Philly’s Favorite Local Spas

deme-serene-center-city-philadelphia-spa

Deme

Center City | 2200 Arch Street, Suite 102
Ladies-who-lunch believe that tasteful cosmetic injections, surgery and dentistry are essential—and the snootiest Manhattanites often sneak down to this SoHo-sleek med-spa for those services. (Psst: They’re less pricey than NYC equivalents.) Plus, the new functional medicine division focuses on underlying causes of hormonal imbalances, female hair loss and more.
Go to this Philadelphia spa for: Maria for injections, Elizabeth for skin, Dr. George for teeth.

Southampton Spa

Southampton | 141 Second Street Pike
Some research has shown high-heat saunas force illness-causing heavy metals like mercury and lead out of the body, and after sitting in the co-ed Russian or steamy Turkish baths (saunas) here, we don’t doubt it. For the adventurous: We tried the traditional platza ($30)—getting switched with a birch, oak or eucalyptus branch for circulation—but found it vaguely S&M-y.
Go to this Philadelphia spa for: Hades-hot Russian and Turkish saunas, plus family-friendly swimming pools.

Chung Dam Spa & Fitness

Cheltenham | 41 East Cheltenham Avenue
A warning: Spa-ing sans clothing is de rigueur in the gender-divided areas at this traditional Korean spa. The regimen here is simple, and geared to serious detox. After you soak in a small pool (either hot or cold), a no-nonsense specialist scrubs your skin free of dermal toxins (read: dead skin cells). Then it’s all sweat, in one of three different saunas. You can use the facilities for a day rate of $20, but we suggest shelling out $60 for the scrubber, or the best hour-long massage around, period.
Go to this Philadelphia spa for: Merciless body- sloughing that leaves your skin born-again.

Meridian Medica

Center City | 1124 Walnut Street, Third Floor
You can go almost anywhere for acupuncture or acupressure, but at this third-floor spot, you’ll find all forms of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practiced by pros. It’s not posh, but you won’t even notice during the 60-m­inute combo of qigong body massage, tui na head and facial massage, and foot reflexology.
Go to this Philadelphia spa for: One-stop TCM for only $55: qigong, tui na and ac­upressure massage, body-walking and acupuncture.

Divya Ayurveda

Bensalem | 2842 Street Road
This isn’t some New Age-y, incense-burning sanctorum: It’s a storefront in a Bensalem mall. What’s practiced inside, however, is traditional ayurvedic medicine, in which your appetite, temperament—you name it—is diagnosed by dosha, or constitution, followed by prescriptions of specific foods, Indian spices and herbs, and heavenly (albeit super-oily) body treatments in fluorescent-lit rooms. Try abhyanga (massage, $59 for 45 minutes) and shirodhara, a stress-melting drizzling of warm oil or medicated milk onto your forehead, plus a face and head massage ($80 for 40 minutes).
Go to this Philadelphia spa for: Ayurvedic medicine as practiced by certified doctors from India, not tie-dyed New Age therapists.


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Philly Is Becoming a Fashion Town

Philadelphia fashion designers and style leaders

Welcome to our fashion-packed guide to the new, ultra-stylish Philly. We jumped, heels-first, into the fabulous world of our city’s ever-evolving style scene to bring you the very best of what’s out there, starting with the wave of talented fashion designers who are working to turn Philly into a bona fide Fashion Town. But designers can’t do it alone, and we rounded up the Who’s Who of the Philly fashion world—the power players, fashion bloggers, retail doyennes and more who are quickly putting our town on the fashion map. Finally, in what is probably our chicest photo shoot ever, we rounded up the 20 best dressed Philadelphians (painstakingly whittled down from a list of nearly one hundred!). You’ll want to see who made our cut (hint: it includes a supremely dapper Flyers player, the most well-dressed attorney ever, and the Chanel-wearing woman behind the most fabulous wardrobes of the Main Line, among others). Plus, we’ve got even more exclusive shots of this sartorially gifted group, including the accessories and details (and behind-the-scenes secrets!) you might have missed in the magazine. Enjoy!

