Some spa directors would have balked at the challenge. Spa treatments are by definition leisurely experiences that leave you totally relaxed. How can you achieve that result in just 20 minutes?
When Lyndall Mitchell, founder of Aurora Spa, was invited to provide spa services in Qantas' First Lounges in Melbourne and Sydney in 2014 she embraced the opportunity to devise a menu of 20-minute treatments.
"We have always been about maximum results in minimum time," Mitchell says. Usually that means adding extras. Book a pedicure at an Aurora Spa, for example, and you will be offered an eye mask, a choice of music or visualisation – oh yes, and you will get to stretch out for the duration of the treatment.
This time, Mitchell took a different tack. "We had to look at which treatments we could effectively deliver in that time," she says. Manicures and pedicures were out, whereas express facials and body treatments made the cut. "Every traveller has some tension somewhere they want to get rid of," she says. "The treatments have been getting rave reviews."
Aurora's partnership with Qantas – it has also designed a bespoke product range for the First Lounges and supplies products on board and in business class lounges – is the latest of a series of strategic partnerships that has made Aurora one of the main players in the Australian spa industry. Since Mitchell launched her brand 18 years ago the industry in Australia has boomed. In the past 10 years it has grown 4.7 per cent annually, IBISWorld says. However, with a total worth of $387 million it is tiny compared with the global industry, valued at $94 billion by SRI International.
"It is a young market, so lots of opportunities have come up, and we have been careful about which opportunities we take up," Mitchell says. Aurora's two spas are housed in five-star hotels – The Prince in Melbourne and Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast – and the brand also works with Sephora, which stocks its ASPAR products in its stores.
Mitchell drew her inspiration from European spa traditions. "I love that approach where wellness is integrated into life and into the healthcare system," she says. Mitchell designed her urban spas to help clients integrate wellness into their daily life. Over the years the offerings have changed, with early services such as personal training dropped in favour of a focus on body treatments and skincare treatments. "We found clients want to switch off rather than rev up," Mitchell says.
The business has grown by more than 10 per cent almost every year since its inception and now employs more than 100 staff, who have delivered 500,000 treatments. In addition to the spas themselves, there is the 26-strong ASPAR product range made with Australian botanicals, and a training and development arm.
Mitchell expects that the revenue from the product line will overtake the spas soon as the business' most profitable arm. The training and development arm remains an important tool for raising brand awareness, with Mitchell delivering wellness masterclasses for corporate clients including the NAB.
"We call it the Boardroom Retreat and it is about giving people two hours' worth of life skills," Mitchell says. "Workloads are going up, stress is going up – it is vital that people have a place to wind down. A few little moments of mindfulness throughout the day – whether that is inhaling the aroma of our rose and aloe body wash in the shower, or a one-minute meditation – can help a leader function effectively.
"Ultimately, what we are about is giving our clients the support to be the best they can be personally and professionally."
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A growing number of big-name designers are hoping to woo Muslim women with specially designed collections.
Think the Muslim market isn’t interested in fashion? Check the numbers: Globally, Muslims spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013. That’s more than the total fashion spending of Japan and Italy combined, according to a recent report from Thomson Reuters. The report also notes that that figure is expected to balloon to $484 billion by 2019.
And yet industry watchers say the market for Muslim women’s fashion is still relatively untapped—though perhaps not for long.
Several mainstream designers have started producing clothes and collections especially for Muslim women. It’s a trend that recognizes Islam’s rapid growth—Pew Research predicts that the number of Muslims in the world will equal that of Christians by 2050—along with its constituents’ impressive spending power.
“Globally, the Muslim population is a youthful and growing demographic,” says Reina Lewis, professor of cultural studies at London College of Fashion UAL and author of the forthcoming book Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures. “This makes Muslims a very important consumer segment for anything.”
“The market for Islamic commodities started out looking at food and finance,” she adds. “I’ve been saying for the last few years that fashion is going to be the third F—and this is indeed what is beginning to happen.”
DKNY went first, unveiling a women’s capsule collection for Ramadan last year. Tommy Hilfiger launched its own Ramadan capsule collection this June, and fashion designers, manufacturers and retailers including Net-a-Porter, Zara, Oscar de la Renta and Mango are currently offering lines specially themed for the holiday as well. A Mango rep says the Barcelona-based company is pleased with how well the Ramadan collection is selling, noting that Arab-speaking countries made up 5% of the company’s sales last year.
