2022 is a significant year for Canadian lifestyle brand Frank and Oak. Not only is it celebrating its 10th anniversary, but it’s also working hard to achieve several of the sustainability targets it set in recent years.
Goals include eliminating virgin plastic from its supply chain; using recycled polyester fiber to make its shell fabrics, labels and trims; offsetting 100 percent of its greenhouse gas scope 1 emissions; using 100 percent renewable energy at its headquarters, warehouse and retail stores; and spreading its zero-waste philosophy throughout its supply chain and the industry at large. While some may consider the goals a heavy lift, the brand has proven it’s capable of achieving major accomplishments in record time.
Frank and Oak launched in Montreal in 2012 as a men’s wear brand targeting urban-dwelling, sustainably focused millennials. It debuted denim in 2014 and expanded to women’s wear in 2016. Just two years later, it completely revamped its denim supply chain and teamed with Dubai-based Desert Studio to speed up production time while dramatically reducing its environmental impact. By 2019, the brand achieved B Corp status, the highest verified standard of social and environmental performance, and continues to push itself to new sustainable heights, most notably within the circularity realm.
Frank and Oak’s 2022 assortment is made with 69 percent recycled materials, the majority of which is recycled cotton. The brand also launched its own “Circular Denim” trademark for all of its denim that indicates the product was made from recycled or post-consumer waste. It reports that 55 percent of its denim currently falls under this category. The brand is also collaborating with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program to encourage customers to return used jeans to its stores at the end of their life cycle in exchange for a 15 percent discount on new Frank and Oak jeans.
“Circularity is the most important paradigm shift of the 21st century set to change and positively influence the economy at large,” Elisabeth de Gramont, head of impact at Frank and Oak, told Rivet. “By promoting a cradle-to-cradle approach through our denim, we hope to inspire our industry and other industries to permanently change their production methods for the best.”
According to de Gramont, more third-party collaborations are what will help the company achieve its many targets. In 2021, 80 percent of its denim pants and 100 percent of its denim shorts were made using a “Hydro Less” process, which combines sustainable finishing technologies from Spanish finishing technology firm Jeanologia, including e-Flow, ozone technology and laser finishing that together use 79 percent less energy, 50 percent fewer chemicals and 95 percent less water than traditional manufacturing techniques.
“Collaboration and open conversation among different partners and suppliers will be the path forward to improve the environmental impact of our industry and to satisfy growing consumer knowledge and demand,” she said.
To expand on its circularity goals, the company joined the wave of brands and supply chain partners designing denim in accordance with the Ellen MacArthur Jeans Redesign project guidelines. The guidelines were created in 2019 to set an industry standard for recycled content use in jeans. Currently, 53 percent of Frank and Oak’s denim meets the requirements.
With just a handful of fits, its denim assortment reflects its quality over quantity ethos.
“Our denim, like our brand philosophy, is made to be timeless, yet modern and durable. We want our customers to wear and re-wear our products without worrying about them going out of style,” de Gramont said. “We don’t believe in having 20 different fits, preferring a few well-selected fits that will work season after season, year after year.”
For men, this spans just two styles: a skinny and a slim fit offered in sizes 28-38 and 32-inch and 34-inch inseam lengths. Wash options are equally selective, with a light indigo, dark indigo and black denim assortment.
Women’s denim spans four fits, including tapered, slim, straight and skinny, with a larger assortment of washes that center on faded indigos and vintage blacks. Jeans are available in sizes 23-32. Denim retails from $89.50-$149 for both men and women.
This year, customers will have more ways of shopping Frank and Oak, as the brand is looking to expand its retail footprint around the world. Already, it has seven stores in Quebec, four stores in Ontario, two stores in British Columbia, three stores in the U.S. and one in Shanghai—the latter of which opened in December and served as a venue for its winter collection launch that included a fully traceable yak sweater and accessories range. The collection uses tracing technology from blockchain solution VeChain, which also serves H&M and sister brand Cos.
Moving forward, the brand’s emphasis will be on weaving its sustainability story into customer-facing messaging. By doing this, de Gramont hopes to increase education and demand for more sustainable apparel.
“We want to inspire a more holistic approach to better living,” she said. “Our mission is to help guide our customers to love and care for their clothes and to make meaningful consumption choices.”