5 Minutes With Ilana Kugel, Founder Of LA-Based Activewear Label, KORAL

Inspired by Rio with a Cali edge.

koral ativewear
Image: KORAL

If you’re a bit of an activewear aficionado (and we’re assuming you are because, well, you’re reading Amodrn), there’s no doubt you’ve come across KORAL (and if you haven’t, well, we’ll forgive you).
Famous for their signature “lustrous leggings” which put glossy tights on the athleisure map, the brand is also loved by the likes of J Lo, Alessandra Ambrosio, Hailey Baldwin and Olivia Palermo, so there’s that, too.
Founded in 2014 by Brazilian-born Ilana Kugel, KORAL draws inspiration from the colourful streets of Rio and laidback Cali lifestyle. After moving to LA from Brazil, Ilana explains that she quickly realised there were two distinct cultures—one being the party scene, the other, health and fitness.
“Some mingle in both,” Ilana shares. “But I was 100% drawn to the latter. However, being a fashion gal, I wasn’t impressed with the activewear choices out there, so I decided to use my design experience and take matters into my own hands. My vision was simple—to create high quality fashion that I could wear from the gym to the street.”
Here, we chat to Ilana about the concept behind the brand, her creative approach and where you’ll find her sweating it out and sipping on green juices in LA.

Image: KORAL

How did you come up with the brand’s name?

Before there was KORAL activewear, I had a line called KORAL Swimwear, named after the word “coral,” but spelled with a K for my last name. However, the pronunciation is rooted in Portuguese [pronounced CO-RAAL].

What is your approach to design and where do you find inspiration?

I always take a design-with-purpose approach, always creating ready-to-wear collections that are as functional as they are fashionable. There isn’t one place that I find inspiration. It comes from anything and everything, be it nature, architecture, art, and music or something less tangible, like a smell, a feeling, or a sound.

Are there any new fabrics/technologies you have utilised?

I am always researching and developing or sourcing new fabrics for every collection. Using the finest technical fabrics not only makes a huge difference in how it feels against the skin and how it flatters the body, but has everything to do with the garments longevity, versatility, and durability. We put a lot of emphasis on fabric technology and many of our signature fabrics are H20-friendly, compressive, quick-drying and lightweight. Some even offer UV protection.

koral activewear
Image: KORAL

What is your go-to form of exercise and what do you personally look for in your activewear?

I started doing triathlons a few years ago and I’m currently in training for my next. Since you’re in the water, on the bike and on foot, I prefer lightweight clothing that’s easy to get in and out. I started designing a lot of fitted tops with zippers because they allow me to move more freely. We’ve also been infusing knee length triathlon shorts that are great because they don’t ride up every time you move.

The LA scene is swarming with health and wellness spots! Can you share with us some of your favourite go-tos?

My go-to exercises are Equinox Spin classes and Equinox Running classes in Santa Monica. I live on the Westside of Los Angeles so I try to get outside and swim, bike and run on the beach whenever I can. Earth Bar at Equinox makes the most incredible smoothies, the Muscle Up is my go-to after every workout.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start an activewear label?

I always get asked this and my answer is always the same. Keep it simple! It’s easy to get excited and carried away in the beginning but you have to remember that too much too soon can overcomplicate your brand’s message.

koral activewear
Image: KORAL

What has been the biggest career highlight to date?

This year was the first time we showed at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and that was definitely a huge highlight. Being able to see the collection come down the runway, as well as see the audience’s reaction is something you don’t always get to witness firsthand. Hopefully, in the near future, I’ll be able to say we showcased at New York Fashion Week.

Does KORAL have a specific ethical stance/sustainable practice?

We are really proud that our products are all currently made in the USA, all locally designed and manufactured. I visit our biggest textile distributors often which allows me to make sure they are all focusing on sustainable practices as well.

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