medine: ‘Well that’s kind of what a designer is, right? A stylist who can tailor? When did you get married?’
Vassar: ‘In 2014. I was two months pregnant. We had just launched Brock in Paris, which is when I got pregnant.’
Medine: ‘What do you feel defines the world and story of Brock Collection?’
Vassar: ‘Romantic American sportswear – the brand has changed but the woman has not. We romanticise the pieces that she lives in. We make pieces that she has to have. The jeans, the sweaters, the crisp cotton shirting and then those over-the-top romantic dresses and separates that she has a cocktail in. Our goal is to just make her feel good.’

Medine: ‘And probably to show her that she can be tough and romantic and feminine at once! But back to your wedding…’
Brock: ‘Everything sort of happened at one time. We sent out Paperless Post invites for an engagement party and…’
Vassar: ‘…I was like, “Do you think we can pull it off?” We did a surprise wedding. Everyone arrived at our engagement party, and it was a wedding.’
Medine: ‘How big was Brock back then?’
Brock: ‘Tiny. We’re seven people full time now.’
Medine: ‘Last year at this time, Man Repeller was seven, too. Now we’re 20.’
Brock: ‘We hired a very close friend as a CEO/CFO/president. We’re small so it’s a lot of roles. But he really lets us focus on creative.’
Vassar: ‘And he really treats Brock like it’s his own, we’re like a tight knit family.’
Medine: ‘What’s the design process like?’ Vassar: ‘So we start the collection – I’m thinking and researching, and he’s looking at images and researching. We do it totally separately, and then we present our work to each other and that’s kind of when shit hits the fan.’
Medine: ‘Do you guys argue?’
Brock: ‘Yeah, but in a good way.’
Vassar: ‘It’s like, “I don’t love this, how can we make it better?”’
Medine: ‘And then what happens?’
Vassar: ‘Before sketching we’re usually on the same page with theme.’

Brock: ‘And then we'll start sketching and come together and often gravitate towards something and give comments and then we’ll go back and work separately.’
Vassar: ‘And there are pieces that we love of each other’s, so we develop those further and turn them into full stories within the collection.’
Brock: ‘We definitely have our own points of view. I think that if you look at the collection and you know our aesthetics, you can pull out who is who. She’s more feminine and my chips are more masculine. But I think that’s what makes the collection what it is – the hard and the soft. Most of what we preach is quality so we work with all the best factories in New York, and really amazing factories in Italy.’

If you look at the collection and you know our aesthetics, you can pull out who is who. She’s more feminine and my chips are more masculine.

Medine: ‘Is it hard working from California when so much of your business is in New York?’
Brock: ‘Well, Charlie was born in December two years ago and it was freezing and we were stuck in an apartment.’
Vassar: ‘But also, we needed balance – New York was getting hard, and at the end of the day our family has to come first and feel strong and happy for us to feel like our business can operate well. We’re still back and forth a ton, but we were excited about the opportunities in LA. There’s a lot of potential for growth there and the energy is different.’

Medine: ‘How did winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund last year affect your business?’
Brock: ‘Before we did the Vogue Fashion Fund, we spoke to a few people who had gone through the process and they all said the same thing: it changes your life. It’s hard to understand what that means until you go through it, but meeting the judges, then being able to use them as sounding boards – it’s priceless. When you start a business, you hit the ground running and don’t really have time to look back at some of the stuff the Vogue Fashion Fund makes you think about it: your company’s finances and goals and creative evolution. When you’re in it you kind of just do it, which teaches you a lot about yourself and running a company. It’s so valuable.’
Vassar: ‘In order to be nominated for a CFDA, every aspect of your business is looked at. You just have to be really prepared to answer a lot of questions. So we prepared ourselves. And now that it’s under our belts, I feel like the pressure is even more on, in a great way. Just continuing to push and do better.’
Medine: ‘I always say that anyone can build a business, it’s actually sustaining the business that’s hard. Do you remember what drove you to launch at all?’
Brock: ‘I think it was a goal for us as individuals, and then when we met at fashion school it just became a dream that we had together. I think back to all of the points of who our woman is and trying to make her feel confident and beautiful and comfortable – that was the start of it all.’
Vassar: ‘It felt like it was a need. It was like...’
Medine: ‘…Your purpose?’
Vassar: ‘Yes.’

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PHOTOGRAPHS: IMAXTREE, MITCHELL SAMS

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