Carbon38, a direct-to-consumer leader in performance apparel, is being refreshed with a new brand identity and improved website.
Founded in 2012 by Katie Warner Johnson, Carbon38 has created a new logo that reflects the progression of the brand in a sleek, clean typeface. It also updated the digital user experience, following its migration to Shopify last September. It’s been redesigned as a virtual storefront, with add-on modules to deepen storytelling and provide guidance for style and similar offerings.
Carbon38 offers over 265 brands, 70% of which are run by women. The company shipped over 1.18 million orders; saw a 16% year-over-year increase in repeat customers for 2021 and acquired over 662,000 customers in its lifetime. Since its inception, Carbon38 has secured over $60 million in funding, growing into a $100 million company in its first six years and generating over $300 million in sales over its lifetime.
When asked why now was a good time for a refresh, Johnson explained, “No time like the present. In the end, we are eight years old. I think the refresh is like the proverbial new haircut. She said after the past two years through a pandemic, many challenges and an explosion in the market with so many women living in activewear “it was just the right time to take a step back and freshen up.”
With the customer at the center of everything they do, the Managing Director said, “We wanted to create a logo that honors this woman in her life. She is the boss. she is the breadwinner. She is the executive. We wanted to create a new look and brand experience that was as sophisticated and forward-thinking as our customers. The new logo was developed in-house by its former creative director, who joined the company as brand manager.
In developing the new logo, Johnson thought about the Roaring Twenties and post-pandemic life. “I wanted to create a visual identity that honors that in a really modern way. To me, it really feels Art Deco and long and lean. It’s sophisticated and matches the evolution of a native fashion consumer environment. It was a really fun exercise to get back to why Carbon was there and where our client was right now.”
Additionally, Carbon38’s visuals will transition from studio to high lifestyle.
The company’s Carbon38 label accounts for 40% of its sales. In addition to seasonal offerings, the label includes fabrics such as Takara Shine, Ribbed, Diamond Compression and the all-new Melt, which is 81% nylon, 19% spandex, which is moisture wicking and odor resistant. and is four-way stretch and feels weightless. Takara Shine has developed a cult following, selling over 200,000 pairs of leggings since the collection launched in August 2016. An Essential capsule launched in February, consisting of terrycloth modal sets; there are tennis deals in Melt coming this month and a linen deal in April.
Besides its own brand, Carbon38 offers brands such as Nike, Adidas by Stella McCartney, Beach Riot, Beyond Yoga, Stand, Terez, Split59, Isabel Marant, Isabel Marant Etoile, Brochu Walker and Honor the Gift. “We really try to find the newest, coolest brands that have really fun stories and high product offerings, and help our customers find out,” Johnson said.
Being on Shopify was a great move for the company, Johnson said. “At the end of the day, the customer is accustomed to a certain type of experience [check-out, Shop Pay, navigating detail pages, brands, filters]. It allowed us at the click of a button to be with practically everyone. And that gave us the opportunity to really focus on storytelling and gear where we can really shine,” she said, noting that it allowed Carbon38 to be much more nimble and creative.
Moving on to what she sees as the company’s biggest growth opportunities, Johnson said there is still plenty of room to grow in the United States, as well as overseas, as the world becomes more active – and much more in spandex. In addition to its robust site, Carbon38 has two stores, in Pacific Palisades, CA, and Bridgehampton, NY, and continues to seek new locations.
After a “solid” 2021, Johnson said she was looking for overall increases of 20-30% in 2022.
As women return to the office, Johnson thinks she’ll continue shopping for activewear. “When we first entered lockdown in March 2020, our sales skyrocketed. That’s what everyone wanted. Everyone was looking for a pair of leggings and sweatpants. Then all of a sudden cocktail dresses became the main concern as we all started living our lives again and all those delayed weddings and parties and then Omicron hit and we’re all back in our sweats. I had a friend call me the other day and ask, ‘How can I wear sweatshirts to a cocktail party?’ This is a big problem that we can potentially solve at Carbon38,” Johnson said.
She said there were categories such as sportswear, workwear and leisurewear, “and now it’s all one.” Leggings, which during the pandemic were their number one bestsellers, are suddenly acceptable to wear to business meetings. “The world has changed so much. We like it,” she said.
As for customers who froze their gym memberships or let them expire, Johnson thinks they’ll be back. “I think by the third or fourth quarter, COVID-19 will be in our rear view mirror… Our customers have introduced so many new activities into their lives, whether it’s hiking, golf, surfing or tennis. Before, she was only doing her Pilates four or five times a week, now she mixes it all up,” Johnson said.
Carbon38’s daily bread has always been the studio or yoga. But now, she says, “Our client has chosen weight training more importantly and what we’re really passionate about is walking. Walking is the number one activity for any population.… We’ve spent a lot of time in the running-focused active space, but no one really owns walking, and I think there’s an opportunity there .
Over the years, Carbon38 has distinguished itself by forging successful collaborations with brands such as Venus Williams’ Eleven, Anine Bing, Dion Lee and Jonathan Simkhai. They tend to do one to two collaborations a year and are about to reveal a new clothing collaboration. They’ve also proven to be a good home for collaborations from other brands, such as Reebok x Victoria Beckham, allowing “cool brands” to be introduced to a wide audience, Johnson said.
With the pandemic having brought many supply chain challenges, she said brands now need to be more nimble than they have ever been. It has always had an incredibly efficient supply chain, but with long delivery times in Asia and South America of 11-12 months. “With the world moving much faster, we wanted to see if we could shorten this. That was the big challenge and we brought in new leaders to see it through.… We just launched our first collection using the new supply chain with a three-month lead time, made here in the United States just a few weeks ago,” Johnson said.
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