>>Click here to read “The Era of Sweatpants Has Come to an End”

>>Click here to see the 20 Best Dressed Philadelphians

>>Click here to see detail and accessory shots from the 20 Best Dressed Philadelphians

>>Click here to see the faces behind Philly fashion

The Era of Sweatpants Has Come to An End

On an unsettlingly balmy evening this past November, Autumn Kietponglert is crammed—along with tottering models in five-inch heels, their gowns and hot pants manically pinned and tucked, their hair knotted, teased, spiked—into the backstage dressing room at Center City’s G Lounge, where the RAW: Natural Born Artists 2012 Awards is hosting its Philadelphia competition. The hip underground-artist competition is held in cities around the country, culminating in a national awards ceremony in Hollywood. There, honors in eight categories are doled out, including music, art, film and fashion. Arguably, the most important of these is fashion. Which is why Kietponglert is here.

“I’ve never won any award before,” she whispers, the shaved side of her otherwise black-moppy-haired head facing my left cheek. The 30-something designer is one of the four inaugural designers-in-residence at the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s—a selective program that offers a short list of fledgling, ambitious local fashion designers a bona fide business and marketing curriculum. She’s also something of an It Girl right now: Everyone from Ellen Shepp, co-owner of Joan Shepp, Philly’s famously cutting-edge boutique, to the cool-hunting editors at Marie Claire is sizing her up. Little wonder. Her couture line, Autumnlin Atelier, is a brilliant mash-up of Brit couture punks like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood and the dark, textural moods of Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

If we’re being honest, it’s not a look you’d necessarily expect from a girl who was reared a stone’s throw away from the Ben Franklin Bridge in South Jersey, and educated in a two-room school in a strict Seventh-day Adventist community. It wasn’t until Kietponglert’s parents enrolled her at the local public high school that she sponged up the teenage punky-Gothy mise-en-scène on the spot and became a born-again fashionista. Later, while earning her master’s at Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design in 2007, the ex-Adventist created a vision for clothes interplaying the sacred and profane.

“My inspirations come to me from dreams,” says the designer, who today lives in North Philly. “The imagery I see is heavenly and apocalyptic.” Noted. Her silhouettes range from darkly angel-feathered collars to shoulder-covering armor jewelry gorgeously sculpted from metal zippers to regal, ethereal gowns that summon fairy-tale figures of angels or the White Swan. Lady Gaga would gobble up Kietponglert with a steak knife.

At G Lounge, as Autumnlin models whisk down the runway—their feather capelets spreading like Versailles fans, their artfully shredded skirts undulating with every pivot—Kietponglert gnaws at her lip. Finally the competition concludes, and the audience and judges cast their ballots. RAW’s flashy, long-winded emcee concludes his speech about how great Philly’s art scene is—“In New York or L.A., they’ll stab you in the back, but in Philly, we just stick you in the chest”—and the results are announced. Kietponglert wins, and it’s fun to watch: the Goth-y young designer literally jumping for joy.

Debt and Despair: Pennsylvania Students and Our Broken College Loan System

My eldest daughter and her friends are frantic about college. They talk about it ad infinitum: how to bulk up their curricula vitae to improve their chances of acceptance (a nationally ranked gymnast and a determined student, my girl has now powered into team sports, figuring she’ll make a more competitive candidate); where they plan to matriculate (Columbia, candles lit); what their majors will be (economics, math or some to-be-determined science—because, they say, “That’s the only way you can get a good job”); how they’re going to pay for tuition (launching a line of homemade organic bath and body products for kids within the year, concocted in my kitchen. Awesome.).

These girls are 11 years old.

Friends, Philadelphians, can I get a witness? When I was that age, I gave no more thought to getting into college than I did to what it would be like to undergo an emergency C-section. What triggered this craziness? The trickle-down news apparatus and its daily reporting of joblessness, college debt, and the primacy of an educated workforce? The oversharing about financial stress in our households since the recession hit us like an anti-personnel bomb? Whatever it is, my sparkly-eyed sixth-grader now embodies a clear-eyed, albeit dismaying, moxie.

I admire it. Even as I can’t bear to tell her how many obstacles are still in her way.

We don’t have a prayer of being able to swing a full ride for her, never mind her two siblings. Ergo, we’ll all incur debt—a lot of it. Since we’d rather sell our pancreases on the black market than deny our children a college education, my girls’ father, as well as my husband and I, will willingly empty our savings and 401(k) accounts (if we had any, which we don’t), take out loans we’ll need to mortgage our modest homes to the hilt to pay back, eat cat food to send them to college, especially if they get into eye-wateringly expensive top-tier schools. Thusly insolvent in our golden years, we’ll all have to move in with the kids. Who may wish we’d sold our pancreases instead.

