A selection of mud products from Bliss Spa and Terme di Salsomaggiore spa. Makeup, Jeannia Robinette at Jed Root, Inc. Sittings Editor: Phyllis Posnick.
And the bride wore Lacroix: Backstage at the fall 2015 couture show.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
Between a Twombly and a Vuillard, Sarofim has combined an Edward Field rug and Tommy Parzinger chair (both from Liz O’Brien) with a daybed (from Don Yarton in San Antonio) and a vellum table (from Duane in New York City).
Who would ever think that something so lowly would become so luxe? Penelope Green discovers how mud got its newfound allure.
One day early last fall at the StoneSpa in New York City, I feasted on luxury muds. I was given red muds and white ones, green, black, and yellow ones. The treatment I had was meant for two (thus its name, Muddie Buddies; it costs $386, including a stone massage), but for those who prefer privacy, it can also be a do-it-yourself affair. I started manfully enough, war paint-style, with great streaks of color over my face and chest. And then I got greedy and confused. My painterly approach ceded to gluttony, a great smear of each color all mixed into one and spread from chin to toes.
It was a heady experience, and as different from a traditional mud wrap as a boutique hotel is from a cruise ship. But as I later, on assignment, dug more deeply into the business of mud treatments, I realized that this was the norm these days. Perhaps the most outrageous of the new muds can’t be found until this spring, when the Standard Miami hotel and spa opens on the Venetian Causeway off Miami Beach. It is inspired by ancient bathhouses, like a Turkish haman, said its owner, hotelier Andre Balazs. Guests will have the option of frolicking naked on a 300-square-foot slab of white Carrara marble and daubing their bodies with white clay from Utah and yellow clay from near Rheims, France, both mixed with mango, kiwi, or lime extracts and maybe a little omega-3 oil.
“We’re going to get a really sexy hose to wash off with, too,” explained Alexia Brae, a consultant to the Standard. “It’s going to be a real mud scene. ”
How mud has emerged as a “scene” after years of being simply a dutiful entry on a treatment menu has a lot to do with the metamorphosis of the conventional spa into a kind of rollicking grab bag of converging trends: a place where one can improve their looks and indulge in some escapist, spiritual fantasy all at the same time. To make the most of this experience, spas are pushing the envelope. In the same way contemporary chefs have tweaked and upended the basics as a tomato sauce becomes a tomato foam in the hands of a Jean-Georges Von-gerichten spa directors are accessorizing plain old dirt, the stuff of the earth, with more flourishes, more bells and whistles, than a couture gown.
Mud as a multipurpose healing agent is as old as Homer, of course. Its medical history as a palliative for sore joints, skin inflammations, and liver troubles is long and amply documented. Cleopatra treasured it as a beauty treatment. Its therapeutic qualities were noted in Pliny’s Natural History, in an early edition of the Materia Medica, and in the Bible. The Gospel of Saint John tells the story of Jesus and the blind beggar, and clay (a version of mud made more flexible with water) is central to the plot. In my King James version, Jesus spits in the dirt and anoints the man’s.
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