Caroline Gogolak has had a long career in athleisure. After co-founding the athleisure retailer Carbon38 in 2012 and serving as its president until 2017, she left to join SoulCycle as vp of retail. She helped kick-start the company’s retail sales and guide its transition from licensing apparel to designing apparel in-house.
Now, Gogolak has a new project in the works. In July, she’s launching a streetwear brand called Saint Art, with the goal of marrying streetwear styles with sustainable production from the ground up. Streetwear has been a notoriously resistant, or at least apathetic, sector when it comes to sustainability. But with an early $2 million round of funding from angel investors like the founder of Tinder, Gogolak intends to bring the two worlds together.
Gogolak created Saint Art to try and solve fundamental problems in fashion. On the one hand, the overproduction of clothing leads to waste, no matter how responsible the materials are. On the other hand, consumer trends have shifted, and shoppers no longer go to a department store four times a year to refresh their seasonal wardrobes, Gogolak said. Trends form and dissipate quickly, and brands need to be able to respond to those changes just as quickly.
Saint Art will release all of its product in weekly drops. It’s a classic strategy in the streetwear space, but also one that comes with a certain amount of environmental baggage, according to some insiders.
“The unfortunate thing is that, the better you are at being a streetwear fashionista, the worse you are for the environment,” said streetwear designer Jeff Staple. “All the constant releases and constantly getting new things has an impact on the environment.”
But Gogolak is hoping to balance that by exclusively working with zero-waste and low-minimum factories and producing small batches of each style. Materials left over from one drop will be repurposed for later drops to minimize waste. And the limited drop model of only a handful of styles at a time will help to ensure that styles sell out. The first collection is limited to T-shirts, sweats and outerwear, ranging in price from under $100 to $200.
“The biggest risk to starting any fashion brand is inventory,” Gogolak said. “For me, it took a year to figure out the supply chain, find the right factories and get everything ready. Building a brand today is really about building an efficient supply chain.”
Gogolak said she looked to brands like Supreme and Palace for inspiration on how to structure her brand. However, she wants to differentiate from them and their brick-and-mortar focus by zeroing in on DTC e-commerce sales. This creates an extra challenge of creating hype; Gogolak said the long lines outside of Supreme stores are a good marketing tool.
Instead, Gogolak said she’ll be making sustainability central to the brand’s messaging, to target the conscious consumer — Saint Art will do the bulk of its advertising on social channels. On top of that, she’ll be working with a regularly rotating artist-in-residence, consulting with them on collections and tapping into their audiences. The first will be singer-songwriter Justine Skye (who has nearly 3 million Instagram followers) — she’ll help steer the styles of the first few drops. Other artists-in-residence will be announced closer to the brand’s launch.
“We’ve raised $2 million pre-revenue and pre-launch, so there’s a lot of opportunity for us,” Gogolak said. “Profitability is the goal. When you come down to it, in apparel, profitability always has to be the goal. So that will be our focus first.”