Since its opening in 2012, Frank & Oak has been a resounding success with an approach that combines technology and design. Today, the company has 80 employees who are leading it through its next stage of growth. Hicham Ratnani, one of the two co-founders of the Montreal business, talks about his entrepreneurial journey and aspirations with eloquence and simplicity, qualities that are also reflected in his creations.
Childhood friends, co-founders Hicham Ratnani and Ethan Song attended the same school. In 2012 they joined forces to launch the Frank & Oak brand. From its inception, the Quebec firm sought to design quality menswear by committing to choosing only the best materials, staying on top of trends and offering a buying experience without compromise. Their strategy also aims to bring people together around a common goal: offering unpretentious style at an affordable price.
Personalized online shopping like never before
Frank & Oak assists clients with their choices. Each consumer package that is delivered contains a handwritten card – a simple way to give a personal touch to the online purchase and thereby establish direct contact with the customer. In a highly competitive retail market, the Montreal firm is known for its refined aesthetic and high level of creativity, given that they come out with a different collection each month. Offering the right products at the right time, Frank & Oak's success lies primarily in its sense of timing. According to Mr. Ratnani, “We live in a confusing time when the consumer is looking for meaning and purpose. The fact that we offer our customer the possibility of belonging to a community with strong values is a very important differentiator. Our client is young, he grew up online, consumes information differently and does not shop only once a year. The purchase should not be a simple transaction, but an emotional gesture, a promise of fidelity.”
And the formula works: Frank & Oak has 1.6 million members in North America and offices in six Canadian cities.
Excellence and quality from Mile End
Designers, stylists, developers, artists, buyers and sellers: With its integrated vertical supply chain, Frank & Oak gives its collections the quality and attention to detail that are often lacking in the garment industry. “Every purchase must be a new first experience,” says Mr. Ratnani. “With Frank & Oak, the only thing that can be repeated is the satisfaction of having made a good purchase.”
“Plan tomorrow, deliver today and catch up yesterday.”
Nestled in the heart of Mile End on St-Viateur Street in Montreal, the headquarters of Frank & Oak allow the team to draw from a rich and diverse heritage, to exploit a local past to shape and fashion a global future. “Our model is based on Montreal’s values of creativity and excellence. We want to represent the city we are proud of.”
After success online, opening the first storefront locations
“The customer is central to our strategy, which was never a geographic one. We seek to convey values and build an identity.” These virtues, explains Mr. Ratnani, are based on online sales, which know no borders. Soon these same virtues will also be embodied abroad, since Song and Ratnani have announced the upcoming opening of retail outlets in the U.S. The challenge will be to stand out in terms of their distribution through shops that challenge the usual codes of customer experience. According to the founders, “There are no limits, no boundaries: We must go where the customers are.”
Their outward-looking approach can also be seen in their supply chain. They have suppliers in Asia, Europe and North America, ensuring that they benefit from the finest materials and the latest international trends.
Managing growth and creating a legend
For a company that grew from 7 to 80 employees in less than a year, the main challenge at hand is to sustain that growth. And when it comes to expansion, there is no magic formula. “We must constantly seek, project and fight. My biggest challenge as an entrepreneur,” says Mr. Ratnani, “is to manage my company’s growth and development.”
In particular, this means building a strong image. Today, Frank & Oak develops this image through their blog and in Oak Street, the company’s biannual print magazine. But the motivations underlying this move remain the same: to represent a certain style, one that is accessible yet refined.
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Visit Frank & Oak's website