In the Whistler Changemaker series, we’re connecting with local people, businesses and organizations who are putting sustainability at the forefront of what they do.

The Whistler community cares deeply for the environment and acknowledges that we all have a role to play in preserving the area’s natural beauty. The Municipality’s Big Moves Strategy sets out a plan to act on climate change and reduce emissions by 50% below 2007 levels by 2030, and in the long-term, reach net zero. To achieve this target, Whistler is collectively taking action to move beyond the car, reduce visitor travel emissions, decarbonize passenger and commercial vehicles, reduce building emissions, and shift towards lower carbon consumption.

We know that this kind of work is an ongoing journey as we all learn how we can contribute to a more sustainable future. Join our Changemaker host, Mike Douglas, a member-at-large of Protect Our Winters Canada, pro skier, enviro nerd and Whistler local as he shines a light on what’s happening in Whistler to move the dial.

In video #4, we touch base with Amy Rafferty, Co-Owner of F as in Frank. She chatted with Mike about the environmental and social impact of fast fashion, our problematic perception of worth and how we can move toward a more circular clothing economy.

How did you end up owning a vintage store in Whistler?

It’s a classic Whistler story. I moved to Whistler from Australia for the snow and never left.
Back in 2012, when I moved here, I was making snowboarding hoodies for all of my friends and selling them out of my big, shared house. I was always into thrifting and fashion too so during that time I would also sell my own clothes alongside the hoodies.

Then in 2017, I found a tiny commercial space for my sewing studio in Function Junction, which quickly expanded into the warehouse underneath.  I decided to pivot the brand to selling mostly vintage and opened a vegan cafe inside the store.

The Velvet Underground space in Function Junction, which has now moved to Whistler Village under the name F as in Frank.
The original space in Function Junction. PHOTO F AS IN FRANK

Thinking back to those early days I was clueless as to what I was doing and how to run a business, it felt very much like jumping out of a plane and building a parachute on the way down. That space was great but Function was a tough sell. We didn’t have the foot traffic to support the complexities in that business model so I was hemorrhaging money, it was so incredibly hard.

Then COVID hit, and I hate to say it but it saved us, I worked round the clock to leverage the support and grants being offered to businesses, then used that money to move into Whistler Village and re-structure the business.

Fast forward to 2023 amidst taking another big risk to open a new store in Gastown, I partnered with Drew and Jesse Heifetz, the founders of F as in Frank, one of Canada’s OG names in vintage.
Building a global brand of vintage stores has always been my goal, and this partnership is a step in that direction. We now have four stores, in Whistler, Squamish, and Gastown and Main Street in Vancouver, with more in the pipeline.


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A post shared by ✮ Amy ✮ (@the_velvetunderdog)

Why are you so passionate about seeing change in the fashion industry?

As a reseller, I see firsthand the insane amounts of clothing being thrown away and the huge environmental impact of fast fashion. The warehouses, where we source a lot of our inventory, are where textile waste is sorted before being exported overseas to developing countries where it will likely sit in landfills for centuries to come because most of it is poor quality fast fashion, with zero resell value.

Fast fashion has destroyed our perception of worth and conditioned us to overconsume cheap clothing. Knowing what I know, I feel that we have a responsibility as a business to shed light on this side of the fashion industry so consumers understand what they are supporting. Clothing should be an investment. Buy less, buy higher quality and always shop secondhand first.

How can we change our mindset around clothing?

When an item of clothing costs less than a cup of coffee we need to stop and ask questions; how could the person who made this possibly be getting paid properly for their work? How could the materials and processes be done in ways that don’t damage the environment at this price point?

We are disconnected from the process of how things go from inception to sitting in a store. It’s almost like magic, but reality check, it’s not magic it’s hundreds of hours of labour done by real people and huge amounts of resources that are required to manufacture these products. Unfortunately, the planet and the humans involved in this process, are being exploited to produce all of the products in our lives at prices that just don’t add up.

I plan to head to the Atacama Desert in Chile this year to document and show our following the world’s largest textile dump, which is so big it can be seen from space! We are literally drowning in our overconsumption of fast fashion and we’re passing that burden on to countries that don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it.

How do we become part of the change?

Wearing what already exists is a great start. 

We want to make it easier for people to buy and sell used clothes to help change the consumer mindset to a more circular mentality. If people bought high-quality and high value those items would be able to be resold over and over, massively reducing the demand for new items to be produced; future vintage over future garbage.

The more consumers start questioning their choices and the decisions of big manufacturers the more change we’ll be able to generate. My top things would be:

  1. Wear what already exists.
  2. Stop buying fast fashion.
  3. If you buy new, buy high quality so it can become future vintage.
  4. Think about where things come from and what you’re supporting when you purchase something
  5. Spark the conversation about responsible fashion. Talk to your friends about the impact of fast fashion and overconsumption and ways we can shop more ethically.
A group shot of the F as in Frank Whistler team with owners, Amy, Drew and Jessie stood on the top floor of the new F as in Frank space in Whistler Village.
Go and meet the team at F as in Frank in Whistler Village. PHOTO F AS IN FRANK

F as in Frank is the fourth video in the Whistler Changemaker series, to view more visit our sustainability page.

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You can often find Dee exploring all Whistler has to offer with her three-kid tribe in tow. Originally from the UK, Dee enjoys balancing out high-thrills adventures with down-time basking in the beauty of the wonderful place she now calls home.