Self-Care City: The Rise Of The One-Stop Wellness Shop
Illustration by Mr Xavier Truant
The modern pursuit of wellness is exhausting. The pressure we feel to be fitter, more successful and more attractive while ageing, maintaining our relationships and generally just trying to get through the week is debilitating. Sleep better, eat cleaner, have fewer pores and harder abs – it’s enough to make you cower on the sofa with a Snickers or three. But what if we could outsource all the strenuous work of being well? If you could get the banged-up chassis of your body fixed, so that it runs like new again? Turns out you just need to know where to look.
A new wave of one-stop supergyms, aesthetic clinics and members’ clubs sequestered under the streets of London and nesting at the tops of skyscrapers in Dubai, Tokyo and New York can churn out a brand new you during your lunch break. An afternoon in Mayfair could involve biohacking your fitness routine, juicing yourself up with vitamins, or sharpening your facial structure. Lunch at 1.00pm, aerial yoga at 2.00pm, a vitamin IV at 3.00pm, and fillers at 4.00pm – this, and more, is all in a day’s work for the modern wellness chaser.
BelleCell is a recent addition to London’s vibrant wellness scene. Buried beneath the Ritz in what used to be Sir Winston Churchill’s wine cellar, BelleCell is a sci-fi-esque members’ club that serves as an escape from the hubbub above. Its modus operandi is “molecular wellness”. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and DNA analysis to optimise weight loss are part of the destination’s offering, as is the Infrashape, a vacuuming infrared cycling machine that claims to burn calories faster than regular cycling.
If you have concerns about ageing, Ouronyx is the name to know. It opened in St James’s, London in 2021 and offers injectables and hair-loss treatments administered by in-house aesthetic doctors. But Ouronyx is more than an aesthetic clinic. Its co-founder, Ms Ida Banek, is a psychology professor who believes in a deeper approach that considers the mental motivations for seeking out treatment in the first place. (She cites hormonal changes in middle age and loss of confidence as common factors.) This is how the staff fully meet the needs and soothe the anxieties of the people that come through the door (and leave through another exit of course – this place is all about the journey).
“People are living longer lives so redefining and recalibrating yourself, say, at the age of 50, is very important from a mental perspective,” says Banek. “How do we compete and stay relevant in the second half of our lives? We don’t speak about it enough, but being tired, being saggy and being insecure in who you’re going to become in your later life, it’s an important thing that we should be able to discuss with someone we trust and that has medical knowledge and understanding.” This spring, Ouronyx opened a clinic in the Dame Zaha Hadid-designed Opus tower in Dubai and has plans for a Milan outpost in 2023. Beyond that, Banek’s sights are set on Los Angeles and Tokyo.
“People are living longer lives so redefining and recalibrating yourself, say, at the age of 50, is very important from a mental perspective. How do we compete and stay relevant in the second half of our lives?”
Over in New York, a new Aman hotel will open this year. Situated 26 storeys up in the sky, it will house a three-floor spa dedicated to wellness. Conceived as a respite from the city below, it will include a 200ft swimming pool, ice fountains, steam room, sauna and sensory showers, as well as rooms for consultations and treatments. It also has 22 private residences, which means, with deep enough pockets – a full-floor apartment reportedly costs $55 million – you can have a wellness centre on your doorstep.
No one place can offer everything, but Lanserhof at the Arts Club in London comes pretty close. A partnership between the Arts Club and the Lanserhof group, it opened in 2019 and functions somewhere between a gym, a doctor’s office and a five-star hotel. “There are a lot of doctors and specialists based under one roof and it’s quite overwhelming, so you see one doctor at the beginning and he’ll put together your goals and next steps,” says Ms Hattie David-Wilkinson, the club’s membership and marketing manager.
The personal trainers in the gym talk to your doctors, who talk to the specialists you see – a full team of people working in-house whose job it is to optimise you. There’s a “biomechanic in the basement”, who runs the spine and movement labs in which you can pinpoint problems with your posture to the millimetre. A lounge upstairs is devoted to administering vitamin infusions, while the fitness studios run classes including Hiit and aerial yoga, in which you stretch while suspended from the ceiling in a hammock. The gym features an ICAROS virtual reality machine, a core trainer that can virtually fly you over mountains or allow you to swim in the sea, plus all the latest equipment from Technogym that automatically adjusts, depending on your size and strength. It’s intoxicatingly high-tech and comprehensive.
“It’s in our nature not to go to the doctor unless you have to, but what we do is about turning that on its head… It’s taking ownership of your health”
Particularly in the UK, the idea of incorporating a more European approach to wellness where your doctors all communicate with each other, or in Japan, where an annual health check is standard practice, has been met with positive feedback. “People are more open to it now,” says David-Wilkinson. “It’s in our nature [in Britain] not to go to the doctor unless you have to, but what we do here is about turning that on its head slightly and coming for a preventive reason. It’s taking ownership of your health.”
That ownership, as you might expect, does not come cheap. Annual membership of Lanserhof at the Arts Club starts at £6,500, but goes all the way up to £20,000, for which you can access unlimited personal training and cryotherapy, plus doctors’ appointments, beauty treatments, intravenous drips and everything in between. Why would you ever need to leave? “To go home to sleep,” laughs David-Wilkinson.
With numerous specialists in-house and the latest technology on offer, plus prime locations in major cities, these wellness centres are incredibly expensive to run, so why have they started popping up now? Ouronyx’s Banek thinks the demand is at least partly to do with how the pandemic has broken down the boundaries of home and office life and how finding peace, especially in an environment where the people around you are genuinely invested in your wellbeing, has become a challenge. “I really think that lifestyles are changing,” she says. “In big cities, there’s a lot of noise everywhere around us and a lot of noise on social media, too. It’s not easy to find a spot of peace where we can give our money to people we trust who will do something good for us. It really comes down to: whose hands do I want to put myself in?” If you can afford it, those hands are now tantalisingly nearby.