Andrew Chen of 3sixteen on the Franklin Five
When we first started Franklin and Poe, we decided to focus on brands made in the USA. We also knew we wanted to be a denim focused shop and it was important for us to bring in a brand that spoke to denim enthusiasts. There was no more of an obvious choice for this than 3sixteen, a brand that comfortably sat next to the top Japanese denim. Our thinking was if we got 3sixteen, their immediate name recognition would legitimize our denim ethos.
As we were gathering our opening roster, Chris shot over an introduction email to 3sixteen. We felt confident with our pitch and were excited to bring them in. Then…. crickets. Chris and I were disappointed. It’s hard enough to start a store, and we might have had false confidence in what 3sixteen would bring to us. But c’est la vie, we loved the rest of the brands that we had, and we’d work up to bringing in 3sixteen.
Chris and I were finalizing our initial brands while at the trade show in Las Vegas, and lo and behold 3sixteen had a booth there and we decided to give it another shot. We talked to the then sales manager Spencer and reviewed the line. We were excited, they (appeared) excited. We then scheduled to meet the New York team (co-founder) Andrew and (designer) Wesley a few weeks later. Somehow our original outreach attempt was brought up, and Andrew immediately apologized. Apparently they were in a staff transition period and our email accidentally fell by the wayside. Andrew also told us that’s not how their company interacts with stores. We had a great discussion about brand ethos, Andrew gave us some retail tips, and it turns out Wesley was a Temple University guy who knew and loved our neighborhood and was a big advocate of us opening up in Fishtown.
About a week after, Andrew and Wesley came down to Philly, where we took a Fishtown tour, first at Reanimator Coffee followed by Pizza Brain. Caffeinated and full, we walked around the Frankford Ave corridor and I showed them the location of our empty, soon to be pop-up location a few blocks past Pizza Brain. Andrew lit up with excitement. “Look at that window front!” “You pay how much in rent?!?” It felt good hearing from an experienced retailer what we had in front of us. Our three month temporary pop-up turned into a full fledge store, and three years later we’ve grown into our own in this space.
There's no doubt that having 3sixteen from the start helped us bring people into our new store. Over the past three years we've been fortunate to grow closer to their New York and Los Angeles based teams, and were really excited to have them come down to celebrate our 3-year anniversary.
with Andrew Chen of 3sixteen
How has 3sixteen evolved over the years from where you started?
AC: We’ve evolved in visible and not so visible ways. The easiest thing to see is through what we make; we started out as a graphic tee line and now we specialize in denim and core basics, coupled with seasonal full collections. There was a bit of a journey to get there and it’s not easy for any brand to pivot and try new things, so that’s something to be thankful for. We’ve also grown as an organization; Johan and I used to do everything ourselves when we were much smaller and now have a small but dedicated team around us to keep things moving along. We feel fortunate to not only be in business 17 years in, but to be thriving and growing.
What drives how 3sixteen operates?
AC: I think that we place a high priority on an attitude of service. This approach allows us to put our retailers, customers and team members first no matter what we do, even if that means we are less profitable or less efficient. Practically speaking, this means that we will always make changes and improvements to our garments if we feel that we can do things better, even if it costs the company more. It also means giving retailers priority on all our incoming shipments and giving them a jump start on seasonal release. It means taking steps to make sure that our team members feel secure in their future with our company through offering solid benefits packages. It also allows us to move quickly to donate towards organizations that are addressing temporary or ongoing crises that we feel strongly about.
This Covid crap is just a sidetrack. Can you shed some light on your goals for this year before (and after) the quarantine?
AC: Well, we were looking forward to opening up a beautiful retail store in NYC this year, and that is still on track to happen. It’ll open up to a new and different season of in-person retail shopping, for sure, but we are going to do our best to still give our customers a thoughtful and special experience if they’re able to come visit us in 2020.
I think COVID-19 has brought to light a lot of inequalities that our country has conveniently overlooked for quite some time now. From the disproportionate ways that the virus affects the poor and marginalized, to the actual death rate of COVID-19 among POC, I think many of us are realizing that things can’t just go back to normal once a quarantine is lifted. We need to reimagine our place in society and our function as a brand. For me personally, I am motivated for 3sixteen to regain its momentum so that we can support our team, and also so that we can find ways to be more generous and also to further advocate for causes that are important to us.
What is your quarantine choice of liquor?
AC: We’re cracking open a new bottle of wine every other day at dinnertime. I was a bit greedy pre-quarantine and was scooping interesting bottles from Peoples and Wine Therapy before having a chance to get through them, and now is a great time to finally work through selection on hand. I did make myself an Old Fashioned last week out of Russell’s Reserve 6 Year. And if it keeps warming up and we’re stuck inside still, I’mma crack my Havana Club rum and start making mojitos with fresh mint we are growing at home.
Do you have a message for 3sixteen fans?
AC: Absolutely! Thank you all for continuing to support us and engage with us, especially now. Thank you also for stepping up to keep our retailers going in tough times; I think we can all acknowledge how much energy they bring to our local neighborhoods, and we’d be much worse off without them. Lastly, we hope that you and your families are safe. Shoot us an email or DM anytime, we love hearing from you.
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Also in Journal
As part of Franklin and Poe brand features, we have a short interview we call the Franklin Five. For our first feature, Freenote Cloth co-founder Andrew Brodrick shares how they are coping with the impact of Coronavirus on their business.