Small Business Chats: The Ladies Behind Figure & Form

September 15, 2013 BY MAIA SCHOENFELDER

We love a good shopping experience, and when Figure & Form combined some of our favorite Capsule Show designers with other up and coming labels AND vintage, we were sold. We had to know more, so we sat the two power ladies behind the start-up and asked them about the inner workings and successes of running their business.

Tell us a little about Figure & Form, how was the idea born?

Alexandra: Figure & Form was born out of what I saw as something missing from the industry--a niche and a customer not catered to. In truth, it is the store my friends and I were looking for but couldn’t find. At Figure & Form we bring what are often, but not exclusively, emerging designers whose goods we believe in, want to support, and that are importantly not easily found, to the greater public. This is in addition to a large selection of vintage pieces. _67A3258_RT

The fact that the site is half vintage reflects our belief that chic well-made goods are everlasting and that fashion is meant to be fun and played with. We encourage the mixing of new and old, something displayed in our styled looks. At Figure & Form we have a blog and shoot seasonal campaigns and videos making it a multimedia experience where the customer can truly interact with and better get to know us, our inspiration, the clothing, its inspiration, and the designers behind it all.

Figure & Form is e-commerce rather than brick and mortar because that is the way I believe fashion is moving. I can’t remember the last time I shopped in a physical store. Online we can easily reach an international market and there’s nothing quite as exciting as receiving something beautiful in the mail after shopping for it while dressed in sweats in bed or stuck in a cab. At Figure & Form we want you to be able to spend thirty dollars or five hundred and still obtain a package that appears at your door as a precious gift simply waiting to be unwrapped. We also deliver quickly and make the process of returning and/or exchanging goods as simple, seamless and easy as possible.

What is the hardest part about working in the fashion industry? What advice has gotten you through the rough patches?

Alexandra: The fashion industry is a notoriously cutthroat one and can certainly be difficult to navigate, but by creating a small team of trusted individuals at Figure & Form who we work with again and again to shoot product, campaigns, videos style, do hair and makeup etc., we have created an incredibly inspiring, creative, enjoyable, and, most importantly, drama free environment.

The advice that I have received that has been most helpful to me through all rough patches in life, as a whole, is to persevere. Those who are most successful are the ones that will not, and do not, give up. However, the reason I have survived and am still in the fashion industry must be given credit in great part to the incredible fortune of having found my partner in everything at Figure & Form, and its Fashion Director, Janice Chou. She is without a doubt one of the most capable, calm, intelligent, organized, creative, and hardworking individuals I have ever known, not to mention personally one of the kindest and most generous souls, and it is in her and due to her guidance that I often find the will to push forward when things get hectic or overwhelming.

Janice: As in any industry, keeping perspective is a challenge. Problems are fixable. Not every rejection is personal. Small set backs are not total derailments. Competition is necessary. It's easy to get worked up about the immediate problems and wrapped up in frustrations. Stepping back and analyzing how this small piece fits into the greater goal reminds me that there were problems before this one, there will be more to come, but everything will ultimately be alright.

Having Alex and keeping communication completely open has been the key to braving the rough patches. It is awful to be the one to say, "We have a problem and I'm panicking" but being immediately up front with each other about something that went wrong means we are faster to react and both learn from the experience.

3-THE-SHOPTalk about some of your favorite pieces in the store right now.

Alexandra: This is an incredibly difficult question as I’ve had a hand in choosing all the pieces in what is a relatively small and highly curated collection and so love and could talk about them all! I can say I live in the Ryu Ryu Ponte legging, which is insanely comfortable and yet always looks perfectly pulled together; wear my Leah Ball rings every day, and am drooling over several of the perfectly slouchy, vintage menswear-inspired pants we have. In terms of the vintage it is incredibly difficult not to keep things for myself!

Janice: At the top of my list is the PATOUF pleated maxi skirt. I love the drama of the piece and its rigid pleats and more weighted fabric makes it so unique from the traditional ethereal, bohemian maxi skirts. VEDA's Max leather jacket is going to be an immediate go-to piece. The elastic sleeves make it so easy to layer sweaters underneath without rendering your arms immobile. Finally, the WAYNE origami skirt is my new favorite day-to-night piece.

