Interview with Frank & Oak founder, Ethan Song

Today we’re chatting with Ethan Song, co-founder of Frank & Oak, a vertically integrated online menswear startup.  Ethan is in town from Montreal, and although Frank & Oak isn’t based in New York, a large portion of their customers are.  Frank & Oak offers premium threads with a simple, integrated, and personalized shopping experience.  From their website:

Every month, curators at Frank & Oak tap in the zeitgeist.  Our simple mission: to bring you the clothes you crave, efficiently, affordably and intelligently.  We studied different guys… their builds, how 
they move, how their clothes fit. Then we
created clothes that work: slim-fitting, 
yet extremely comfortable.

The company launched in February of this year.  Below is an adapted transcript of the interview:

Q: So how did you come up with the idea?

Before Frank & Oak, Hicham [Frank & Oak co-founder] and I co-founded another brand called Modasuite, which offered made-to-measure fine men’s clothing.  Modasuite had a great following, but because everything was bespoke, we couldn’t reach as many men as we wanted to.  We decided to try something else.  We decided to remove the barriers to looking good and dressing well, by offering a simple and personalized shopping experience at a lower price point.

Q: How has it been going so far?  Any stats that you can share with our readers?

Things are going really well. We launched in February of this year, and now we have more than 150,000 members.  That number is growing quickly, so people really seem to like our stuff and our concept.

Q: What’s been the biggest product for you guys?

We focus a lot on men’s tops, since they play a major role in defining men’s styles.  We’ve been expanding our offering in that category, offering v-necks, knits, and hoodies.

We focus a lot of our effort not only on creating products people will like, but also on creating a better overall shopping experience.

Q: I see that you’ve launched the Hunt Club, which is a subscription model.  What sparked that idea?

We don’t even think about it as subscription as much as a ‘membership’. The Hunt Club is a free service meant to further simplify the shopping process. The service selects and recommends pieces that are best suited for each member—based on the member’s profile—and gives customers special perks, like free shipping.

Q: What’s next for F&O?  What gets you excited?

We’re breaking into new categories—offering new types of clothing and accessories—but we’re also excited about innovation in personalization.  Our vision is to develop a predictive system that takes into account a member’s style preferences and shopping habits, and ultimately delivers a personalized and helpful shopping experience.

Q: Will there be offline stores or selling through retail channels down the line?

Ultimately, innovation right now is online for us—that’s where we can build a great company and move the market and the industry forward.  We want to build out both the technology and the fashion side, and right now, an online platform is the best place to do that.

That being said, offline touch points are definitely important and help customers experience our brand.  It’s for that reason, that we offer free at-home try-ons.

Q: Womenswear down the line?

Never say never, but there’s still a lot we want to do in menswear first.

Q: Who do you see as your competitors?

The global menswear market is $350B—it’s a huge market.  If you look at all of the menswear startups, they aren’t the ones who have that market share.  We see our competitors as the Gap, Ralph Lauren, and other larger brands.  We’re trying to reach and cater to a large market just like they are, but we do things in a different way.  Our business model allows us to be more collaborative with our customers and to offer products on a mass scale, but still with a personal touch.

Q: How do you think about collaboration?

When it comes time to design a collection or make changes to our site, collaboration is critical.  At the design stage, we take inspiration from relevant styles in the global community and from Frank & Oak member feedback.  Everyone on the team continually examines all of the skus to make sure they’re aligned with our customers’ styles.  We engage with our members online, and we see what they like, what they don’t like, and what they want more of going forward.

Similarly, when we improve upon our site or our shopping experience, we listen to what our customers have to say, too.  A lot of retail innovation happens through collaboration.

Visit Frank & Oak at www.frankandoak.com.

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