Frank+Oak evolves fashion offerings with casual collection for women
Founded with the idea of targeting young, male, entrepreneurial creatives, the Canadian fashion retailer quickly realized there was much broader interest.
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If the ultimate guide on how to launch a successful 21st century retailer existed, the case study would no doubt be Montreal’s Mile End-based Frank + Oak.
Since launching as on online-only menswear shop in 2012, the company has grown and adapted from a subscription-based model to an international omni-channel retailer with 16 brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. and Canada, including two permanent ones in Toronto plus a popup shop.
The brand’s most recent evolution is its entry into the womenswear market.
Mirroring the men's line, the pieces are minimalist and casual — Oxford shirt dresses, slim-fit turtlenecks and over-sized cocoon cardigans — and realized in neutrals (perfect for mixing-and-matching).
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Ethan Song, co-founder and CEO, said it was never a question of whether they would branch into womenswear, but when.
The brand’s story began when Song and Hicham Ratnani, co-founder and chief operating officer/chief financial officer, saw an opportunity in the men's market to target young, entrepreneurial creatives.
“There was way less product out there and it was around a time when guys wanted to dress more fashionably,” explains Song.
So Song and Ratnani, both engineers, created a brand geared toward the quintessential urban millennial man.
How Frank & Oak started
But where does the womenswear come in? It happened quite naturally.
Being an e-retailer (even today a majority of sales come from online), the company can track consumer habits from the instant someone arrives on their homepage. It was obvious from the beginning that women were buying — even though the line wasn’t aimed at them.
All that data has a big impact on the way Frank+Oak does business.
It influences design.
“A lot of the feedback that we received from fall is already integrated into the product that is coming out in the spring,” said Song.
And the in-store experience.
Features on the website allow clients to order product to the store if it’s not already in stock, pre-select items they want to try on and book time in a fitting room. Returns from online purchases can also be done in-store.
The company’s boutiques were built with a focus on community-building and customer service.
Inside their Queen West menswear location, for example, there’s a coffee and barber shop.
With the 2014 launch of a biannual print magazine, Oak Street, it became clear that Frank + Oak was shooting to become a complete lifestyle brand for creatives.
“We create creative content around the collection to help our customers make good choices,” said Song, speaking of the magazine and blog.
But it wasn't until the womenswear line launched that they achieved their big aim.
“When we talk about the creative community it does include both men and women,” said Song.