TORONTO — Over the last five years, Frank and Oak cofounders Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani have gone from selling simple, affordable men’s dress shirts online to building a men’s and women’s wear lifestyle brand for Millennials.
Now the Montreal-based brand that has 2.5 million customer profiles, 700,000 downloads of its app on iOS and Android, and a 16th store launch as of Dec. 14 is looking within, bringing its message of inclusiveness center stage with the launch of Frank and Oak’s “And” video campaign and unisex capsule collection.
“This campaign stands for what we believe in,” said chief executive officer Song, who along with chief operating officer Ratnani are first- and second-generation immigrants, respectively. Hence, inclusion, equality and diversity have always been integral to Frank and Oak’s retail ethos.
“Today’s world is diverse. That’s why accepting our differences and embracing what sets us apart was the key here,” Song said before the video’s North American release on Monday.
Set to a poem by Toronto rapper Cadence Weapon, the upbeat ode to human relationships introduces faces from Frank and Oak’s community of followers, friends and family. “Real people are our stars here. That was important for us,” said Song.
“And” also showcases the brand’s new genderless collection built around a crewneck sweater, priced at 79.50 Canadian dollars, or $69.50, and T-shirt, priced at 39.50 Canadian dollars, or $34.50, which will be unveiled at 10 of its locations across Canada on Tuesday.
“What’s really cool here is the supply chain to these products,” said Song.
With the aid of Petites-Mains, a Montreal-based organization that supports immigrant women in need, every item was made by a newcomer to Canada. “That, alone, celebrates inclusion,” said Song.
Five Canadian dollars from every sale will also be donated to Equitas, the Canadian human rights group that works for the advancement of equality and social justice through its education programs.
“This is all about great storytelling,” said Song, a former Deloitte employee who studied theater and engineering in school.
Song and Ratnani met as high school students and built their company on the idea that Millennial men wanted a more simplified and affordable approach to shopping. That concept remained unchanged even as Frank and Oak expanded into women’s wear in 2016 and grew its business by aiming to offer Millennials a sense of community, personalized style advice and curated products online and in-store.
Now developing future products driven by new technologies, Frank and Oak recently launched featherless winter jackets featuring 3M Thinsulate fill, an water-resistant material that is warmer than natural down when wet.
Yet the company’s broader vision “is all about purpose,” said Song. “From the beginning, we put our efforts into building our own community and giving people a sense of belonging. We’ve also learned that more isn’t always better, so we’ve taken our time to do things well,” he said. “Millennials want something more than just going into a store and making a transaction. They want to buy into an experience. That’s what Frank and Oak delivers.”