The emphasis on Ramadan comes from its increasing status as a shopping holiday among Muslim communities. While Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founding editor-in-chief ofMuslimGirl.net, says that designers are in a sense “cashing in on Ramadan—for the other 11 months of the year, we really don’t hear anything from these companies or brands,” she also likens the Ramadan fashion collections to Christmas- or Hanukkah-themed ones.
“There are times of year about specific groups of people, and it’s cool for us to be included in that,” she says. “We see fashion designers giving a nod toward the Muslim community [with these Ramadan collections]: We understand this is your month.”
The question is whether designers will eventually target Muslim shoppers beyond their annual holy month.
Shelina Janmohamed thinks so, and as vice president of the Muslim-focused brand consultancy Oglivy Noor, she has researched the subject extensively.
“It’s easy to understand why designers have gone for Ramadan,” she says. “But actually, it’s the rest of the year that’s really important to these consumers and young Muslim women. I think brands are going to have to start developing [year-round] lines for this audience.”
Uniqlo is one retailer that’s going in that direction. The Japanese clothing company launched a new Hana Tajima LifeWear collection on July 3, available in certain Singapore stores and online. Tajima, a Muslim fashion blogger, created loose blouses, skirts and dresses for the new collection, along with more traditional kebaya and hijab.
But Uniqlo describes Hana Tajima as “a special modest-wear collection,” with no mention of Muslims or Ramadan. Lewis thinks that’s because Muslim-focused fashions can serve other cultures as well, as part of an emerging “modesty movement.”
The other question is whether these Muslim-oriented collections will reach Western stores. DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger and Oscar de la Renta offered their capsules exclusively in the Middle East. Mango and Zara’s are available online, but only through the Middle Eastern versions of their websites.
“What’s the point of having these Ramadan collections from these huge brands and huge designers if they’re only being made available to people overseas who are already well aware of Ramadan and inclusive of it?” Al-Khatahtbeh says. “Really, it’s here in the U.S. or other Western countries where that kind of visibility would go a long way.”
“I don’t think they’re recognizing the potential of our demographic here,” she adds. “Honestly, that’s a huge loss for them because we’re a virtually untouched market right now.”
But Janmohamed is optimistic that designers will soon expand their new Muslim-focused collections to Western stores. She says it was “almost unheard of” to find Muslim fashions in the mainstream five years ago. “Within five years, we’ve seen it go from something talked about to something designers are actually marketing,” she says. “The growth curve has been escalating faster and faster.”
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I admit I'm reallllly late to the Caitlyn Jenner coverage party, category: fashion. I had a lot going on in the wedding department in June, and my first chance to read the Vanity Fair profile of Jenner by Buzz Bissinger was on the plane and en route to our honeymoon destination.
My first thought was man, what a good story! Bissinger spent months embedded with Jenner and interviewed as many family members as possible for a complex picture. Then, as I looked at the photos of Jenner in sparkly and form-fitting gowns, something else came to mind: Hey, I could wear this dress. And this one. And not in a "could physically put it on in my size if they have it" kind of way, but an "I could buy this experience for myself for a special occasion" way.
Jenner wore an all-over gold sequin Badgley Mischka dress with cap sleeves and an open back for part of the shoot. This dress retails for $610 at Lord & Taylor. Gross, BUT!
You can rent it for $120 or $90, depending on your size and the shade of gold. I know this because I am a recovering late-night Rent the Runway dress-browsing addict, and I considered this exact dress for one of my bridesmaid's dresses about 800 times.
I love that Jenner chose something beautiful but accessible — even if she didn't realize it.
Next we have Jenner's bronze Halston Heritage dress with a plunging neckline.
It has a $595 retail value, according to Rent the Runway. But you can rent what appears to be a darker version of the sexy gown, called the Elvira, for $100.
Glamour has more about where to buy her other ensembles here.
What do you think? Would you pay a fraction of a price for your own Vanity Fair moment? Do you envy my evil eye for Rent the Runway looks?
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