This summer saw the launch of a new smartphone fashion app named Figr, a fun sartorial take on the Surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, developed in the early twentieth century. In its original version the game involved the creation of a sentence or picture by three or four players collectively, each taking it in turns to write a word or draw part of an image. Surrealism pioneer André Breton expressed that the game was initially dreamt up for fun but was soon found to be highly creatively enriching.
Indeed, there have been a number of modern interpretations of the game to date, from SHOWstudio's wonderful interactive version, to various artist reimaginings like Liz Linden's Exquisite Corpse (2009) – playfully subvertive collages comprising various Playboy centrefolds. With Figr however, the focus is of course on the clothes, not what's underneath them. On how the Figr concept came about co-founder Byron Parr tells us, "I was fascinated with the explosion of street-style photography, bloggers, that whole culture, and had the idea of being able to switch out outfits on a touch screen device for a while, but the timing wasn’t right." A short while later the former MAC Cosmetics design director moved to New York from San Francisco and started meeting with people, including business partners Lauren Levinger and Chris Parcel, to make his dream a reality and soon after Figr was born.
Mastering the Figr technique is relatively simple and surprisingly satisfying – users simply choose four separate parts of a look (head, top, bottoms and shoes) from a selection of designer collections as well as streetwear blogs and merge them to create their own unique outfits. These can then be posted on the Figr feed or shared on social networks. Figr is a great way of triggering style inspiration, shopping the new collections, and trying your hand at experimental styling. Here we speak to Parr about the multifarious inspirations behind Figr and the plans for its future...
Can you describe Figr in one sentence?
Figr is a new mobile fashion experience for iPhone, where you can mix and match fashion from the runway and street-style blogs, to create exciting looks and craft your own sense of style.
Was Cher’s digital outfit matcher in Clueless a reference? And what were your other inspirations when creating Figr – exquisite corpse related or otherwise?
That's a funny one – we certainly knew about Cher's closet, but it was never something we used to describe Figr, so that association was something that people came to all on their own. But we’re excited to have built a product that, 18 years later, has everyone talking about such a seminal moment of fashion pop culture.
"The Surrealists were certainly part of the inspiration for Figr, but more indirectly by way of the spiral bound books I remember as a child"
The Surrealists (Exquisite Corpse) were certainly part of the inspiration for Figr, but more indirectly by way of the spiral bound books I remember as a child. There’s also a great booklet made in the early 60s by the design firm Fletcher/Forbes/Gill to promote their merger, it has the three partners cut into three and I always thought that was a simple but great use of the Exquisite Corpse concept.
Here in the US, there was a game called Fashion Plates which Figr has also been compared to. We recently found out that the name "Fashion Plates" refers to the coloured etchings made in the 18th Century which illustrated the various fashion styles across Europe. Most of the core components of Figr are actually very old ideas, we're just trying to re-introduce them to the digital age in a way that's interesting and delightful.
What’s your all-time favourite game?
Exquisite Corpse of course! But if I had to choose another, it would have to be Dominican Rummy. I’m not a huge card player, but I love sitting around the table with friends and family and our jars of pocket change. The Dominican rules means it can get very heated – especially if my sister-in-law is playing, and of course it’s always better with something to soothe the pain of a heavy hand.
What do you hope for in terms of the future of Figr? Do you have plans to expand it? A male version perhaps or a make-up version?
We spent a lot of time thinking about the types of brands we wanted to represent while building the app. The brands and tastemakers we launched with were those we felt people both in the fashion industry as well as fashion fans would identify with. We’re in conversation with a number of brands about adding them to Figr, so in the future we would love to mix and match with more brands like Proenza Schouler, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Céline, Balenciaga...
Expansion is definitely on our minds, on our calendars, and on our desktops. There are so many avenues to take here: a male version, make-up and accessories, editorial and social, the list goes on and on. We've got a 2.0 scheduled to launch in September that makes Figr big – more of what's already there, and a lot of new stuff too. The goal is to make Figr a destination and format for bringing the world of fashion into a fun and meaningful mobile experience.
Download Figr for free here.
Text Daisy Woodward