Talking health, fitness and fashion with Sweatstyle's Helena Cawley

The athleisure trend is stronger than ever.

Celebs like Beyoncé and Carrie Underwood are launching their own activewear labels at a time when more people are spending money on their fitness wardrobe: According to NPD Group, U.S. consumers spent $323 billion on apparel, footwear and accessories last year, a 1% increase over 2013 that was largely driven by activewear, athletic performance footwear and bags.

Helena Cawley is taking notice, too. A former corporate lawyer turned co-owner of the women-only fitness studio Uplift, the Chelsea resident's newest venture is Sweatstyle, a subscription service for high-end fitness apparel. For $20 a shipment, subscribers get a curated selection of fitness apparel from brands like Alala, Phat Buddha and Lole, and have five days to decide what to keep and what to return.

By the looks of it, Cawley's on to something: When it launched last month, Sweatstyle filled up the first round of subscriptions in less than 24 hours.

We chatted with Cawley, 35, about her latest voray into the fitness scene and what living a healthy lifestyle means to her.


How did Sweatstyle come about?

I've seen so many women over the past three years coming to the studio wearing these incredibly trendy and cool and fashionable items. They're wearing them to and from the gym, to work, running errands, basically all over the streets of New York. I wanted a way to get the new and amazing styles and trends that were becoming so popular out to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to hear about them. There's not a lot of great ways to find these clothes at this point.


Why do you think activewear is growing so much?

The comfort is one -- wearing your workout gear is really easy to get around in for those of us who live in an urban environment. It's so much more comfortable than wearing something structured. And then there's the performance aspect of it as well -- these clothes are getting so much smarter and better, and they're lasting longer and just fitting us better. We're no longer wearing our bulky lacrosse T-shirts from high school.


What's an example of a top-performing item available through Sweatstyle?

HPE is a brand we work with. Their clothes are moisture-wicking, anti-stink, will withstand multiple washings and will look good on you even after you work out and are sweaty. All of the brands have those elements of not breaking down or only lasting for a couple of months -- they are really going to be high-quality.


How do you see Sweatstyle evolving?

We started very small to get our feet wet and control the growth. We definitely want to be able to manage demand without disappointing people. We're definitely adding more brands and styles and adding accessories -- water bottles, headbands, gym bags, yoga mats, maybe even sneakers. There are so many cool sneaker designers that are out there right now. In terms of additional options for shopping, one thing I'm definitely incorporating in the next couple of months is an ecommerce section of the site. Right now you can only sign up for the box.


Any developments at Uplift?

We're definitely in a growth phase. We had the most successful year this past year, we're just in a really good place there.


What's your typical workout like?

I'm a co-owner at Uplift, so obviously I do a lot of working out at my studio. One is a strength class, which really encourages people to lift heavy weights and the class works the whole body one muscle group at a time. I love that class. It really helps tone, build strength and it's a super fun class. I do classes multiple times a week at my studio. I'm also a big runner -- in the spring, summer and fall I'll run outdoors all the time. In the winter I'm a wuss. I'm pregnant now too, but I'm sure I'll get back into it.


What are your goals or mindset when working out?

I like to say I do a consistent variety. Before I was pregnant, I'd do two days of running, two days of strength training, one day of yoga or a sculpt fusion class. And I'll throw in a spin class and barre class every once in a while. I love a woman with muscles -- I think it's super sexy, I'm always trying to get more definition in my own muscles, and I just love the adrenaline and endorphins that I get from it. Anything that will make me feel like a badass after my workout, I am certainly sold on.


What else do you do to stay healthy?

It's part of my lifestyle. The other big part is nutrition. I'm not somebody who deprives myself, I don't only eat organic or vegetarian. I pretty much eat everything. For me, the way I like to stay healthy and what works for me is portion control. I taught myself to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. It's amazing how much that works. I don't stress out about food. I think about food as nutrition and energy for me.


What are your healthy restaurant go-tos?

I like places that have more taste and variety to them [like] Claudette. They do really fresh food, a lot of greens and just really make things so flavorful and tasty. And then a new place that's just opened in the West Village -- Café Clover -- [it's] also clean food, tasty, healthy, that's more about the flavors and taste and quality of the food. For a quick meal, when I'm working at the studio, I'll get Juice Shop. We're in the Flatiron area, where there's just so much to offer now by way of fitness and juice places and great food places. They call it the Fitness District now. It's been cool to watch the evolution of that.


Get email updates on our latest fitness fashion styles, services and more.