Located near the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Berks Street in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia sits Franklin & Poe, an apparel outfitter that specializes in durable well made clothing. The store houses garments made of premium materials that are ethically produced and expertly crafted.
Andrew Li, MBA ’16, is co-founder of Franklin & Poe. Li entered the MBA program at the Fox School as a bridge to change careers after leaving an analyst job in Washington, D.C., and returning to his native Philadelphia in pursuit of a self-directed, entrepreneurial undertaking.
“I saw that Temple had a very strong entrepreneurial program,” says Li. “I knew I wanted to be in Philadelphia, so the combination of location and the opportunity to get connected with people around the city led me to the school.”
Li pursued his MBA full-time, devoting himself to his studies while developing a business plan alongside his coursework.
“The program was immersive. I wasn’t used to the amount of work and projects given to us,” says Li. “I made it a point for myself to focus on what I wanted after school, in addition to classes.”
Li opened the shop soon after graduating in 2016, and it has since come to serve a growing community of people who are passionate about durable Western-inspired clothing. The shop’s inventory ranges from basics such as t-shirts, flannels and sweats to leather jackets. The styles offered are often reminiscent of traditional American workwear, with one of the shop’s focuses being its extensive collection of raw denim.
“Denim is a classic—it’s been a part of our culture for over 100 years,” says Li. “We try to bring in pieces that are timeless. That’s why some of our pieces are based on historic clothing, like a pair of 1950’s Levi’s.”
When denim is sold “raw,” it is typically not washed. This results in the appearance of the fabric distressing and fading naturally, developing a unique look for each customer as they are worn. The process of breaking in sturdier fabrics transforms a casual clothing purchase into a much richer experience, resulting in clothing that is more comfortable and personalized to the wearer over time.
“We want the people wearing the clothing to make it their own,” says Li. “If you have an appreciation for your clothing, you’re far less likely to throw it away or treat it poorly.”
Li is passionate about building strong relationships with both clothing manufacturers and local craftspeople. American-made clothing brands like Freenote, 3sixteen and Left Field have become fixtures in the store since its launch, fulfilling one of Li’s goals in opening the shop. Additionally, local designers like True Hand Society are involved with the store’s branding and design.
“Building relationships is really important for us,” says Li. “It’s a lot easier to translate a brand’s vision to the customer when we have a good relationship.”
Though challenges have emerged over the past year, Franklin & Poe fared well beyond Li’s expectations.
“When we closed down our brick-and-mortar store, we were scared about how and if we would survive,” says Li. “It turns out our online orders picked up where our brick-and-mortar sales fell off, plus some. We were fortunate to have a decent online presence.”
Now that the shop is open again for in-person browsing, Li is looking towards the future with optimism. After a year of social distancing and isolation, an important item on his agenda is working to reconnect with the community and give back in a meaningful way.
“We’re trying to do more collaborations with brands and host some events,” says Li. “We’re looking forward to re-engaging with the community as the city opens up again.”