Frank & Oak is an online clothing store that offers a unique and free service known as the Hunt Club, which helps each of its members select pieces that suit their style and flair best.
What do they base their recommendations on? Once each customer joins the club, they have to fill out a survey consisting of questions that help build their profile. Once the customer starts buying more, the recommendations, which are crafted through a team of very talented and experienced individuals, are even more individualized to each shopper. The website also offers great social content such as profiles on stylish men, party coverage, the Frank & Oak’s monthly colour picks and more. It is a website that is visually and mentally engaging with the end factor being a closet full of wearable and very well made pieces, such as oxford shirts, hoodies and ties. We chatted up Co-Founder Ethan Song on what makes the business model work, the challenges, and goals for the future.
How did the idea of Frank & Oak grow?
I noticed that a lot of my male friends hated shopping and always had a difficult time finding clothes they liked. Trekking to stores, choosing from hundreds of brands, trying on clothes that don’t fit well or are too expensive – it can all be a stressful ordeal. I co-founded Frank & Oak both to simplify and to personalize the shopping experience for men. I knew that if we could offer great products and an easy way to shop, lots of men would be interested.
Was it a rough start…?
We were really fortunate to hire talented team members who contributed a lot to the brand’s identity and success. They understood the vision, and turned it into a functional and integrated buying experience. There was strong traction from the beginning, which showed us that the client really needed and wanted what we had to offer.
How do you differ from other men’s online boutiques?
We’re creating a man-centric experience – specifically and exclusively for men, with men’s products and content men are interested in. We also offer two things that many men’s online boutiques are without: personalization and style-related content. We act as a man’s lifestyle guide, providing personalized product suggestions based on each member’s style preferences and buying habits, and we also provide editorial content, including style tips and information on current trends.
How did the popularity of Frank & Oak spread so much?
I think the brand spread so much and so quickly because our concept is something men have been waiting for for a long time: a curated experience, a simple shopping platform, and style advice, all in one. We take the stress and confusion out of shopping, and men like that.
Does being based out of Montreal offer any advantages/disadvantages?
Montreal is a really cool city – there are so many interesting people, and there’s great food and culture. Being headquartered here has definitely been an advantage. We’re in a city where fashion and technology intermingle, which has helped both to inspire our collections, and to attract talented, tech-driven employees.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for you guys right now?
Because demand for our products has grown so quickly, it’s been a challenge to scale our operations accordingly. We come out with a new collection every month, and we have to make sure that our customers will love the products, and that every product detail – from the design to the editorial pictures – is perfect.
How do you engage your online audience and create more potential buyers?
We make sure to involve the online community in every step of our process. We ask them questions, we get their opinions on our product design, and we listen to and implement their feedback. Our members appreciate playing such a big role in what we do, and so they stay involved in the process – be it posting online, giving us suggestions, or shopping.
We keep hearing that the fashion industry is facing more challenges than ever…thoughts?
The current state of the industry shows us that it’s time for a new retail model. Rather than selling everything to everyone, it’s important to offer something relevant that people actually want. Companies have to be more focused on their end users. It’s for this reason that we interact with our members and offer a personalized shopping experience.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to start an online fashion business?
It’s important to stay focused on what you’re offering; figure out what your angle is, and do it well. Offer something different than everyone else, and back it up with friendly and helpful service. Listen closely to your customers, they’ll tell you what you’re good at and what you need to improve upon.
Your goals for next year…
In the next year, we want to continue innovating, both from a design and a retail standpoint. We plan to break into new product categories, and to further develop our personalized shopping experience.