ACTIVE DUTY: CHARLI COHEN ON THE RISE OF ACTIVEWEAR

Does the future of fashion belong to activewear? According to London designer Charli Cohen, yes. Combining her love of fashion and fitness, this uber talented designer is part of the new wave of visionaries blurring the line between the practical and the ultra hip.

Activewear has become such big business, is it something you predicted when you first started? Absolutely. I could see the industry changing as I was finishing university and knew that I had to launch CC as quickly as possible to be part of that momentum. I used my final year at university to research, source, create my branding and build out a supply chain, so I was as ready to go as soon as possible when I graduated.

Why do you think activewear has become so popular? Between 2012-2013, mainstream fashion media really started to focus in on health and fitness, dedicating editors to it and creating wellness pages in their magazines. I think this is what kicked off fitness as a status symbol. Aside from this, I think people just need and expect more from what they wear—as well as wanting to be able to spontaneously hit the gym, our lives are busier, we commute more, there is less structure and we want to be prepared. We need clothes that keep up, so wearing activewear as daywear makes sense.

What’s different about Charli Cohen? One of the first priorities for me was to ensure we had the best of the best materials to work with, I wanted to break the mould of traditional scratchy shiny activewear fabrics. We work with fabric mills who specialize in putting fashion finishes on Olympic-level performance fabrics which means we have technical polyamides that emulate silk, leather and soft cotton. Our trims come from the same suppliers as Prada and Chanel. As a fashion designer first, but also a certified personal trainer, I’m able to design from both sides. I’ll start by designing the clothes I think people would love to wear, then I figure out how to make each item fully technical.

How did you first become involved? I’d always planned to have my own brand and actually started my first—a t-shirt label—when I was 15. I wanted first hand experience of the industry and all the elements of running a fashion business. The decision to pursue activewear specifically came later, whilst I was at university. I loved both fitness and fashion, so the idea of combining them was really exciting and also logical given that it was a growing market.

How has the brand evolved from its first launch? With the limitations of being a new, unfunded brand, I had to keep each collection very concise. For that to be commercial and to establish the brand in this new space, I chose to focus on the more traditionally active styles—bras, tanks, leggings—with a much smaller proportion of ready-to-wear pieces. As time has gone on, I’ve been able to expand on the technical ready-to-wear side, which I find so exciting, it allows me to be much more creative as a designer.

What do you love about seeing more people develop a love for activewear? I love that health and fitness is cool to the point that people want to embody that in their everyday clothes. It’s part of a sustainable movement towards prioritizing health. I also love seeing proof that fashion doesn’t have to mean discomfort or impracticality,  you can look awesome but still have the freedom to respond to whatever the day throws at you.

What do you see as the future? I think technical fashion is the next step on from activewear—clothes that you wouldn’t even know were active because the technology is all in the fabric and construction, rather than in the silhouette and detailing. So you could potentially workout in a tailored trouser rather than a pair of leggings, run for the train without your choice of super-cool daywear holding you back or fly long haul looking perfectly put together, in total comfort with no creasing. I think it’ll be all about clothes to live in and do anything in, without being sport-specific or leisure-specific. Charli-Cohen.com — ANASTASIA RUBIN