Frank & Oak is an online-only clothing store for men built exclusively on memberships. The company was founded by Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani in 2012 out of Montreal.
The shop offers a collection of handpicked styles curated specifically to each member’s individual taste. Though the concept might not seem incredibly original today it was in 2012. On that cold February Song and Ratnani launched their dream journey ahead of the e-commerce wave.
Today Frank & Oak caters to over 500,000 members with over 15% of sales being accumulated through a mobile app.
I had a chance to chat with Ethan on the phone a little while back about the challenges they faced while starting up.
“I would say that when we first started it felt like the world was against us: we couldn’t get the right product or get it in time, we couldn’t control the entire supply chain, and the website kept on malfunctioning. As a result, first thing we learned is that we simply couldn’t control everything.
“The biggest challenge was that we were both, a digital and a manufacturing company. People couldn’t understand that at the time so they didn’t want to work with us. They’d ask us how many stores we have and we’d say “none, we’re a website” and that was hard for people to grasp in 2012.”
Song also talked about the difficulties they faced trying to put out the right product at the right price point without sacrificing quality but within 3 months of the launch they saw a community coming together:
“It wasn’t as much about the product as it was about shared values,” Ethan recalled, “the brand took a life of its’ own; the product now stood for something.”
The brand is still growing but Song and Ratnani learned a lot of useful lessons during the tough times. Today the Frank & Oak is a team of technologists and product designers working on becoming the brand of the new generation while reshaping the perception of lifestyle brands within the context of technology.