LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Professional ballerinas Katie Warner Johnson and Caroline Gogolak hit on something with high-end, activewear e-tailer Carbon38.
The two celebrated the two-year mark of their company Saturday at a private residence in the Hollywood Hills as they evaluate new projects this year in a bid to grow the business and give it a leg up on competitors in the rapidly growing activewear market.
“Spandex is the new denim,” Warner Johnson, who serves as cofounder and chief executive, said.
Carbon38 offers a curated mix on its site of 35 to 47 brands, including Michi, Lorna Jane, Pilot Athletic and Vie Active. The idea is to offer fashion that takes the wearer from the gym to a night out — hence their hashtag, #RuninRunway.
“We really like to keep the offering tight and curated, not only from the brands that we carry, but the product that they have to offer,” said Gogolak, who is cofounder, president and head buyer. “We want the shopping experience for the consumer to be very easy. She doesn’t want to see 20 pairs of black leggings; she wants to see what are the best for [her] workout.”
The privately held company, which is majority owned by Warner Johnson and Gogolak, doesn’t disclose sales, but the two reported growth last year and said they expect to break even this year.
Carbon38, which has 17 workers at its Los Angeles headquarters and another two in New York, closed a friends and family round in September 2013, raised a bridge round in April and is in the midst of raising another bridge. It aims to go out for its Series A in the spring, according to Warner Johnson.
Among its investors and advisors is former Nasty Gal President and COO Deborah Benton.
They seek to raise capital in an environment that’s currently tough for e-commerce companies.
“It’s not great for e-commerce right now in the VC world, but what’s great about our company is we have built [it] in a very lean manner from day one,” Warner Johnson said. “Now we’re really pushing for profitability. We are in the luxury business. We have the benefit of margin so that we can grow that.”
The company is building out its New York office this year, but it’s largest area of focus is on product development with its own Carbon38-branded apparel to be produced in Los Angeles.
The two hope to launch it sometime this year and it’s expected to be a large part of the company’s business, according to Gogolak.
“We see an opportunity to create more of the Carbon38 brand,” Gogolak said. “There’s all these other brands and all this other product and we want to fill the gaps in the marketplace.”
It will likely consist of limited-quantity runs. As far as what’s actually being developed, it will evolve over the seasons and be consistent with the overall Carbon38 “lifestyle” brand, Gogolak said.
“It’s solely for bottom line and to fill the holes, but as far as who we are, we’ll always be a retailer,” Warner Johnson said.
In fact, brick-and-mortar could very well be the next card played for Carbon38.
“As a luxury company,” Warner Johnson said, “it’s inevitable and I do think there are a lot of interesting ways in which we can meld the online and offline worlds into one.”