Entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore first attracted celebrity clients when she opened Let's Face It in 1991, a 1,500-square-foot one-room office in New York's SoHo that did everything from laundry to spa treatments. Her business quickly grew. Driven by this success, in 1996 she opened up Bliss, a spa with an irreverent approach to pampering. With a spa menu offering treatments made of lemon, ginger, hot milk, and almond, Bliss pampers guests in a fun, relaxing atmosphere. Today Bliss, now in a strategic partnership with LVMH (the company responsible for Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Donna Karan, and other luxury brands), is a thriving spa and cosmetics company with locations in New York and London. Travel + Leisure recently caught up with Kilgore to discuss New York City, spas, travel, and how we can all achieve bliss.
1. Where are you right now?Why are you in that particular place?Where would you rather be, if anywhere?
I am in my office in DUMBO [Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a Brooklyn neighborhood], trying to finish up a gigantic pile of work—copywriting, lip gloss approvals, etc.—before I set off for my very long overdue skiing vacation in Switzerland.
2. How often do you travel?Is it usually for business or pleasure?
How often don't I travel?In the last four months, I've been back and forth between London and New York four times, staying mostly in London while working on the launch of our new spa on Sloane Avenue. I've found it easier to iron out opening-month kinks when my arm isn't too far away from what's causing them.
3. What is the one item you won't travel without?
My laptop. From New York to London I get almost seven hours of uninterrupted opportunity to work. No phone calls, no people hovering around my office door—it's a completely focused zone up there. I actually look forward to it!
4. What is your secret to staying calm and stress-free while traveling?What gives you bliss?
I love experiencing new cultures, seeing what makes people tick in different time zones, trying new foods, shopping, looking for great design trends, and seeking out zeitgeists in the business of spas and beauty. Also, I have to say a decent glass of wine at 20,000 feet seems to have more kick than the same on the ground.
5. We know you got your start in New York City. What is it you love about the city and its people?What changes have you seen in the city since September 11?
New Yorkers never give up. If you've got something that has to get done, ask a New Yorker. Here we have a very can-do attitude. There's no other place like it, probably because if you don't say you "can do," there's somebody standing beside you ready to scoop up the opportunity. It's like that old story about the professor who gave a final exam on which the only question was "Why?" The Europeans all wrote lengthy dissertations about photosynthesis, nuclear fission, the big bang theory. The New Yorkers wrote, "Why not?"
6. Your recent partnership with LVMH means that we will be seeing more of Bliss World in the coming years. How is the Bliss London spa different from or similar to its American counterpart? Do you have plans for other spas besides London's?
Bliss London is our first retail store/spa and our first QuickBliss concept store (although we have a spa on the lower level). It's the first time I've worked with the challenges of a retail store, such as continuous merchandising and window displays. The mind-boggling Bliss services—manicures, pedicures, massages, and facials—are all the same, though; we just pushed it one step further. Next up: Los Angeles perhaps, and a bunch of QuickBliss nailbars.
7. What new products are you working on?
Currently, we're working on a launch of our very first SPF foundations for BlissLabs, which should get off the ground in May just in time for summer. We also have 10 new shades of BlissGloss, a line of "lidsticks" (fantastic eye pencils), some great exfoliators, bath oils, and with the Remède line, a product that actually thins out the thickness of your fat layers.
8. What inspires you to create new products?Do you come up with ideas while traveling?
I have to admit I'm usually inspired by words that I see in combinations with other words. This gives me ideas about the great products that they might become. A good week of catalogue copywriting, and I come up with about 20 great new product ideas. After my last spring vacation in Aspen, I thought of lipgauze (our plumping stick for lips that's worn under makeup), lidsticks, and a few other gems (not yet releasable... sorry).
9. Which spa treatments are ideal for travelers before and after they travel?
All, of course, but I'd highly recommend reflexology because it balances out the different functions of the organs of your body, easing stress, bloating, constipation (how glamorous). Also, try aromatherapeutic massage. We've got a fantastic AROMASSAGE at Bliss called "jet out," which is packed with essential oils that are incredible for reducing jet lag.
10. What should consumers look for when selecting a spa?
Cleanliness. If you have to look for something, you can bet that a spa owner who keeps the place clean is just as concerned about the quality of the service. I think the same is true of restaurants. I'd also have to say (I'm biased, so ) that if you can get an appointment for anything you want at the last minute, it's not the greatest sign. The best places (like the best restaurants) are busy for a reason.
—Interviewed by Karen Blackman