Born to be thrifty, the Heifetz brothers (Jesse and Drew) were thrown into the vintage biz early on thanks to their Pops, who ran the scene with his ‘The Rag Machine' store. With over 50 years in the biz, the Heifetz name has become synonymous with quality retro fashion, and now thanks to the Heifetz sons, it's now a mecca for snapbacks, Starter, OG vintage Nike, adidas, Patrick Ewing plus LA Gear kicks and apparel. We took time out to chat with Jesse and Drew about their store F As In Frank and just how they've amassed such a killer vintage booty!
You guys were literally born to be in the vintage biz! Tell all our readers about your amazing upbringing and how you were destined to be in this industry...
Jesse: Our father, David Heifetz, was one of the pioneers of the vintage clothing industry. He began wholesaling and retailing vintage clothing in the late ‘60s under the name ‘the rag machine'. He even sold vintage clothing at the original Woodstock festival. Drew and I grew up around vintage clothing. Our father always had huge warehouses and stores full of used clothing so it has always been second nature to us. During the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Drew and I were constantly around our father's stores and staff and he employed mostly young fashionable counter culture people so we were always around punks, breakdancers, skateboarders, hippies etc. Our parents were always very supportive of our interests and allowed us to dress and live how we wanted to for the most part.
Drew: As kids we used to go hang out in our dad's warehouse. We would run around and play in the piles of used clothing, climbing up the warehouse shelving and jumping off into the bins of Levis and flannel shirts. Over the years we both spent considerable time working for our dad on weekends and summer holidays. We would be sorting and grading vintage for huge orders going overseas. At one point we both took off and did our own thing, but it was always there in the back our minds and eventually it just felt natural to come back to it.
Where did the name 'F As In Frank' come from?
Our last name is Heifetz and it is difficult for people to pronounce. While growing up our parents were constantly spelling our last name for people and they would say H - E - I - F as in Frank - E - T - Z . It's just an inside family joke.
The store seems to be a much talked about destination spot in Canada. How did you build up that rep and what can peeps expect when they come instore?
Jesse: We feel that if you do something well it will be noticed. We pride ourselves on being the largest distributor of vintage snapbacks in the world and that is something that has brought us a lot of notoriety. We host dope events in our stores and we try to get involved in local events that involve our target markets. We also have a large internet presence and Facebook following. People should expect the unexpected when they come to our shops. We are definitely not your typical vintage clothing store. We have a strong emphasis on ‘80s and early ‘90s fashion based vintage but you will also find rare and sought after garments dating back as far as the ‘20s, deadstock snapback hats, deadstock sunglasses, deadstock footwear, deadstock jewellery, did I mention deadstock....
Drew: If you look around at what is going on in fashion at any certain point you will see that there aren't many completely new, fresh ideas anymore. All clothing garments are tailored, at least partly, after something from fashion's past. We stock the true vintage garments that the fashion industry is reproducing at the time. Just like modern fashion, vintage fashion is always evolving and moving forward and we like to think we are at the forefront.
You've obviously got a great eye for vintage and what will sell/increase in value/be sought after - what are some of the traits you're looking for when you sift through gallons of used clothing?
Jesse: First and foremost we are looking for style and garments that have a great look. Secondly we look at size and condition. Vintage fashion is cyclical so we gauge what is currently trending and in style and then we attempt to forecast what style might potentially branch off of the current trends and what's happening next in fashion. It is not a science so you have to reference history and go with your gut.
Drew: When you look back at certain key point in history to try to forecast trends music subcultures play a massive roll. Punk rock, grunge, glam rock , hip hop, country etc. These scenes have never gone away but at some point they begin to hit hard back into the mainstream and the fashion of these scenes gets resurrected. Remember NO FEAR? I say it's coming back. I'm not saying I'm happy about it but I think it will happen. People hated on tight pants when they first appeared on the scene but look at them now. High waist lines came back hard to. Sometimes the things you think will never come back in end up being the next big trend.
Knowing that you have that eye... do you see stuff that drops now that you know will be considered vintage and worth a mint in 10-20 years or even further down the track, or is that too forward thinking for vintage heads?
Jesse: It is hard to forecast that far forward but, generally speaking, anything that is released in limited quantity has the potential to increase in value.
Drew: The vintage that is hot now comes from times when the population of the world was fewer in numbers and there weren't as many manufacturers and subcultures. The problem with forecasting what will be hot from today is that there is so much clothing being produced. Like Jesse said, anything limited will be valued, but also any garments that change the way we wear clothing or new innovative constructions of clothing will also be looked back upon.
