Frank and Oak Doubles Down on Sustainability for Its New Winter Outwear Collection

The Canadian clothing brand launches a new collection designed to combat both winter weather and fashion's eco-unfriendly habits.

October 18, 2018

By Stacey McLachlan

Ethan Song, co-founder and CEO of Frank and Oak, seems to be grappling with a little bit of guilt. Though we obviously need clothing in this world (Express yourself! Hide your soft bits from the wolves!), its environmental impact is hard to reconcile for an increasing number of stylish progressives—Song among them. “We’re part of the problem,” he admits.

Frank and Oak is but one small contributor to the veritable eco-epidemic of the fashion industry. “Fashion is the worst when it comes to pollution,” says Song. “Ninety percent of what’s in your closet will get thrown out.” That’s not even to mention the amount of water used to dye clothing, the petroleum it takes to make certain synthetic fabrics, the chemicals used for denim washes, the ethical issues of unmonitored factories—all in all, not a great scene.

While it’s not a problem that can be changed over night, F&O is doing what it can to at address at least a few of fashion’s dirty little secrets. Song’s engineering background gives him a deep interest in the technical development of materials and processes, so the company has been working with 3M to create new low-impact fabrics.

The Alpine jacket. ($499)

But real change isn’t just going to come from magic new textiles. Consumer habits need to adjust, too. “In some ways we’ve been used to having cheap disposable clothes, in some ways you forget that clothing was once made to last,” says Song. His goal with F&O is to create pieces that achieve sustainability by way of style—designing something that’s cool enough that you feel good wearing it, and functional enough that you’ll want to keep wearing it for a long time to come. “In order to be sustainable we need it to be cool and effective,” says Song. “If people aren’t warm, you’re not creating a product that’s sustainable because they won’t wear it.”

The bigger debate in fashion, of course, is whether or not you need to buy something at all. “The most sustainable practice is to stop buying stuff,” says Song. “Do you need another jacket? Do you need to invest in the latest trend?” But by increasing the wearable life cycle of, say, a jacket, F&O is (ideally) adding the possibility of a second stage—donating to charity or recycling the content into a new collection.

The Hygge ($349).

It may be a lot to ask of our fast-fashion, small-attention-span world, but Song believes that with increasing awareness, change will come. “Food is 10 years ahead of where fashion is today. Eating organic and eating sustainably was way more expensive, but now is trickling down to more accessible prices. The reality is consumers aren’t going to change habits despite their values because it’s just more expensive to do things sustainably,” he says. It’s going to take brands to take on some of that cost to inspire new habits, which eventually will drive costs down overall.

The Capital keeps the wearer warm at temperatures as low as -40C. ($499)

In the name of easing that guilt and making the world a less trash-filled place, Frank and Oak’s new line of sustainable winter outerwear uses recycled featherless down and fully seam-sealed shells (also made of recycled materials). They’re jackets with a minimalist look, at once timeless and modern. It’s one more step towards the brand’s goal of getting to 100-percent sustainable designs as soon as possible. “It’s not easy,” says Song. “but we need to do our part, one product at a time.”

The Explorer ($199)

Get the Newsletter

Own your city with Vancouver’s thrice-weekly scoop on the latest restaurant news, must-shop hotspots and can’t miss events. Rest assured your email is safe with us.