Chair of the board for Leading Spas of Canada, Kathryn Gallagher wants to change the industry for the better.
A “beauty junkie” since she was a pre-teen, Celine Tadrissi and her husband, Antonio, opened the first Hammam Spa by Céla in Toronto in 2005. Inspired by Turkish baths, or hammams, the spa’s central piece is its steam room, as well as luxurious, relaxing facial and body treatments. Four years ago, Tadrissi released a skincare line, Céla, with its name inspired by those of her daughters, Colette, Bella and Caprice. Tadrissi also opened another spa location in North York in November 2019. She says she is proud of being able to help people who have realized the importance of making wellness a bigger part of their everyday life.
What led you to open your first spa?
My background was in business and accounting, but I always loved beauty. When I was at University of Toronto, I worked at Estee Lauder Spa in Holt Renfrew and I worked in the beauty department through school. But what really drew myself and my husband to open Hammam Spa was seeing some amazing spas around the world. We were inspired by the rituals associated with Turkish hammams and Moroccan spas and Korean bath houses – having a place that wasn’t necessarily for a particular occasion or celebration, but was part of your everyday routine, which is what was happening in those places and was lacking in North America.
What has been most fulfilling in growing your business?
We were told by everyone that it was a crazy idea and it wouldn’t work because we did things that no one else had done, such as a co-ed, communal steam room, and even the name was different. Fifteen years ago, for the most part, it was women who went to spas, especially for bachelorettes or a once-a-year treat with friends. It wasn’t really seen as a necessary part of your routine. The intention was to go beyond that and take a more preventative and encompassing approach to well-being.
The pace and the demands of the world have progressed and people have seen the need for that downtime. So, there was a pretty quick shift, where we would see people once or twice a year to people having regular weekly appointments. The last few years, we’re just as busy on a Tuesday afternoon as we are on a Saturday.
How did you move into creating the Céla skincare line?
More than 10 years ago, I felt like there was a void in the industry for the products I was looking for: scrubs, body creams, oils, lotions. I was importing everything. I am 12th-generation Canadian, so I was surprised that there wasn’t anything available locally. So I started researching ingredients that are native to Canada and I was just shocked at the array of natural ingredients that are powerhouse ingredients for skincare. I wanted to use those in products.
For many years, I did not want to create a product line for retail because it’s a busy, competitive space. So I just started ordering raw ingredients to create bases for our own use. We would mix them and adapt them and get client feedback. This went on for years and clients loved the products and were asking to buy them. I decided four years ago to move ahead with a proper laboratory and company to manufacture a line.
Our products are unique in the sense that they were designed backwards. They were designed from the treatment, from the experiences, the smells, the texture and then into the final product. Most times, people design a product and then try to see how it can work within a treatment. So I think that has really given the line an edge, and especially now, it’s been great to see people wanting to do a spa treatment at home.
Holt Renfrew recently picked up your skincare line. Why do you think people have embraced it?
I wanted to create a product with clean ingredients that still had that luxury feel. More people are paying attention not to just what they put on their face, but what they put on their whole body, and there are not that many product lines available for the body. I think that people also want to start creating even two- to 10-minute routines that are positive in their day. It’s important to step back and incorporate some of these basic steps into our day that allow us to be more present.
How has it been for you navigating COVID-19?
It’s been really challenging. It’s been a real hit to the industry and I think it’s shown that there’s a need for more of a united front within the beauty industry in Canada, because it’s not really organized. There’s not much in the way of lobbying groups or support available to operators.
It’s been a challenging year having to go through these closures. But it’s also been a time for me to do a deep dive into my process, revisiting the values and the core of why I started this spa. That has been helpful for me, because those are the types of things an owner/operator doesn’t usually have time to do. I am trying, even in difficult times, to stay positive. We’ve all seen the increased need for self-care and using facilities like spas and wellness centres, and that’s not going to go away.