Fitness, Fashion And Community Converge At Performance Wear Retailer Carbon38 – Forbes

Carbon38 pioneered the multi-brand luxury athletic retail concept.

Photo Courtesy of Carbon38

In the first episode of Apple TV’s new show Physical, starring Rose Byrne, it’s evident how fashion and workout wear converged since the fitness boom in the 1980s. Fast-forward to today, when wearing athleisure styles crept into some corporate work attires. No one was poised better to capitalize on this emerging trend of blurring the lines between street and gym wear than Carbon38 founder Katie Warner Johnson.  The CEO blended her Harvard degree and fitness trainer skills to launch the premier luxury athletic multi-brand retailer with a mission to boost other female-led brands along the way.

Upon graduating with a BA in art history and architecture, Warner Johnson deferred a job offer from Deutsche Bank to continue her other passion, ballet. That dream was stalled due to several injuries, but rather than fall back on finance; she became a coveted fitness trainer in Los Angeles. “I was a fitness instructor and thus lived in spandex,” says Warner Johnson of how the brand was hatched.

Katie Warner Johnson, Founder and CEO of Carbon38

Photo Courtesy of Carbon38

“I got to know cool, up and coming brands, the majority of which were run by women. I found these brands wanted to go after the major players in the activewear space, but rather than do that; my thought was to stitch together the micro-players and crowdsource our way to success.” An invitation to the 2012 Women 2.0 startup conference weekend in San Francisco helped cement the idea.

The name sprang from the CEO’s passion for the periodic table, and in 2014 the brand launched with five brands. “Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in our bodies, and it felt compelling for the business I was beginning to create,” she explains. They have worked with over 260 brands to date, 75% of which are run or founded by women. “It is important to me to support fellow female leaders – Carbon38 exists because of them,” asserts Warner Johnson.

The site carries Adidas by Stella McCartney, LoveShackFancy, Balmain, Reebok X Victoria Beckham and Sweaty Betty, among others. The looks promote a style that blends activewear’s DNA with fashion ready-to-wear silhouettes, an empowering look for modern women.

The fitness pro dialed into her finance acumen culled from college experience, growing the company from $0 to over $50M, raising successful funding rounds, and hiring the right industry leaders to support the vision.</…….


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