Wrapped in Comfort

Operating a spa offers many opportunities to both delight and disappoint clients. As owners and managers, we spend a lot of time creating service protocols, but clients can be disappointed by any of the myriad features of a spa visit. For some folks, slipping into the enveloping warmth and comfort of a plush robe is a key component of a spa visit and something they may not get the opportunity to enjoy at home. Here are some important considerations you may want to bear in mind when choosing a style for your spa.

The Perfect Style

Although there are now more fabric options, shawl-collared robes remain the most popular design. In warm locales, it is common to offer a kimono-style robe. Side pockets remain undesirable, as they only become a repository for items that are later forgotten. The one exception to the no-pocket rule is a breast pocket, which you may want to offer for clients who rely on reading glasses.

You'll also want to consider sizing options. While "One Size Fits All" is easy to manage, clients in high-end spas typically want robes that are more fitted. A La Turca Textiles president Guniz Alkan reports that the company's Turkish-made robes are available in an extra small petite size, at 45 inches long, and up to 60 inches long for tall clients. Zendals, another robe manufacturer also offers a variety of sizes. "While offering different robe sizes is more complicated for spas, we need to address the comfort level of the customer," says Eddie Leong, director at Zendals. "Plus, if the customer enjoys the feel and fit of the spa robe, they are more likely to want to purchase one for home use." Zendals manufactures some robes with a raglan sleeve, which extends in one piece from the collar and allows the robe to fit a greater variety of body types. According to Alkan, spas can create blocks of lockers with certain sized robes to allow staff members to direct clients to those that provide the best fit for them.

You may have noticed the shoulder area of your spa's robes wearing a little thin. Because the shoulder area comes into contact with more oil, the terry fabric in that spot often wears out more quickly. In response, A La Turca is working on a prototype of a robe with a second layer of microfiber in the shoulder area. It's definitely something to consider if your spa clients gravitate toward oil-based massages and treatments.

As for color options, most manufacturers report that white is still the top-selling color, especially for opening orders in small spas. However, more spas are starting to opt for colored robes as they develop their brand identities, especially earth tones and natural colors. "Custom colors used to be much more expensive, but prices are coming down as the demand goes up," says Alkan. "We can supply robes in any color in the Pantone range for a minimum order of 500 pieces." Zendals also offers custom colors.

Robes that Last

Not sure how long your robes should last? Manufacturers say there are a couple of components to durability—type of fabric and type of finish. Plush or heavyweight fabrics will wear out in a shorter period, such as six months, while flatter, textured robes last longer. Not surprisingly, clients typically like plusher robes. Although you may want to carry one type of robe for both retail and operations, a retail robe may only last through 30 washes, which is not enough for an operations robe. If your spa launders its own robes, then you have an advantage in that you have the ability to launder robes under optimal conditions. When the laundry is done out of house or in a large resort, where the laundry is handled by the property, the high wash and dry temperatures and strong detergents will likely shorten the life of your robes. It's common for some spas to choose darker colored robes to use with body treatments that rely on muds, seaweeds, and botanical products. Leong advises that a high quality robe should be able to resist stains from aromatherapy oils or seaweed wraps and last through approximately 100 washes.

Sustainable Fabrics

Recently, manufacturers have been challenged to develop eco-friendly fabrics that provide the care and convenience of man-made materials. Alkan predicts the return of more natural fibers such as bamboo, cotton, and soy, but with lighter weights. "The spa market has always associated heaviness with luxury, but these new lightweight robes can absorb just as much and provide coverage along with luxurious features," says Alkan. A La Turca manufactures a robe made from bamboo and organic cotton with a silky finish that provides softness but is long-lasting. Zendals has also tried to address the sustainability issue with organic fibers, like bamboo. Although many love the idea of bamboo robes, they are not naturally stain-resistant and can look wrinkled.

Leong reports that Zendals has worked with DuPont to develop two new fabrics that are stain- and oil-resistant, using the benefits of microfiber technology. One fabric is MinQ, which is very plush and luxurious, yet made of 100 percent polyester fibers that are treated with the new technology, allowing stains and oils to wash out easily. It also won't retain scents from aromatherapy oils. The second fabric is Nano-SilQ, a proprietary fabric featuring a much tighter weave than microfiber, which dramatically reduces permeation of lotions, oils, creams, and dirt, while providing a silky feel.

The Latest Innovations

Some of the most exciting trends in fabrics are from the Andrew Morgan Collection, which recently introduced a revolutionary aromatherapy-infused, eco-friendly collection. Andrew Morgan is the first and only textile company in the U.S. to feature this advanced technological breakthrough, featuring tiny polymeric microcapsule shells containing fragrances that are infused into the fabric. Through movement and touch, the capsules break and release the fragrance over a period of time, providing a personal sensory experience. The collection offers three fragrances that last approximately 25 washes, after which they can be re-infused with stand-alone fragrances. They are even available in travel sizes. Spas can also work with the company to infuse a signature scent into their robe fabric.

The Andrew Morgan Collection also offers some unique fabrics. According to president Andrew Morgan, the company is focused on design innovation, which led to the development of Ami-Vert, a green-friendly fabric. "Oil that is made into gasoline creates a byproduct, which we take and make into a solution-based fiber, so there is already no footprint," says Morgan. "We work with the mill to create the touch we want so that the fabric resembles the feel of cotton. We then put features into the fibers such as stain resistance, anti-abrasion, and UV protection. The fabric is recyclable, anti-microbial, and anti-abrasive, so it won't pill, stain, or fade, and is also fast-drying and bleach-resistant." The company has also developed a fabric called Samoa-Juno, which is a microfiber polyester that is soft, light, and easy to care for.

As for deciding which type of robe is right for your property, Alkan recommends starting with an understanding of what your client is looking for. "Whether you are in a hot tropical area or a more temperate climate, the fact is most clients remain indoors where temperature is controlled," says Alkan. "Choose robes that fit your brand, image, and clientele." Details really do matter, and comfort has to be considered both in and out of the treatment rooms.

Lisa M. Starr is the senior east coast business consultant to new and existing spas and salons for Wynne Business. Contact her via email at [email protected]