Elena Interviewed by Behind The Scenes NYC

Original interview was published on September 25th, 2018 by BTSNYC.

Figura: Shopping Less But Better

New York is not only one of the fashion’s capitals of the world, but it’s the birth place of countless innovative brands. Figura clothes will give your close a twist and make you a true New Yorker!

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It’s super common not only to walk on the streets and see new stores, but it’s easy to find new emerging brands launching their online presence and fighting for their space.

That said, we recently interviewed Elena Zaharova, founder of Figura, a clothes line that enhances the different beauties in women, working with gorgeous, everyday wardrobe pieces.

Take a look at her fantastic journey from west-central Russia to New York!


1. Tell us a bit about you, where you’re from, your background, what you worked with?

I was born in a very small town in west-central Russia. It was remarkably boring, and it took me 10 years of urban life to appreciate my rural childhood — the ability to play outside till dusk, run barefoot, spend most summer camping and hanging out with friends unsupervised.

My mom is very crafty and creative. As far as I remember myself, she’s been sewing, painting, playing with different media and techniques. I was that kid whose parents built ketchup-soda volcano with them and enjoyed it no less.

When I was 17, I moved to Moscow to study journalism. In a big city, I was surrounded by more creative people, and I started questioning myself about what I want to do. Journalism wasn’t that answer, and after two years I left the school.

Eventually, I realized that my passion for art and craft wasn’t as childish and silly as it appeared, and could become a profession and even pay the bill. I started working as a decorator and a window display designer full-time. At 25, I led a chain of 18 stores as a creative director, changed windows seasonally and developed their visual identity.

2. How did Figura start? How did your childhood, playing and sewing clothes impact your business?

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I’ve been sewing and playing with clothes since my early childhood. I joke sometimes that most women from post-soviet countries are born to be a fashion designer. Fashion choice was very limited, and they had to create all their clothes. In my childhood, it was more of a routine to turn an old granny’s t-shirt into a dress than go shopping. I learned how to use a sewing machine when I was about 9, and my first very own piece was a belt bag made out of curtains leftover.

I’ve always designed for myself, but business-wise it wasn’t in the air until 2015. Figura started randomly. There were a few things I couldn’t find at stores, like a bathroom-friendly jumpsuit with no hassle to get it off and on.

One day I put a few pieces together into my first collection. The result overcame my expectations, and, as I see it now, part of the reason was my low-key approach. I noticed that women can relate to non-professional models better. And, if I want a dress to have decent size pockets, so do other women. Since then, I devoted myself to explore the comfort and practicality of women’s wardrobe.

3. Being an outsider entrepreneur, how has your journey in NYC been so far and what are the biggest challenges you find?

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I moved to New York 3 years ago, so did my brand. New York is very competitive, but it also makes the atmosphere creative and risk-friendly.

By the moment I started Figura, I’d been blogging for a few years, so most of my audience became my customers.

Moving to New York made me change the way I marketed my brand. I had to learn how to build the audience from scratch. It’s an ongoing process, and I’m still far from saying “Good job!” to myself.

4. How do you see Figura fit into NYC’s fashion scene and into the powerful New Yorker women’s closet?

I think of my customers as very sophisticated women who support the mantra of shopping less but better. As a designer, I’m into creating better quality pieces rather than selling more.

New York apartments can be small, but our closets are big. Let’s be smart to load them with pieces we really need.

5. What are your top 3 styling tips to feel like a true New Yorker?

  • Mix & match. A real New Yorker is like the city itself, diverse and vibrant;
  • Buy less but better;
  • Shop independent designers, at least sometimes. Besides supporting them, it gives your wardrobe that twist.

6. Which item is your bestseller?

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Wide black pants. They don’t look baggy and have it all: elastic waist and deep pockets. When I sold the first pair, I left the second for myself.

I’ve used this cut for my other models (jumpsuits, for example), but the original wool version is still my best hit.

7. Where can people find Figura, besides online?

Figura attends local markets and pop-up projects. On October 29th, you can spot Figura’s costume at the dancing performance Slice & Dice, as part of our collaboration with The Lovelies, a local group of artists. Get updated by following Figura on Instagram.

8. Is there any upcoming collaboration, collection, or interesting info you’d like to share? How does it currently involve the local community, being an independently owned brand?

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For most of my editorials, I feature real women, as opposed to professional models, from different fields and backgrounds, ranging from a barista at a Parisian Cafe to an emerging DJ in Brooklyn. New York taught me how to approach people and share ideas. Beauty only works with passion and collaboration behind it.

My first New York projected was called “All About Us Not Clothing”. The name speaks for itself: the line was presented by my long-time Instagram muses. Six girls from around the world received the clothes and styled them the way they wanted, creating a lookbook for Figura’s new collection.

I’m grateful to Etsy Community and Handmade Collective for the opportunity to shape my vision and blog about Figura’s aesthetic. Raw Artist New York became my first runway. I’m always open to collaboration with local brands. Just recently I had a chance to work with Zunta Shop and Zhuorui Fu Collection.

Recently I’ve teamed up with The Lovelies, a group of local artists, to challenge fashion to the point of being comfortable for dancers. It feels good to see Figura’s clothes fit easily everywhere, from a red carpet walk to a dance performance.

Figura’s last collection was dedicated to New York’s ubiquitous corner store delis. Delis are as visually noisy and as busy as urban life, and Figura’s minimal designs are sure to help one find balance in the city. Right now I’m working on my new collection, inspired by natural textures of volcanic Iceland. Being in contrast with the urban story, it keeps exploring the meaning of clothing and serving the practicality.

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