There are so many excuses we make for skipping out on a workout, and not having the time to fit a sweat session into our already jam-packed schedule is one of the biggest ones. Enter Caroline Gogolak and Katie Warner Johnson—the founders of Carbon38, an e-commerce site for fitness apparel that can do double duty at the gym or at dinner.
“Our generation really cares about looking good, feeling good, taking care of business and is really into this fitness studio craze,” says Warner Johnson. “We wanted to look at that market specifically.”
The duo first met as teenagers at the Miami City Ballet and continued their friendship when they both ended up as undergraduates at Harvard, where they first recognized a need for activewear they could wear anywhere. “We like to say we lived our lives in spandex,” says Gogolak.
After college, the women went their separate ways—Gogolak to finance and Warner Johnson to the fitness industry—until they reconnected yet again when Gogolak took Warner Johnson’s legendary classes at Physique 57, where she was an all-star instructor. The friends realized there was a void in the marketplace for women who wanted chic workout apparel options outside of Lululemon. “So two years ago, Caroline was like, “Let’s start a business together,’“ says Warner Johnson.
Carbon38 debuted in January 2013 as a kind of Net-a-Porter for fitness, with the aim to feature activewear that is “machine washable, wrinkle free, supportive, flattering, and sexy,” according to Warner Johnson. “It’s just the perfect wardrobe to allow the modern woman to do everything she needs to do."
The women are always on the hunt for undiscovered activewear brands with a special balance of style and utility, like cute printed leggings that won’t dig into your middle and cause muffin top. “Right now we are having a love affair with Australian brands,” says Warner Johnson, citing Tully Lou and The Upside as some of her favorites, along with Pilot Athletic, which uses “a ‘diamond compression’ fabric in their leggings that makes you feel like a million bucks, whether you wear them with sneakers to the gym or ballet flats with a tank top.” Gogolak’s current favorite is a light t-shirt line called Basic. “They have a little bit of ombré at the bottom. Women love wearing a t-shirt like that with their own supportive sport bra underneath," she says.
As women who wear activewear almost all the time (“even Easter brunch!” confesses Gogolak), they are especially in tune with the needs of their customers and are always willing to respond. For example, when they started the site, they also stocked juice and cosmetics—but found that the interest in those products paled in comparison to that of fitness apparel. “The athletic leisure market has grown incredibly over the past years and all of these designers have created their own identities and their own looks,” says Gogolak.
The key for transitioning gymwear from day to night? “It all in the footwear,” says Gogolak. “That and a scarf and dry shampoo.”
Sounds easy enough! Time to stop making excuses and hit the gym. Click through the slideshow above for our favorite picks from Carbon38.