Every once in a while there’s a moment during a workout, between wiping your sweaty hair from your face and keeping an eye on the instructor for cues, that you glimpse a fitness fashion unicorn in your midst. Someone who turns the whole activewear thing on its head by wearing pieces with serious wow-factor, has you considering walking out of your class to go shopping, and makes you want to be her friend immediately.
That person? It’s Sarah Easley.
“When else are you looking at yourself in the mirror for an hour straight?”
The fashion industry veteran makes workout uniform staples out of “former date-night” Stella McCartney tees and diamond necklaces layered with high-end chokers. If it sounds edgy, then you’ve never stepped foot inside Kirna Zabete, the cool-girl New York City-born boutique that Easley opened 17 years ago. (She sold it last year—but not before stocking hot international athleisure labels like Lucas Hugh alongside the likes of Altuzarra and Saint Laurent.)
And perhaps most refreshing, Easley treats her hour-long workouts as the ultimate fashion opportunity. “When else are you looking at yourself in the mirror for an hour straight?” asks the AKT dance cardio devotee. “I want to feel good and look good while I’m grapevining across the floor. My philosophy is simple.”
It’s also pretty smart—particularly if you’re drawn to designer pieces outside the studio. “I don’t believe in babying clothes,” is how Easley explains wearing her previous seasons’ Chanel and Celine pieces to a sweaty workout. “If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a top, you’re going to wear it out for a while.” But when you’ve worn it to enough parties, you can then repurpose the piece and “give it a second life at your workout [to] get your money’s worth.”
Her style strategy? “You style it up and then you style it down.”
How Easley does this is pretty straightforward, even if you have no fashion design experience. She’ll cut up her high-fashion cast-offs, giving a diagonal slice across the front or back of a tee for that perfect knotted look—or leave as is, and pair with wild prints and fabrics you might not expect to sweat in. (She does draw the line at velvet and leather.)
Ready for some serious fashion inspiration? Here, Easley shows off her favorite fitness fashion looks—and shares a few brilliant tips for taking outfit risks.
Though her outfits may be statement-making, Easley insists that they’re a reflection of her preferred workouts. “You have to be a performer in dance cardio, so I make sure I feel like an entertainer when I’m at AKT,” she explains.
Another part of her performance? Taking off her layers. While she’ll start a class wearing a chunky knit sweater or leg warmers, these come off (she literally flings them to the side of the room—an act that Easley finds very satisfying) as she warms up.
The one thing that’s never removed? Her fur cuffs. “If I have a bracelet on, I have two—always,” she says. “It’s like the Wonder Woman symmetry of having two cuffs on each arm.”
Her second look includes one of her all-time favorite mash-ups: pairing a Koral camo sports bra with a buckle-adorned Celine tank. “They just always seem to go together perfectly,” is how Easley explains the combo.
But this look features more than just some smart layering; the fashion fiend went to great lengths to get those hand wraps. “I saw them on a model in the window at Bandier and knew I had to have them—but I was having such trouble finding them,” she says. “My wonderful assistant helped me track them down, but it turns out they were actually for boxing.” Although she isn’t throwing any jabs or hooks during dance cardio, Easley hearts a sartorial statement, so—voilà!—a knockout look is born.
Easley has been squat tossing with Anna Kaiser since before the workout was even named AKT, so she’s the definition of a regular. “I have such a short attention span, so it’s a tribute to the workout that I’ve been doing it for so long,” the style-setter explains.
And while she’s a huge fan of her pal Kaiser’s cardio-chic Target collection—”It’s so comfortable,” she raves—Easley is all about the high-low mix. Cue these sky-high Balenciaga boots, which the fashionista insists on wearing to dress up her studio outfits en route to class.
“I would never wear the same shoes on the subway that I wear in the studio,” Easley says, suggesting that it’s a little gross. (Makes total sense—especially when you’re lying face-down on a mat you just walked all over.) Instead she’ll pick out a fabulous, eye-catching pair for the commute—hence the wedged designer pair—swapping in her well-cushioned sneakers only once she’s heading in to class.
Hygienic? Yes. More shoes? Yes!
Easley is wearing:
Anna Kaiser for C9 Champion Trucker Hat
Anna Kaiser for C9 Champion Black Camouflage Tank
Anna Kaiser for C9 Champion Asymmetrical Zip Sweatshirt
Anna Kaiser for C9 Champion Leggings
To give your activewear the designer treatment, check out Rihanna’s latest collab with Puma (think $1,800 hoodies). Or see the brand new activewear line from cult fave LA brand, Aviator Nation.