SPA TRENDS: Pop-Up Operations

Flashy as they are fleeting, short-term spa set-ups are also <em>sizzling</em>.

First you see it, now you don’t. Spas have joined the burgeoning brigade of ephemeral consumer lures popping up in unusual venues across the globe. Such operations typically burst onto the scene unannounced, quickly draw in buzzy crowds, and then ride off into the sunset, à la the Lone Ranger. Let’s check out three such gone-in-a-flash spa concepts:

Move over, airports and cruise ships. Spanish skincare brand Ainhoa took the relaxation-in-transit concept to uncharted grounds last November by bringing the Ainhoa City Spa to the grand terrace at London’s St. Pancras International train station. For two months, harried travelers enjoyed an oasis steps away from the noise and hustle of the station, as well as free, 15-minute mini facials. Not only could busy Londonites beautify prior to long journeys by rail, but the spa also took the holiday retail season by storm. To urge relief from England’s chilly winter, the staff highlighted the brand’s most moisturizing and nourishing services and products.

When the bottled water gurus behind Evian rolled out a campaign based around the detox concept in September 2011, a spa seemed like the obvious marketing vehicle. So they teamed up with Matthew David Hopkins, creative director of 360 Design Events, to transform a vacant Manhattan store space into chic pop-up spa Evian “Detox”, for a three-week promotion.

About four months of planning went into the hydrotherapy haven. Evian contracted spa professionals to perform more than 400 Evian treatments, and Hopkins took his design inspiration from Evian water’s source: the Swiss Alps.

“We used a ton of white, but also wanted to mold the room in a fun way,” he says. “For instance, we created makeshift treatment room walls by stretching hot pink fabric over giant PVC pipes, which could be pushed back to make the areas bigger.” The team built big-time buzz by inviting in VIPs, and by featuring footage of the slick spa in NYC taxicab videos.

What happens when the founder of a hot mobile spa operation and an architect specializing in sustainable design get to talking? In the case of Aniko Farkas of Canada’s Spa Suite and Lucy G’ala of the Toronto-based Clean Earth Design outfit, the result was The Suite, an eco-friendly pop-up spa structure. D’Gala designed the clean, calming space (which she nicknamed “the box”) using reclaimed and FSC-certified wood, LED lighting, VOC-free paint and earthy-looking furniture. Within that space, Farkas and her staff perform massages, facials, manis and more.

The Suite debuted at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, and the cinephiles in attendance were so thrilled to have such a unique respite that the 8x16x10-foot area was booked all week long. The team has since showcased the concept at festivals and events all across Toronto. D’Gala and Farkas hope to eventually put the whole operation on wheels, and add solar panels, too. As they say, Once you pop, you just can’t stop.