While people may not think of D.C. as the Capital of Spa, and while indeed it probably is not (no matter how I try to argue the case!), Monday night was a great reminder of the spa and wellness forces in our greater area.
We had our Washington Spa Alliance annual in-person board meeting yesterday during the day, followed by a member get-together at my new favorite place, The Capella DC.
Among the attendees of both meetings were represented such wellness entrepreneurs as one of the founders of the International Spa Association; the senior VP of spa operations and retail development of Red Door Spas; the spa manager of Salamander Resort and Spa, which is due to open in Middleburg in August; the president of Relax & Rejuvenate (a company based in Charlottesville that offers in-room treatment programs to hotels that do not have spas, including The Capella DC); a representative from WTS, based in Rockville, a company that manages many of the spas that you have probably been to, and more.
While we might not be the spa capital of the country, there certainly are some exciting developments happening in spa and wellness in this city … today and for the couple of years to come (Trump DC anyone?). It’s a great time to be in the spa and wellness industry in D.C.
Last week, at the Women's Wear Daily (WWD) Beauty Summit, Francis Kurkdjian, a French perfumer, said that “Perfume is not a beauty product … perfume isn’t even a product, because perfume is not visible.” To me, that is part of perfume’s magic – it is indeed invisible, but can elicit such powerful emotions and memories. As the sense of smell is my most developed, fragrance is an essential part of identity, mine and others. Today I wear the same fragrance as the one I wore at age 15, when I started wearing fragrance: Jicky by Guerlain. For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I was introduced to it by my style mentor, my godmother Dominique.
Launched in 1889, Jicky represents one of the first modern perfumes because its formula incorporates not only traditional natural ingredients, but also synthetic ingredients (the first perfume featuring synthetic ingredients was Fougere Royale Houbigant, launched in 1882). While synthetic ingredients today are so often maligned, back in the late 1800s they were lauded and heralded as proof of the benefits of the industrial revolution, and industrial evolution.
Jicky was created by Aimé Guerlain, the son of Pierre-Francois Guerlain who founded the perfume house in 1828. The name Jicky is alternately attributed to Aimé’s secret love (a woman), or to the nickname he gave his favorite nephew, Jacques. Before Jicky, perfume names featured nature or plant words almost exclusively. Jicky changed that. The beauty of the name, and part of what makes this the first modern fragrance (in addition to the use of synthetic ingredients), is that it is a unisex name. Is it the name of a woman? Of a man? Indeed, the house Guerlain decided it could be both, featuring an elegant couple riding horses in the fragrance’s first advertisement. The cursive font used for the name was also a departure from the typical simple all caps style of perfume names.
In case I needed reasons to love this fragrance other than the amazing scent, based on bergamot, rosemary, lavender, rose, “fern harmony” with geranium, tonka bean, woods, vanilla and opoponax, among other ingredients, I learned recently that the Jicky bottle was designed by Gabriel, the younger son of Pierre-Francois, and Aimé’s brother. I love nothing more than two brothers collaborating on a beauty product – except maybe four sisters! I also learned that Gabriel’s inspiration for the bottle was an old pharmacy jar topped with a champagne cork. In all of these years that I have had these beautiful bottles on my vanity, the resemblance with the champagne cork never occurred to me … The original bottle, and the refillable gold bottles, are so beautiful I started a collection of Jicky bottles, adding to them a few other beautiful perfume bottles over the years (which I look at, but do not wear) …
My perfume collection, featuring mostly Guerlain bottles, but also Chanel, Anvers, and a few others.
Unfortunately, Jicky has become ever more difficult to find. It used to come in perfume, eau de parfum, eau de toilette versions, in travel size, with soap and body lotion. Today, I am lucky if I can find the eau de parfum. I usually stock up throughout my travels when I find Jicky in true, old-style beauty boutiques and perfumeries that specialize in hard-to-find perfumes rather than the latest celebrity fragrances.
I had the pleasure of seeing Anthony Bourdain last night at the DAR. A first for me, as I was not very familiar with him and admit to not ever having watched his show, No Reservations (although that will change after last night), I loved every minute of it. He made me laugh and he made me think about food.
He started by reminding the audience that Paula Deen is possibly the worst cook for America. He emphasized “for America.” He did not say “the worst cook” or “a bad person.” His point was merely that should one eat only Paula Deen’s cooking, one would most likely die sooner than someone eating a diet of protein and vegetables. He illustrated his story with images of the “Lady’s Brunch Burger”, which has 1354 calories, burger patties, bacon, all in a Krispy Kreme bun. As I have been strictly counting calories for the past few months, this dish scares me, and does not even look good… He also spoke about her children’s cookbook, in which she presents the “Cheeseburger meatloaf”, apparently a favorite. Deen’s brand is based on the concept of excess: she presents her viewers with an unapologetic philosophy or over-consumption without any thought for the consequence. This can’t be good for the country’s waistlines…
After this irreverent start, he spoke for the duration of his presentation about what it takes to be involved with his TV show, No Reservations, peppering his comments with photos and video clips. He mentioned the characteristics of some of his team members, namely humility, a love of danger, and an ability (a desire?) to never disrespect a host, i.e. to be a good guest, always. Always follow “the grandma rule”: “when you’re in grandma’s house, you eat what grandma cooks, no matter how bad it might be; that’s just good manners.”
He also reminded us that food is more than just something on a plate. “Sometimes you have the entire history of the world on your plate.” When people give you food, he reminded us, “they are revealing something about themselves.” Food is “an intimate gesture,” it is something that someone hand-makes (think of hand-rolling sushi), then hands you, to make you happy. Food is to be respected: “never disrespect food or waste food,” he preached. To him, places such as Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, or the Spaghetti Factory are examples of people disrespecting Italian food…
Yes, he did swear a lot, yes, he was somewhat controversial – but that was part of the fun. After two hours, I left with a renewed appreciation of what food is – not just something to hurriedly put in my body when I am hungry, but something to appreciate, to honor, to savor.