Freddy Ansara is the chief design officer at FA Design, a growing outerwear company based in Calgary. He certainly means business, and a distinct air of intelligence shines through in his expressive and alert gaze. Though perhaps he has the look of the typical snowboarder, with curly hair and a relaxed energy, he is far from conventional.
Ansara, a former pro-rider, is gaining worldwide recognition for doing things a little differently and creating high-tech outerwear that he says will change the future of winter clothing.
He grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., a small town near the Quebec border where he was raised by what he describes as two great, middle-class parents. His mother was his creative role model and his father was his business-oriented role model. He says that their influence is what taught him to blend creativity with business savviness.
“My mother would sew her own clothes, and there was always a glue-gun around for me to play with,” he said. As a child he was also really into G.I. Joe, and when he’d want the latest model he would write pretend business contracts for his dad.
When he failed Grade 3, he couldn’t have possibly known at the time that it was a blessing in disguise. This event would lay the path for the rest of his life.
His second time around led him to meeting and becoming great friends with a boy named Corey who had a snowboard and also happened to live just down the lane from him.
He and Corey would pile snow to create their own little mountains in the alleyway behind their homes. Beginning from Ansara’s house which was at the top, all the way down to Corey’s house which was at the bottom of the slanted laneway.
After trying Corey’s board, 10-year-old Ansara knew that he had to a have a snowboard of his own. After pleading with his mom, she finally gave in and took him to Canadian Tire the next day to buy him a cheap snowboard called the Legend SE. “It was only 60 bucks. It didn’t have metal ledges, had a pointy nose, it was like super old school,” he said.
Snowboarding was becoming more popular at this time and all the kids in the neighbourhood started joining. Soon the two boys had a clan of neighbourhood friends who they’d snowboard with late into the night.
“It started to become an obsession, like I just loved it. It got so crazy that my parents actually put spotlights on the back of the house to shine into the laneway so we could all snowboard later.”
Ansara graduated from riding in the back lanes to riding down mountains when his parents would bring him to Mont Kanasuta located in Quebec, 40 kilometres from the Ontario border, every year for his birthday. He spent much of his childhood and young adulthood on this mountain.
“This is basically where everything started to happen for me, where I met a lot of important people in the industry that I still associate with.”
In 1998 he entered a contest on Mount Antoine, located in Mattawan, Ont. where he placed fourth and beat out all the competitors already representing Burton. After the event, the representative for the company asked Ansara if he’d be interested in joining the Burton team.
From 1999-2004 Ansara was competing on the Burton team, where he was exposed to a lot of clothing and equipment that regular people wouldn’t get to see. While his teammates were fascinated by the snowboards, he was infatuated by outwear clothing and how it was designed. “Around this time is when I really started to realize that there was something here that I really loved.”
After 2004 Ansara took a break from the snowboarding world, which he said were difficult years for him. But in 2007 he got back on track where he was working as a demo product manager for Burton.
However, Ansara said he came to believe the gear other companies produced wasn’t very high quality.
“I was like, I can do this better on my own, so I quit."
He decided he was going to start a clothing brand. Even though he had not gone to design school he believed that his life experience and natural eye for visual design could lead him somewhere promising.
“I knew what needed to happen in the industry and where it needed to go for apparel, so it started out with me buying tee shirts with the FA logo on it and visualizing, drafting, drawing and making patterns for products.”
While making clothes on his own and posting the photos to Facebook, he was discovered in 2013 by a South Korean company. “I was very well respected as an alpine rider because many Koreans love racers.”
The next thing he knew a store in Korea had reached out to him through email stating that they wanted FA and they were offering him a high five figure purchase order. “I was like uh, I don’t even have a factory. So I kind of got thrown into the frying pan without even wanting it.”
Ansara explains that many other companies in the outerwear industry are missing the point, which is to create outerwear that is lightweight and excellent quality. At FA, you will find one of the lightest jackets in the game.
He owes his success to a distinct determination to do things differently and to always go against the grain. He was never the typical snowboarder in that he never identified with the “cool-dude” image that many snowboarders seem to have.
“There’s definitely a culture of smoking weed, and the chill dude, and the guy drinking beers. But in reality, that is a perception and if you want to be a pro-snowboarder you cannot have that lifestyle,” Ansara says.
He explains that when you are professional you’re tested for drugs all the time and when pro-athletes are not out on the hill they’re training in the gym.
“I can guarantee you that when you’re trying to push the limits and push your body, poison and things that are not natural to the body do not a play a role,” he says.
Ansara took the concept of having clarity of mind and a healthy body forward into his business. Bright and creative, he keeps himself extremely busy and finds great fulfillment in working hard and creating the best product the outerwear industry has to offer.
“This transition is the natural progression through maturity of both the design and the designer fine tuning their vision. It’s always fun to look back and see why something was done in a specific way and now revisiting it from a completely different direction.”
- By Megan Atkins-Baker