When Amy Rafferty first started making clothes, she had no idea her hobby would morph into a brand.
The Whistlerite just wanted to make the kind of hoodie she couldn’t find in shops. “I made myself one and started making friends some and it just went from there,” she said. “I really like sewing and making stuff.”
Back in 2010 she made about five one-of-a-kind hoodies that incorporated thrifted clothing into the design. “Last season I was selling about 30 a month,” she said.
Hold My Unicorn (HMU) apparel is still predominantly hoodies, but it also includes t-shirts, dresses and skirts — all one-of-a-kind incorporating second-hand clothing. On top of upcycling clothing, Rafferty is currently experimenting with using bamboo fabric. Another green initiative the company recently launched: if you bought a hoodie and have either worn it out or grown tired of it you can bring it back to Rafferty who will rejuvenate or repurpose it and sell it a lower price for those who can’t afford a brand new piece. In return, you’ll get credit to put towards a new item.
“One hoodie is average around $90 to $100, so it’s quite expensive,” she said. “But we started doing this thing called UMH — upcycle my hoodie. They can bring the hoodie back and I’ll resell it as a second-hand hoodie… It gives people who can’t afford to spend $100 on a hoodie, (a chance to have) a second-hand one.”
This winter, Rafferty has been selling her hoodies at the Made in Whistler market in the Westin Resort & Spa on Saturdays. Customers are interested not only in the green aspect of her company, but also in the fact that the items are made in Whistler by hand rather than in a sweatshop.
“A lot of my sales are from the market and I get the chance to chat to people and tell them (about the brand),” she said. “A lot of people like supporting local and stuff that’s sustainable. We’re always pushing anti-sweatshop stuff. So much of our clothes these days are made in sweatshops and it’s pretty horrible when you think about it.”
Like any business that’s grown quickly, Rafferty said it’s been hard to keep up with all aspects of the company — particularly while holding down another job. The online store, for example, has to be updated constantly because items are one-of-a-kind.
“We get rolls of fabric, cut patterns out and sew from scratch,” Rafferty said. “It’s so much work. There are three girls now that casually sew for me.”
Ideally, she hopes to turn HMU into a full time job. “I’d love to have a café with a shop in it, as well as a workshop so you could see us making stuff,” she said. “Eventually I’d like to go in the direction of doing a lot more thrift and upcycled vintage. The hoodies are fairly popular, so I’ll keep doing those as long as the demand is there.”
Check out HMU at holdmyunicornapparel.com or find them on Saturdays at the Made in Whistler Market until April.