Q&A with Founder Helena Cawley
We’ve already introduced you to Uplift Studios on The Sweat Life — now from one of the Uplift co-founders, Helena Cawley, comes the newest idea in fitness fashion. Think StitchFix, but for fitness, and you have SweatStyle. Members create a profile and answer questions about their workouts and fitness style, and SweatStyle’s fashion team sends a box of workout wear picks each month, catered to the specific needs. The shipment costs only a small fee that goes toward your purchase if you keep any of the clothes. Don’t like anything? Just send it back, and all you cover is the shipment fee ($20). Genius, right? Founder Helena Cawley tells us more.
With the success of a service like StitchFix, and the rising popularity of fitness fashion - we can't believe it took someone this long to have an a-ha moment for a service like this! What inspired you to start SweatStyle?
After leaving my law career to open my fitness studio (Uplift), I was living in fitness clothes and my closet quickly went from business casual to athleisure. I discovered so many amazing activewear brands and styles that I’d never heard of before. At the same time I was hearing from clients and friends that they were getting tired of the same old clothes and were looking for something different. I realized that there was a disconnect — these great new styles and pieces were out there, but they weren’t reaching all the women who wanted to wear them! So the idea for SweatStyle began to form. It took a while for me to do anything about it, but after I kept talking about it with my husband and envisioning what this company could become, I knew I had to take action.
Why do you think fitness fashion has become so popular? There was a time when a ratty t-shift and shorts were the norm at the gym.
I think it goes hand in hand with the rise of the boutique studio. Our workout space has been elevated to these gorgeous, high-end studios, and we want our workout clothes to match. Our old high school field hockey shorts just won’t do anymore! Workouts have become a great place to go with friends or clients to socialize, and we want to look our best. Designers have realized that you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for comfort, and we love being able to look great all the time – even when we sweat.
Do you believe what you wear to the gym has the power to improve your workout?
Of course! Clothing always has the power to change your mood and put a little pep in your step – and workout clothes are no exception. Being excited about your awesome new workout outfit is great motivation to get you out the door and into your spin class so you can show it off. When clothes fit right and make you feel good, it permeates the rest of your attitude and your life. My own fitness philosophy is to do activities that make me happy and feel good about myself, rather than worry about how many calories I’m burning. I feel like wearing a great outfit to my workout is a big part of that!
How do you determine which styles subscribers will like? What is the most helpful info subscribers can give you?
We look at a few key pieces of data to determine which items will be sent to each customer. A big one is what types of workouts the customer likes to do — yoga, running, CrossFit, etc — and where else is she wearing her workout gear beyond the gym — brunch, errands, work. Someone who is a passionate yogi will get pieces that are different than the HIIT devotee. We also look at what the customer puts in her profile regarding her personal style — does she like big, bold patterns or is she more of a neutrals gal. We leave a section for people to write in something extra, and it’s really helpful to our stylists if there is anything specific that we should know. A lot of people write in that they just had a baby and are getting back into shape or that they have a very long torso, etc., which really helps us understand their needs and select the best pieces. The more info, the better!
How do you choose which brands you carry on SweatStyle?
We learn about new brands at industry trade shows, searching the corners of the internet, and sometimes even stopping people on the street! From there we have a pretty strict process, where we want to see, touch, and try on everything in person to really get a sense of the fit and the quality. It takes a bit of time to bring on a new brand because of this process, but it’s worth it in order to make sure that we truly have the best of the best of what’s out there.
Give us some items to watch out for on SweatStyle this fall (3-4 items).
Mesh is still all the rage but we’re seeing some variations now with perforated mesh and fun colors. We're super excited about some new details we're seeing for the fall. Neutral color blocking from Vimmia, a great take on the moto pant by Vie Active, and flirty zipper details from Varley are all part of our upcoming boxes. The fall is also all about layers layers layers, so we're also stocking up on some fun outerwear like cheeky slogan sweatshirts from Feel the Piece and splurge-worthy jackets from Alala.
What's in the future for SweatStyle?
We’re growing very quickly and are ramping up operations to keep up with demand. The near future is all about our customers and making sure we are delivering the best experience possible from beginning to end.
Any final words or advice for readers?
Yes! Sign up for SweatStyle! www.mysweatstyle.com.
Helena Cawley is the Founder and CEO of SweatStyle and a Co-Founder of Uplift, the women's fitness studio in NYC. Helena was previously an attorney at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York. Helena received a JD from NYU Law and a BA from University of Pennsylvania.