Frank & Oak Redefines Affordable Menswear for the Curation Era
A few months ago the extent of my sartorial knowledge was limited to "V-necks are good" and "Never wear socks with flip-flops." After realizing that I own what are essentially the same shirts with a few minor color variations, I started to scour the Web for affordable menswear, hoping I could branch out from my typical jeans-and-T-shirt uniform.
My search led me to Frank & Oak, a Montreal-based startup that creates and sells men's clothing for $50 or less.
Frank & Oak began as an idea in a house that Editor-in-Chief Ethan Song shared with his roommates in Vancouver. The group discussed creating a company that would offer stylish and affordable clothing for men. Taking its name from the house's crossroads, Frank & Oak is the realization of that college dream.
If you had asked me what Montreal was famous for a few months ago, I would have answered "Steak seasoning!" Turns out the city is actually well-known in Canada for its blend of the old and new. The marriage of these two worlds has made Montreal a fashion center, making the city an excellent starting point for an up-and-coming clothing company. Frank & Oak will be expanding to New York City some time this fall.
Frank & Oak's $50-or-less price immediately worried me. If you have ever shopped for men's clothing before, you might know that a $50 price tag is typically reserved for items on the clearance rack.
"We really come from the iPod generation," Song says. "We don't buy albums – we buy songs. We created the business model of affordable clothing under $50 based on this assumption." He explains that Frank & Oak is able to keep their clothing at that price point because of the control it exerts over the entire supply chain.
The company is part of a recent revival in human-curated goods. As companies such as Fab and Wantful have shown, consumers are once again looking to other people for ideas on what they should purchase. These curated goods services introduce human intuition and an element of surprise into a world that typically follows the Pandora model of algorithmic recommendations.
This human element is key to the company's success. Something like Frank & Oak can't exist without strict quality control, which Song says is at the very core of the company. His title, Editor in Chief, is a reflection of this belief. "Clients don't care about the CEO," he says. "They care about the fact that we try to make the product as relevant as possible to each and every client."
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