Startup Awards Nominee Frank & Oak Swaps Shopping Mall Fitting Rooms for Your Bedroom

Frank & Oak is nominated for a 2013 Canadian Startup Award in the Startup of the Year category. What’s up with that? Here’s what.

When you hear the name “Frank & Oak,” you probably picture an adult easy listening duo from the 1980’s. One of the guys has a moustache, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

Frank & Oak is an online clothing retailer out of Montreal, the city famous for hoarding all of Canada’s fashion sense. Following in the footsteps of American operations like L.L. Bean, Frank & Oak has a website where you can peruse pictures of sexy dudes in preppy threads, and order those clothes online.

Cofounder and CEO Ethan Song ballyhoos his company’s “vertically integrated” approach, which means that Frank & Oak controls the design, sourcing and manufacturing of their clothing. “In a traditional department store, there will be three to four markups before the clothes reach the consumer,” he explains. “For example, a brand might design the product, and then hire an agent who works with a factory to produce the goods. Each of these middlemen takes a cut and adds to the final price.”

Immediately, my mind turned toward my own infrequent outings to Gap or Old Navy, where i would stand ankle-deep in discarded clothes in the fitting room, desperately hoping for something that would make me look 10 years younger and 50 pounds skinnier. Surely only the trimmest and most confident shoppers, whose bodies blessedly stay the same size they were since adolescence, can shop at an online store without trying the clothes on first?

Song explained: “Our membership service, the Hunt Club, offers members free shipping both ways, and free at-home try on. This way, members can try their clothes on in the comfort of their own home, get feedback from their peers, and only pay for what they keep.”

i browsed through some of the outfits in Frank & Oak’s catalog. As a man shaped like an inverted lollipop, i know there are some retail doors that are firmly closed to me. For kicks, i asked Song how he would council a self-proclaimed “skinny fat guy” on what to wear.

“For every guy, versatility is key. Simple shirts with technical details—an oxford, for example—work well for all body types and occasions. For layering (a necessity during these Canadian winters), blazers are generally harder to fit. Instead, try a wool cardigan. It takes the shape of your body, and effortlessly dresses up any look. Pants with a bit of stretch (like our Lincoln Twill Pants or raw denim) are both slim-fitting and comfortable.”

Stretchy pants and a cardigan that takes the shape of my body. In that get-up, i’d look like Mr. Rogers after he’d eaten all the Little Debbie’s snack cakes. It’s not for me, but the immaculate style of Frank & Oak may yet appeal to more self-assured men whose body shape doesn’t fluctuate like Mario eating a mushroom.

To confidently cast your vote for Frank & Oak and all your faves, head to the 2013 Canadian Startup Awards page.