Philly’s Four Seasons Spa Was Just Named One of the Best in the World
There are less than 100 luxury spas worldwide with a Forbes' five-star rating. We chatted with the spa director, Verena Lasvigne-Fox, on the heels of the announcement.
There’s no denying that Philly has seen a boom in alternative healing — esoteric practices like crystal healing and reiki, tarot reading, and sound baths are on the rise. And, in this case, they’re literally on the rise: appearing in full force on the top of the Comcast Center, in what is now one of the most highly-rated luxury spas in the world.
Yep, that’s right: The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia and the Spa at Four Seasons just became the first hotel and spa in the city to receive a Forbes’ Travel Guide Five-Star ranking. They’ll both be appearing in the upcoming Forbes’ 2021 guide. With this announcement, the Spa joins an elite group of less than 100 luxury spas across the world with a five-star rating. (Forbes Travel Guide has long been a global authority on luxury hospitality — their inspectors travel the magnificent spaces of the world incognito, assessing restaurants, spas, and hotels “based on 900 objective standards.” Tough life.)
The new Four Seasons, helmed by general manager Ben Shank, opened its doors last August to great fanfare: It was called the most-anticipated hotel of the decade, and stands as highest-situated hotel in all of North America. It boasted fine dining from the likes of Greg Vernick and Jean-Georges Vongerichten — oh, and a spa way, way up in the air — it sits high above the honking and jaywalking of Philly streets, perched on the 57th floor, with an infinity-edge pool and 700 pounds of healing crystals concealed in its walls.
The luxury-meets-New-Age spa design plan came about based on a vision from Verena Lasvigne-Fox, the senior director of the spa. She was born in Germany, speaks three languages, and has done stints at tony Four Seasons hotels in Paris, Seychelles, and Marrakech. In short, she has a practiced eye for trends with staying power, which is probably why it’s not just the expected silky soft robes, expert body and facial treatments, and deftly curated lounge areas that you’ll find here — though those are all present, too. Instead, The Four Seasons’ Spa is a whole vibe, man. The crystals, by the hundreds, are not only invisibly embedded in the walls, but a common thread on the menu, with signature treatments focused around the purportedly therapeutic gemstones.
We chatted with world-traveling spa expert Lasvigne-Fox on the heels of the award to find out more about therapeutic crystals, luxury service, what makes her spa here in Philly such a knockout — and how she’s running things during COVID-19.
Philly’s spa scene has been expanding over the last several decades. What makes the Four Seasons Spa a unique experience?
Certainly the location on the 57th floor —the stunning view of Philadelphia’s North, East and South sides. We have an amazing indoor Infinity Edge pool. There’s a 30-foot high ceiling. Then, of course, there’s our crystal theme. We have over 700 pounds of crystals embedded into our walls that spread positive energy and vibes throughout our floor. They were placed there by our crystal healer, Ms. Rashia Bell. She’s a native Philadelphian and a previous Pennsylvania Ballet dancer, and also works in our New York location. She re-energizes the space every six months to make sure that the crystals are activated again. She also provides energy healing services to our guests.
The crystal vision speaks to our time — people are very compelled by alternative methods of healing. I think it’s a smart incorporation into a luxury spa like this. How did that vision come about?
I came up with the crystal theme, and then I reached out to others to help make this a meaningful concept. The idea of the crystals in a wall was really born between Rashia Bell and I. I think there was an authentic wish to create something that made sense with the location. We’re on top of the Comcast Technology Center that actually uses crystals than you can think of microchips, phones — there was clearly this balance to strike between high-tech and low-tech. The choice of crystals clearly was justified by the location. It was logical for me.
How does this theme play out in the treatments?
We have seven treatment rooms named after specific crystals like citrine and amethyst, and then in each room, a crystal singing bowl that starts each treatment. It’s played to activate and harmonize the crystals that are in the walls of that room. We have signature treatments like a crystal oil massage. At the end of those treatments, the guest leaves with a crystal, to take this moment home with them. We have a relaxation lounge with a set of calming soothing stones, like rose quartz, moonstone, and green and blue calcite.
What else will visitors notice that stands out while visiting the spa?
The spa also contains a fitness center, relaxation lounge with zero gravity chairs, a hair and nail salon, dry sauna, and steam room. We offer a variety of treatments, and a wide-ranging menu of facials designed for darker skin tones by Dr. Barbara Sturm — like the 90-minute Super Rejuvenating Facial. (Note: All facials are currently on hold due to COVID-19 precautions.) I am also proud of our lifestyle boutique. We work together with different jewelry brands and a brand that does leather handbags from Italy — she is very exclusive. People love to shop here, because of the offers we have you can not find somewhere else in the city. Our relaxation lounge is stunning. The wave lounger in our relaxation lounge overlooking South Philadelphia’s cityscape feature a sleek, zero gravity design with the manufacturer’s (Living Earth Crafts) renowned Strata memory cushioning system.
You’ve worked all over the world. What is it like managing a spa in Philadelphia, as opposed to Marrakech or Paris?
I’m German, and my eleven years in Paris for my first employment — it was such a refined hotel. It develops your eyes for details and your taste for refinement and your knowledge on refinement and both physically connection with guests and experience. I think that was clearly an important milestone in my career. Marrakech was a totally different experience; I just love the way of life in that country. The craftsmanship of the locals was just outstanding. It was a very inspiring place to be for two years…and Philadelphia — I love it here. I love how open and heart-warming people are. It’s amazing to see how vast the city is.
See a video of Rashia Bell explaining the crystal healing properties in the video below:
The Forbes award is a huge honor. What does it mean for you, and for the spa?
There’s not a higher recognition that you can get today in the travel industry. Obviously were very humbled by this honor, especially after not even a year after the opening. Forbes Travel Guide is the gold standard for service, and we’ve worked towards best-in-class service, which is always our goal. We have very diligently selected our team members from the attendant to the receptionist. For me, this just confirms that what we’re doing is at the level where we naturally wanted to be.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you operate the spa? What precautions are being taken so guests feel safe?
We work alongside international experts to inform our health and safety decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic as we focus on strengthening our already stringent health and safety measures through our new Lead With Care program. Our team has been trained to ensure that there is cleanliness and safety throughout the spa with highly specific COVID-19 disinfecting and sanitizing protocols and procedures. We are in line with state orders; we have capacity limitations; we also wear a mask throughout the entire guest experience including doing treatments. We offer the same service, same amenities, but now they are upon request, versus being available for self-service —a critical part of my team is not changing who we are and our service level.
The Spa at the Four Seasons is open on the 57th floor of the Comcast Technology Center, 1 N 19th Street. You can book your visit here.