Carbon38, the fitness-minded etailer launched by Katie Warner Johnson and Caroline Gogolak, has emerged as a fashion destination in its own right. Today, it augments its offerings by launching a private-label ready-to-wear line alongside its curated assortment of brands such as Adidas by Stella McCartney, Michi, Mara Hoffman, Monreal, Alala, and Mary Katrantzou. The collection, which ranges from $98 to $375, includes a sports bra and leggings alongside more street-worthy fare such as a blazer, poncho, and jumpsuit, all of which are made from neoprene and compression fabric. Johnson and Gogolak explain the project’s inception.
What inspired you to design your own fashion line?
Katie: Our customers! Our customer base is made up of entrepreneurs, executives, wives and mothers who want to live forever and look hot. For this generation, wellness not only influences her food, workout and skin care choices but also her fashion decisions. We wanted to create a collection that could perform like activewear; moisture-wicking, machine washable, chafe-free, stretchy, comfortable and supportive, but take her beyond the gym.
Caroline: First and foremost, we will be a retailer. We love hand-picking the best of activewear and offering our customers a curated site of our favorite styles and brands. That said, we have always wanted to do our own collection and continue to build the Carbon38 brand. The combination of the two will give our customers the best activewear platform to shop on.
What was the most challenging piece of the project to design?
Katie: The blazer. Creating a jacket that fits like a glove and endures the beating of multiple machine washes, airplane rides, constant packing and unpacking and endless hours of wear and tear is no easy feat.
Caroline: Figuring out a color or print other than black that would make the collection stand out. There are a lot of prints in the activewear market but we wanted to do something that was “out of the box,” sophisticated and elegant. The signature wave print speaks to the roots of our company and how we are headquartered in LA, with the ocean waves, but the black and white gives it the urban and street feel of NYC, which is where I’m from.
What intel did you glean from your customers in terms of what was missing from their wardrobes?
Caroline: Our customers—and the activewear category in general—are missing the après-gym styles. The last thing I want to do after my Tracy Anderson class is throw on a pair of skinny jeans, because I feel like I’m still sweaty and heated from the class. We have always wanted to combine activewear fabrics and construction with ready-to-wear silhouettes to dress this new power woman who does it all. It stems from our personal frustration and desire to pick up on this athleisure trend.
What was your favorite part of the design process?
Katie: The first brainstorm and the final product. Let’s just say everything in between was well worth it, but aged me.
Caroline: Katie and I have been dreaming about this since day one of Carbon38, so seeing our initial vision on our designer’s sketches was definitely a highlight, then getting the actual samples brought the dream to life. Our team is amazing and, like us, they are shaping the activewear industry. It’s great to see this entire process, which was a lot of work, come to life.
How did you source the fabric?
Katie: We went right to Italy for inspiration and then called upon the highest quality fabric mills in Los Angeles to create. We are proud to say this line is 100% designed, sourced and manufactured in Los Angeles.
Caroline: Yoon Chung, our chief merchant, heads this team and was integral to this process. We chose performance spandex with a silky feel and light sheen—we think this fabric makes women look thinner—and scuba fabric for the more structured layering pieces and the dress.
How did you test-drive the products?
Caroline: We wear-test everything on our site, not just the pieces our own label. If we can’t workout in it, we don’t buy it. We have an office of mainly women who do everything from yoga to bootcamp, so we received a lot of feedback to make each piece perfect.
Katie: I have been plucking production samples from the rack and running around L.A. in the pieces since July. My team is looking forward to our next collection, because that means they won’t have to see me in the same pieces every week.