If you’re like me—and I suspect you are—I know what you’re thinking: This is what state schools are for. Indeed, not that long ago, the state school was the true “safety net,” the perfectly fine, solid alternative for those of us who wished to keep our pancreases. But it turns out Pennsylvania can lay claim as one of the highest college debt capitals in the nation. Pennsylvania graduates carry, on average, the second-highest load of college debt in the entire country, after New Hampshire. Penn State and Temple students graduate with an average of about $33,000 of debt.

American college graduates currently carry more than one trillion dollars in outstanding student debt. That’s more than the national debt of Sweden. That’s more than the banking bailout of 2008. When colleges, the White House and the culture at large proclaim that there is no price tag on an educated citizenry, I’m not the only one who’s boiling over with this response: How the hell are we supposed to pay for it?

 [Click here to see the student-debt load for Philadelphia-area colleges]

 

Last fall, I had an experience that crystallized these questions. I was teaching an undergraduate class at Temple. Knowing how hard it is to earn a living as a journalist, I almost felt bad about training kids for a field that’s often soul-cru­shingly competitive and, moreover, morphs relentlessly into newfangled formats that pay ever more poorly. But I admire Temple, and in my experience, its students work hard, on and off campus. When I went there from 1987 to 1989, everyone I knew had a job to cover the yearly tuition (then about $3,500). I’d paid my way there by working as an 18-year-old cub reporter. In part because of that, it seemed to me that the only ethical way I could teach journalism was to encourage students not to wait until after graduation to publish, but to earn money writing now, deploying their edge: youth. After all, editors want to know what 18-to-21-year-olds think, and those who can masterfully articulate their own experiences and put them into well-reported, fact-checked, zeitgeist-y context have a good shot at getting work.

Sitting in the front row was a 20-year-old student named Brandon Baker, who was clearly down with that line of thinking. Intently taking notes, he was the first to speak up when I asked students to offer topics for story ideas. A self-possessed junior, he described working at four part-time jobs (two of them directly journalism-related) for living expenses and tuition not covered by loans and financial aid. He was, he said, already $23,000 in debt, and expected to owe $33,000 by the time he graduated. The classroom ricocheted with similar frustrations. Students said they had to rush to write papers and skip study time so they could get to work, only to receive less than stellar marks. When they showed up for work exhausted, bosses threatened that they weren’t performing adequately.

Brandon lingered after class, and I asked him how he felt about being a journalism major. He said, frankly but without self-pity, that he felt “deceived.” Looking back on it, he said, when he’d visited Temple as a high-school senior from Waynesboro, financing tuition never came up: “It was more like an open house with a realtor,” he said, with guides showcasing the campus facilities and academic programs. He received no financial advice other than that of his high-school guidance counselor, who suggested he go to community college. But Brandon wanted to be a journalist: “I knew that if I was going to have a shot at it, I had to be in the city,” he said. “Because of my family’s financial situation, I also had to go to a public university, and that meant Temple.”

He went on to say that the financial aid forms made little sense to him at 17 years old, nor to his parents—an electrician and a human resources staffer, neither of whom graduated from college. He filled them out anyway and received a government loan, to add to a few small scholarships from hometown businesses. But when his parents dipped into their savings and refinanced their mortgage to squeeze out a contribution, he cried, he said—“partly because I never knew they believed in me so much, but also because that’s a huge amount of money for them, and I feel terrible about it.”

But he also feels terrible that the career options he’d been told were open to him as a journalism major weren’t squaring with the realities he now confronted. “I remember going into my first class and hearing about all the opportunities that would be available to me, hearing success stories from guest lecturers,” he said. Three years later, Brandon hasn’t been able to afford to take on as many “opportunities,” like unpaid magazine and newspaper internships, as he would have wanted. But he hustled and secured paid work in the field: copy-editing for the Temple News and writing news briefs for a regional business magazine, as well as content for various websites. “I’m very grateful to start my career while I’m still a student, but I wish I’d understood more about debt and career choices earlier,” he said. “I’m also realizing that this may be as good as it gets—and that I’m earning a degree in a field that might not ever earn me enough money to pay off all this debt.”

He faced what almost every college student in the United States does now. And it smacks of a deep absence of ethics.

Why New Yorkers Are Moving to Philly and What It Means for Our City

Since 9/11, New Yorkers have been moving into Philadelphia.

