The Robe Report
Though treatment quality, spa design, and therapist skill are valuable elements of your spa's success, robes are one of the first and most important things your clients encounter. A soft, luxurious robe can make spa-goers feel like pampered princes and princesses, while an ill-fitting, uncomfortable garment can turn a spa experience into an embarrassing event. Here, four in-the-know industry insiders provide tips for enveloping your clients in comfort and style. —Julie Keller
(PHOTOGRAPHY: ISTOCK PHOTO)
What are some important things to consider when choosing your spa's robes?
Noel Asmar: I believe it's critical that a good spa robe demonstrates minimal shrinkage and must be pill-resistant so it always looks fresh. Robes should be durable, and quick drying time is key. If you're selecting a garment that isn't white, it must be colorfast. You want the color to remain rich and look luxurious, not faded or used. It must also feel luxurious. You want your guests to experience niceties that aren't found at home and love the robe enough to want to purchase it.
Emily Harris: Client comfort is the most important thing. Do the robes feel as good as they look? How do they fit? Do they cover and conceal? The robe you select tells the customer a lot about your spa. A thick, lined robe is very luxurious and upscale, whereas a thin, flimsy robe creates a different impression. Choose a style and weight of fabric that matches your brand, decor, and treatment/service value. Many manufacturers also offer embroidery services, which can be brand-enhancing but also expensive, depending on the number of robes and style of the logo.
Maria Spurlock: Take care when choosing fabric for your spa's robes. The fabric should be energy efficient, durable, long-lasting, soft-feeling, and fast-drying.
What is the single most important consideration when it comes to choosing a robe style for your spa?
Asmar: Climate. If you are servicing clients in warm temperatures, consider lighter weight robes, such as those made of waffle fabric. For cooler climates and indoor air-conditioned properties, keep your robes cozy and not too short.
Harris: Your budget and brand are most important. You can spend between $25 and $125 on a robe, so clearly understand what you want to accomplish with your robe, how long you want it to last, and the impression you want to create with your clients. Also, talk with your therapists and get their feedback. For example, do you need robes for your treatments or will body wraps work better?
Spurlock: Very important considerations when it comes to style are a large girth, roll-up sleeves, and adjustable belt loops.
Steve Taglia: Consider the number of times a robe will be laundered. The robe should also be long enough to accommodate all clients.
What do you think is the best spa robe fabric and why?
Asmar: A microfiber robe or a cotton blend are best. One-hundred-percent cotton may be fine for home use, but at the spa, a cotton blend may offer less shrinkage and less colorfast issues and provide for a longer lasting investment.
Harris: Cotton is a great tried-and-true fabric. It washes well, and it stands up to repeated washings and bleach cycles. However, the new bamboo robes are amazing. They are softer than cotton, wash well, and are virtually lint free, which helps reduce lint buildup in your dryers—a cause of fires. Microfiber is a nice choice as well. It is soft and silky, but it can be difficult to care for, as you shouldn't use fabric softener with this material.
What's new in regards to style?
Asmar: Robes haven't changed a lot in style, however, size is a paramount concern. Be sure to stock standard and oversized robes for your clients.
Harris: The kimono style is very popular, and waffle weave or microfiber fabrics are gaining popularity over traditional terry robes.
Spurlock: A new trend is two layers of fabric with a collar and sleeves that expose both fabrics.
What are the hottest new color trends you are noticing when it comes to robes?
Asmar: Warm rich colors are hot right now. Chocolate brown, charcoal grey, and butternut are popular. Of course, the classic white robe will never go out of fashion.
Harris: White and natural are the most popular because of cleanability followed by two-tone robes, with a different color collar or lining. Color can be brand enhancing. Don't buy purple because it's on sale, buy something that matches your decor. If you have a special treatment, consider a unique robe color to make the customer feel even more special, such as a red robe for Valentine's Day or Christmas.
Meet the Experts
Spurlock: The hottest new colors are custom colors that intertwine with shades of the interior of the spa and its location, such as lemongrass, taupe, aqua, stone, and gold.
Taglia: White and natural continue to sell strongly, but black and olive are gaining in popularity.
What impact does color and fabric have on a robe's washability?
Asmar: A robe produced with a sophisticated fabric will offer both practicality for the company and luxury for the client. The right fabric means no issues with color, shrinkage, or drying times.
Harris: Colored robes can't be bleached and will fade and look worn with time. White can be bleached, which helps it look newer longer. Also keep in mind that different fabrics will wash and wear differently. Lesser quality robes typically have a shorter life, will pill or snag easily, and look worn after a few washings.
Taglia: Darker colors do not wash as well as lighter colors due to the inherent nature of the threads to fade. Therefore, the lighter the color of the robe, the more apt it is to wash better.
What are some design elements that a spa robe should include for maximum ease of use?
Asmar: A robe should have one or two pockets and a loop at the center back seam to hang it on a hook. Be sure to stock a variety of sizes. Clients can be embarrassed by the wrong robe size. If guests are to feel pampered, provide robes that fit. Also, consider robes to be a design element. Be daring and select a robe in a color that is not commonly found anywhere, and it could become a signature of your spa. A robe can reinforce your branding message or completely destroy it.
Harris: Pockets are a double-edged sword. They are very convenient for the client for storing a locker key, jewelry, cell phones, and other personal effects. On the other hand, they can be a challenge for the spa, as people forget things in the pockets. One Size Fits Most (OSFM) is typically how robes are sold, so when shopping for robes, look for size and sweep (the width of the robe when you lay it down and open it up), and for models that offer additional ties. Keep spares on hand in case they get lost in the dryer. (Tip: Pin the belt to the robe in the wash cycle. This will help keep the two together.)
Spurlock: Design elements for a spa robe include an ample girth so it closes properly for all clients. Most spas use sizes medium or large for operations with a small inventory of small and extra large.
Taglia: Most spas do not like robes with pockets due to the fact that clients sometimes place their jewelry in them and forget about it. Not having any pockets alleviates that threat. Consider robes in dual sizes (S/M and L/XL) and XXL to generously accommodate a broad base of customers. Also, consider robes with sewn-down sashes that won't get lost in the laundry.
What should you avoid when selecting a robe for the spa?
Asmar: Do your homework and only go with a manufacturer/distributor that is reputable and will stand behind its products. Don't purchase from retail outlets, as stock changes regularly and consistency can be an issue.
Harris: Don't buy on price alone.
Spurlock: You should avoid fabrics that are too thick or puffy for use in operations. These robes are for multi-users, and care has to be given for the best cleaning ability.
Taglia: Weight becomes a key issue when dryability is considered. Also, after multiple washings, a robe should become softer, not coarser.