What inspires you both to do what you do?

Alexandra: As a creative person I am constantly inspired. Inspiration can come in so many forms, a scent, the feel of a fabric, a stranger I pass on the street, a sound, a film, poem, or novel. In Figure & Form I have found a tremendous outlet for creative expression that allows me to indulge in so many facets of my varied interests-- of course fashion, but also so much more such as video, music, writing, and the chance hopefully to act as a catalyst for others to pursue their own dreams and be inspired.

Janice: Above a longtime passion for fashion, I'm most inspired by Alexandra and other like-minded girls my age who want to be fashion-forward and pragmatic, who are savvy enough to not chase trends that don't suit her age or body and have groomed her own style. I'm inspired by this community and hope Figure & Form becomes a platform (both in the shopping and editorial sense) for this group to convene.

_MG_4444_RT2If you could raid the closet of any person, fictional or otherwise, who would it be?

Alexandra: Well I happen to be incredibly lucky that this person is easily accessible to me as she happens to be my own mother. It is from her that I first gained my love of fashion and more so a true appreciation for cut, construction, fabric and overall, clothing that is well made and worth investing in. Luckily she is a hoarder like I am when it comes to clothing, and so today I continue constantly to raid her closet for anything from little sundresses she wore when she was my age to vintage CHANEL jackets to Alaïa dresses. One of my greatest regrets is that my feet are so much bigger.

My mother always encouraged and supported my desire to experiment with fashion, and though looking back I’ve made many, many a fashion faux-pas, I regret none of them, even the middle school phase where I decided cat-suits and forcing my heavy straight hair into Shirley Temple ringlets (no easy feat) was the way to go.

Janice: Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy, predictable answers, I know, but they're icons for a reason. Together they taught me to be inspired by the seasonal trends but not to sacrifice personal, tried-and-true style, that marching to the beat of your own drum doesn't mean you need to dress outrageously.

Let's talk audience, what kind of woman shops at Figure & Form?

Alexandra: The Figure & Form woman is one who believes in building a wardrobe and in investing her expendable income in timeless pieces that can be found at a price point that is still accessible but a far cry from “fast fashion.” She values quality and sophistication and has an eye for such.

_MG_4571_RTThe biggest hurdle you face daily is...

Alexandra: To gym or not to gym?

Janice: Deciding what needs to get done first. I rigidly follow a to-do list to keep me focused. When I was little, I'd make to-do lists for my weekend and at the top was always, "Wake up" as if I might skip that crucial step on the checklist.

What is one essential piece every Figure & Form woman should own?

Alexandra: The simple answer is a great black pant, but more so it should be something that makes her feel great. A reliable and simple classic she can turn to on those days when “nothing fits” and “everything looks wrong.” You know we all have them…

Janice: Thinking of fall, good fitting trousers. My current favorite is the pleated trouser by DESSU; they sound intimidating-- pleated?! Drop-crotch?!-- but they are incredibly flattering. Trust. Year round? A high-waisted pencil or full skirt.

Fill in the blank: I don't make it through the day without...

Alexandra: Coffee.

Janice: The Reminders app on my iPhone. I write too slowly to use a traditional notepad for those "Ah ha!/Gasp, I forgot!/I NEED to...!" moments.

_MG_4682_RTWhat trends are you loving for fall?

Alexandra: Fall is far and away my favorite season for dressing. It’s not so much a trend I’m loving, though slouchy knits and silky pants will never be far from my mind, but the idea and act of layering. Mixing lighter pieces from spring like tank tops and shorts with sweaters, blazers, tights, etc., to transition them into fall and even make them viable options all year round. I’m also known for wearing quite a bit of black…

Janice: I love the London-menswear herringbone and houndstooth look for fall and I'm eager to drop, "haberdashery" into fashion-focused conversations.

When you can't figure out what to wear in the morning, what's your go-to piece or outfit?

Alexandra: One can never go wrong with a little black dress and a cute pair of booties. In many an emergency, those two pieces, along with some dry shampoo and a bit of blush, have saved the day.

Janice: The addition of something leopard print makes any outfit look well thought out.

Check out Figure & Form at Capsule Show NYW and right here online.