A Q&A with Ethan Song

When Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani launched Frank and Oak, their online menswear shopping site, they kept the concept simple: They'd sell wearable, affordable, on-trend clothes to subscribers in a new collection released every month. Over the past two years, the Canadian start-up has become a sensation and even opened a brick and mortar store in downtown Montreal. Some estimate the company is on its way to grossing upwards of $50 million a year.

But it's no wonder why. Almost all of the brand's approachable yet street-smart clothes and accessories are priced under $50, and on the breaking edge of trends. Men's Journal spoke with Song, who has become known for his sharp personal style, to get his take on what's in, what's out, and most importantly, what's next. 

What's the single most important trend to mind as we enter summer?
The combination of athletic and dressy clothing is strong right now. Whether it's color-blocking, or sweatpants, or chinos with elastic cuffs at the bottom, I think this is a cool and fresh look.

Are there any played-out trends to avoid?
I do think the large prints that were really strong – camo, Hawaiian, large florals – are on their way out. Last year was all about big colors and bringing prints back, but now menswear is going in a more modern, minimal direction.

What's the biggest mistake men make when it comes to summer dressing?
Not pairing the right shoes with the right pant. It's very important. If you're in cargo shorts, make sure you're wearing an espadrille or something casual with them. Shorts with dress shoes isn't a great combination. Along those same lines, if you're wearing white pants, do it with a sandal or canvas sneaker. You don't want to wear white pants with black dress shoes. Make sure you have a shoe that matches. 


Serge Gainsbourg in Paris, 1980 Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Who do you turn to for style inspiration?
I've always been a fan of Tom Ford. He symbolizes timelessness and masculinity, both through the way he dresses and the clothes he designs. I also love the Parisian look. Serge Gainsbourg is one of my icons. The way he could blend high with low – like linen shirts with dressy double-breasted jackets – is amazing.

What's Frank & Oak's number one best-seller?
We produce such limited quantities to keep things unique and fresh, but generally speaking, it's our oxford. It's structured like a classic American oxford, but the fabric is super soft. We've always done well with shirting. We do a lot of original patterns that we design in-house, and I think our customer really appreciates that. 

Are there any categories you'd like to concentrate on more?
We're working on accessories, bags, and small leather goods. The other category we're thinking about is outerwear, like bomber jackets and denim jackets. Guys don't wear as much suiting as they used to, so light outerwear is going to be an important category for us.

As creative director, what are your goals for Frank & Oak?
The most important thing is creating a culture around the brand. We just launched a magazine called Oak Street. Creating the clothes, creating the content and the right experience so the customer can learn from that experience is what its about.

You launched a print magazine in 2014?
Yep, it's a bi-anual print magazine. We distributed 40,000 copies and it's available to buy on our site. It covers arts, culture, and entrepreneurship, combining design with more business-oriented topics. We have a great piece called "Detroit of the Future" where we did a photo survey of young artists and entrepreneurs who are transforming what Detroit means, while being immersed in that culture of manufacturing.