I mean, how did you know that back in 2007 when you first opened, the stock you hauled in then would be so popular today... no one was aiming to look like they just walked out of 90210 (the Luke Perry years) back in the mid 2000s right?!
Jesse: In the mid 2000s we noticed that people were really digging the 80s and there was a resurgence of neon fashion in the ski / snowboard industry. Our first shop was in Whistler BC, a huge ski town, so we really jumped on the neon boat. It was just a natural progression for us. We knew it would eventually get to the ‘90s so we just preempted the trend and started buying everything we could find. Sure enough, the trends went exactly where we thought they would go and the rest is history.
None of us thought that LA Gear would come back so hard either, especially MJ's failed line... now people go ape shit over that stuff. And not just cos he passed... what's the attraction?
Jesse: I think that LA Gear was a really approachable brand that was synonymous with the ‘90s. It was glitz, glam, neon etc... The over-the-top look of most LA Gear shoes is the appeal in my opinion. It was also a brand that was available at a much lower price point than Nike, adidas etc, so it was more widely available and therefore has more nostalgic value to a broader audience. We have had lots of luck finding deadstock LA Gear shoes. I wish we had as much luck finding deadstock British Knights.
You have one of the largest stocks of vintage Starter we've ever seen - tell us about your connection with the brand and how well it still sells today.
Jesse: Starter is the most iconic sports apparel brand ever. I have very fond memories of going to the Galleria Mall in Buffalo NY in the early 90s and seeing walls of starter jackets and hats in the sports shop. At the time, kids were getting jumped for their starter jackets and hats in some US cities. This only added to the reputation of the brand in that it clearly proved that these were sought after garments. Starter also had great marketing with celebrity endorsements from DJ Jazzy Jeff, Joe Montana, Rodney Dangerfield to name a few. People look for the star.
Damn..you got them Jazzy Jeff Aztecs too! Tell us how that commercial and Jazzy changed the face of Starter back in the mid ‘90s... it all got us going nuts for the brand.
Jesse: Licensed athletic apparel was adopted by the hip hop community in the 80s and early 90s. Starter, being the largest sports brand at the time was part of this new street fashion movement. Having recognized this connection to hip hop music, Starter, began marketing directly to that part of their market. It was a brilliant idea to endorse Jazz. It brought instant validity to the brand while, at the same time, giving street cred to the brand with a true hip hop co-sign.
Drew: Everyone remembers RUN DMC, My Adidas. They had huge success with that line back in the 80s. I'm sure Starter and many other brands picked up on that.
What's up with those Malcolm X like high tops? We've never seen them ever!
Jesse: Those are Xavier McDaniel pro model basketball shoes made by Xanthus. I don't know very much about the brand except that it was a Korean company and they seem to have appeared around the same time Patrick Ewing signed with Next of Korea. It is very apparent that the majority of licenced sports apparel, hats and sneakers from the early 90s were produced in Korea. We have met many Koreans that were involved in this industry in the golden era.
And Ocean Pacific? When did that brand drop? What's the deal there?
Jesse: OP was started in the ‘60s as a surfboard company. It was sold and relaunched in 1972 as a surf apparel brand. It really gained popularity in the 80s with bright neons, colour blocking and vibrant board culture patterns. Unfortunately, like so many 80s brands, OP is now owned by Iconix Brand Group (who also owns Starter) and is exclusively available at Walmart.
Your high end game is on point too... MCM, Gucci - where do you source that product and how well does it actually move?
Jesse: We find this stuff in some of the weirdest places. We have found MCM in Detroit, Atlanta, Brooklyn, LA, Toronto and, of course, Germany. Some of it has come from private individuals and some has come out of Mom & Pop shops. The high end stuff always sells well because people always want something exclusive but the market does fluctuate. A few years back we had tons of MCM snapback hats and they were very slow to sell. We could probably sell a million of them right now if we had them. Similarly, a few years back we couldn't keep MCM jackets in stock and right now we have a bunch of them.
Do you think peeps will ever tire of vintage and just want to look fresh n new?
Jesse: Nope. Fashion is cyclical. Styles are constantly recycled and revamped. The internet has made it possible for people to buy vintage and deadstock pieces from all around the world and have them delivered directly to their door. People don't want to be limited to the lines that current brands put out each season. Vintage is here to stay but it is also constantly evolving.
Drew: You have to know where you came from before you can move forward.
What's up next for F Is For Frank?
Drew: We are planning a few collabs for the near future. We are working on a private label snapback program where we are producing hats for shops and brands with vintage bodies. There are a few other things in the works but I don't want to give too much away.
For the meantime we are concentrating on continuing to keep the world geared up, One Starter snapback at a time.
Thanks guys and big thanks to Corey Shapiro for the hook up!