“8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live,” ran the headline. A photo showed seething traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, gridlocked with moving vans and U-Hauls, with the explanatory text: “Citizens in each of the five boroughs packed up their belongings and told reporters they would rather blow their brains out with a shotgun than spend another waking moment in this festering cesspool of filth and scum and sadness.”

The headline was fake, and the newspaper was the Onion. But on September 2, 2010, as I sat in my crappy 1,100-square-foot hovel in Brooklyn—where neighborhood gangs regularly tagged my fence and chucked 40s into my yard—I laughed until I peed. And then I lay down on the floor and cried.

I’d lived in New York for nearly a quarter of a century. Things were possible then. You could be a clothes designer and open your own boutique in the East Village. Your band could start up a bar in Williamsburg. You could get your friends to swing a hammer and build a theater company in a work-live loft in Tribeca. After graduating from Columbia in the early 1990s, I worked like a nut at a journalism career, wrote two books published by fancy ho­uses, was on TV a bunch. Later, I had my three young children in Brooklyn, and a crew of mom friends whose children and mine would romp in our living-cum-dining rooms. My life and New York City were a double helix of fabulous.

Then, in late 2007, the recession and my divorce converged. I was 39 and financially responsible for my children. I moved from progressive (read: expensive) Park Slope to edgy (read: less expensive) Red Hook. I lived in fear of foreclosure every month. The lights were shut off on more than one occasion. I qualified for food stamps. I grew vegetables in my anemic yard—not because I was some urban beekeeping eco-vore, but because I couldn’t afford to buy decent produce. By 2010, the only homeowners I knew who weren’t selling for liquid capital were high-financiers or trustafarians. And rents were untenable.

“This place sucks. … It just fucking sucks” was the sham Woody Allen Onion quote. It hit me: I can’t live in New York. Then I was struck by the meta grand piano from a three-story building: What about … Philly?

Honestly, the thought stank. I grew up on the Main Line and was snobbed out by the generations-deep blue-blood apparatus, so when I came of age in the late ’80s, I moved to Center City and attended Temple. Back then, Philly loomed like a menacing, crack-glutted acropolis, and I felt lucky I wasn’t raped or killed wandering around alone, as I often did. When I transferred to Columbia in 1989, I knew for sure: I was never, ever coming back.

But 20-odd years later, it was incontrovertible: Those of us with young families, in the so-called creative class—entrepreneurs, writers, editors, techies, graphics designers, teachers, small-firm ad execs and marketers, architects, anyone in the arts—were now high-status, poorly paid culture workers who could no longer afford to live in New York, especially with children. Things no longer seemed possible because they weren’t.

I could sell my house in a sketchy neighborhood for $860,000, buy a four-bedroom in Chestnut Hill for $340,000, and even after paying off my massive mortgage and Denali of debt still have a six-month nest egg that would enable me to contribute to private school. (I’d exchanged child support for tuition.) So what if Philly was slow, bankrupt and provincial? Just deal with it, I told myself.

I was wrong. Thankfully, very wrong.

It’s not news that New Yorkers have been infiltrating Philly for more than a decade. There was an understandable migratory spike after 9/11, and then, about six years ago, a flurry of articles about how New Yorkers in their 20s were descending on neighborhoods like Fishtown and Northern Liberties in the insultingly termed “Sixth Borough.” While the scope of the New York influx may have been unduly glamorized, the numbers aren’t laughable.

Since 2006, the official number of New Yorkers moving here per year—gleaned from tax returns, the IRS being the only source for such stats—has been in the 3,000s; in 2010, the official migration number was 3,095. But because the IRS misses swaths of people due to perennial filing boondoggles, Larry Eichel, project director of the Philadelphia Research Initiative at the Pew Charitable Trusts, estimates that a more realistic annual number is somewhere in the 4,000s.

So consider this: Even if the numbers plateau, in five years, potentially 20,000 more New Yorkers will be calling Philly home, in addition to the nearly 25,000 who already have in the past six. The city is growing, even though droves of Philadelphians are still moving out of the city every year (around 50,000 per year since 2006, according to Eichel’s research). While transplants move here from all over, it’s worth noting that on some scale, New Yorkers are becoming the new Philadelphians. And even if a sizeable handful are commuting to Manhattan for work, NYC transplants are still shopping here, buying homes here, paying taxes here, sending their kids to school here—and changing the economic and cultural landscape of the city.

Meet your new neighbors: the NY-Delphians.