the french do it better

Images courtesy of the Sofitel hotel

So SPA at the Sofitel London St James opened in 2009 as a part of the chain of luxury French hotels, but it is fast becoming a go-to destination in its own right. Using only the best in French cosmetology, So SPA promises results surrounded by the kind of decadence that the French do so well. Schön! sits down with Spa Manager Melanie Garcia to find out what makes So SPA so special.

Walking into the Sofitel spa is like wandering into a Parisian boudoir from the 1930s: all quilted velvet chairs and pouffes. The luxe atmosphere is further enhanced by the specially commissioned fragrance and music, designed to envelop guests in a cocoon of relaxation. It is a true escape from the city within the city and Spa Manager Melanie Garcia immediately makes you feel welcome with offers to take your coat and, of course, tea. You find out straight away that So SPA aims to please.

After a tour of the three floor spa, we make our way to The Rose Lounge, decorated in sumptuous colours of cream and pink. The decadent interior provides a fitting backdrop to commence our interview regarding this fast developing French spa.

Melanie has eight years in the spa business, four years in London and prior to that, four years in Paris, where she progressed from beauty therapist to spa manager in just two years. She puts her career advancement down to a genuine love for beauty and customer service. “I just love, you know, looking after guests and providing wellbeing,” she says in her soft French accent.

So SPA makes a conscious effort to incorporate the French way of life whenever it can. This is further expressed through the use of well-established French beauty brands, such as Cinq Mondes and Carita. Ensuring it stays ahead of the trends, So SPA focuses on brands that have organic and clinical roots. “At the moment I think we are all wanting the ‘organic’, ‘natural’ stuff,” says Melanie, “but on the other hand, people want results, so that’s why we have both. We have Carita, which is a really result orientated anti-aging treatment, and we have Cinq Mondes, which is a bit more natural. A few of their products are organic, and their treatments are very holistic.”

Images courtesy of Sofitel Hotel

The delicious treatments on offer read like a gastronomical menu, slotted into ‘Starters’, ‘Mains’, ‘Deserts’ and ‘Specials’. However, each treatment is designed to be flexible, in order to cater to the individual’s needs. This is further enhanced by the ‘Spa Butler’ who is assigned to every guest at the spa and welcomes and guides clients through their entire spa journey to provide a completely tailored experience.

Of course some of you may be reading this while attempting to stop yourself from sceptically rolling your eyes, because of course a spa day is lovely …but who has the time to indulge in things such as relaxation? For many the concept of even being able to find the time for pampering – without it being accompanied by a crippling amount of guilt – is quite foreign. However Sofitel have that covered too. “We do have shorter treatments for the busy lifestyle,” Melanie explains. “We have a 20 minute treatment or a half hour treatment. We do also have, for example, the chair massage where the guest doesn’t need to get undressed. We do the massage on the clothes, so we adapt our service to demand.” However, she counters, “I think sometimes we do need to take the time anyway for ourselves. During the weekend, special occasions –some things like this.”

So SPA seems to truly understand what their clients want. Favourites among guests include the ‘Martini & Manicure’, coupled with the ‘Pint & Pedicure’, which can be enjoyed on the main floor of the building in awe-inspiring surroundings of high ceilings and natural daylight.

Sofitel aims to provide an all-round experience, so once you’ve finished being pampered take your pick from dining in The Balcon, which serves the finest in French-British cuisine, or relax with tea in the Rose Lounge, but if you fancy something a bit stronger try the St James Bar, which takes its inspiration from Coco Chanel’s 1920s Paris apartment!

To view the beautiful Sofitel St James hotel in all its glory, have a look at the FYODOR GOLAN shoot featured in the new #HOT 21st issue:

Photography / Grant Thomas
Fashion Editor / Kay Korsh

Visit the So SPA website to book your French inspired pamper day:

Words / Jade Thompson.
Follow her on Twitter @IRWRITER

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