Noel Asmar is the perfect embodiment of vision, passion, and creativity. In 2002, she launched the Noel Asmar Group, which has since expanded into multiple divisions, including Noel Asmar Uniforms & Asmar Scrubs, Asmar Equestrian, and PedicureBowls.com. Known for her purpose-driven design, Noel was awarded Most Innovative Company of the Year 2022 by ISPA for her sustainable collection of uniforms made with fabric from recycled water bottles. Learn what inspired her to follow the spa and wellness path, what she’s working on now, and more.
Tell us a bit about your background–where did you grow up and what inspired you to launch your spa uniform business?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada. My mother left the prairies at 17 to go to nursing school in Winnipeg, and my father left Lebanon at 21 to immigrate on his own to Vancouver where they met. My mom was a bit ahead of her time; she had a membership at a health club when we were young and made it a priority to balance work, family, and health. She was an early adopter of bioidentical hormone replacement therapies early in her forties, and she taught me a lot about seeking out nature and being happy.
I went to Hotel Management school and later left for Beirut in the early 90s, as the war ended there, to work with a hotel opening team. Hospitality is a way of life, to this day I feel my experience in hospitality has woven its way through our businesses, making people and service our number-one priority in how we choreograph our customer experience. I had the opportunity to update the housekeepers’ uniforms at one property and to this day will never forget how transformative it was for the all-female staff–maybe unknowingly, this planted a seed.
In the late 90s, I joined a hotel marketing firm in Switzerland as Regional Business Development Director for the Middle East, North Africa, and SE Asia. I spent nearly five years out of a suitcase traveling the world, visiting some of the most incredible properties, and meeting people who would teach me the art of hospitality. I spent my evenings and weekends designing clothes for myself and friends when in Vietnam–which led to my first side business designing women’s wear.
When I returned to Vancouver in 2002, I saw an opportunity to create a spa uniform and transform the way spa professionals would dress. It took me nearly a year to find the fabric I felt confident would support a therapist, stand up to the oils and spa products, and stretch to support the way therapists move–hence our trademark “Made For The Way You Move.”
How did you get into the spa uniform side of things, and who were a few of your first clients?
When I first moved back to Vancouver, I realized that nobody was focusing on spa professionals. The typical uniform at the time was boxy scrubs that didn’t look appropriate for a spa–boxy, stiff, no stretch for movement–very old-fashioned. In the fall of 2002, I launched SpaUniforms.com from my home. It was the first dot com for spa uniforms, and the domain name made it easy for spa professionals to find us. The first few large properties were Canyon Ranch Las Vegas, Marriott, Harrah’s, Red Mountain Resort . . . Bellagio was an early client. We have been honored to work with amazing people.
What was the very first piece you designed, and what has changed with spa uniform design since you first launched in 2002?
We launched with the Zen Jacket in three colors, and then the Tuscan, Dolce, and Urban Fusion–all made with our signature spa fabric. We have started designing with destinations in mind, creating resort collections in newly developed faux-linen fabrics, and urban collections that feel a little extra-sophisticated, such as our sought after Jaeda Tunic style. I have always started design with the fabric, because the fabric needs to be engineered for a very active role; it needs to perform like activewear but appear very professional..
You are a true innovator in many ways–including the use of fabrics. Tell us about the evolution of your fabrics, especially your EcoSignature and Faux Linen materials.
Although our Signature Spa fabric has been in play since 2002, we realized that we had woven enough rolls of fabric to wrap around the earth and that we wanted to start working with the mill to create an environmentally friendly replacement and address one request we had from clients to create a hand feel that would be soft enough to be silent as practitioners move around.
That’s why we’re proud to introduce EcoSignature, an eco-friendly material with a better end-of-life outcome. EcoSignature is made from biodegradable polyester and spandex, ensuring spa uniforms are comfortable, durable, and when it’s lived its life, can safely degrade releasing no harmful substances into the environment. The EcoSignature fabric will gradually replace our Signature fabric over the coming months as stock is replenished,
What has been your biggest challenge since launching in 2002?
Technology–social media and marketing has become a job within a job, requiring new skill sets, experts, and it is constantly evolving. It challenges us in many ways to become experts in an area not related to our products. As a business owner and CEO my biggest challenge is to measure what matters and stay focused. The world is very “noisy” right now.
What has been your biggest success since launching?
One of our biggest successes has been the launch of our faux-linen fabric tunic resort collection. We saw the need for a new concept spa uniform to enhance the resort destinations. We worked on the fabric while creating a uniform program for Sandals Resorts properties—a gorgeous setting deserving of a uniform that complemented the staff and environment and inspired us to develop this new signature faux-linen fabric. Our customers have put this fabric to the test. Shane Bird at Turning Stone tested the uniform by putting red mud, oil, and topping it off with blue denim in the wash–lol, honestly, even I was nervous! But when Shane called with the great news that the fabric stood up to the test, we knew we had created something very special for our customers!
I saw an opportunity to create a spa uniform and transform the way spa professionals would dress.
What are you most proud of, and what are you working on now?
I am most proud of our team! Each member cares so deeply about our customers’ success. As proud as I am about our quality and style, our customer service team are some of the most experienced spa uniform experts in the industry and are able to consult on very large openings with up to one thousand staff members. Uniform selection and implementation can be a very overwhelming experience for a director that is tasked with a new opening or a refurbishment. Our team is really there for our customers, they care so much.
We recently launched our medical scrubs line and are working on an exciting new Lab Coat collection launching very soon. We are working on some new fabrics and treatment washes that support our sustainability goals.
How do you incorporate spa into your life, and do you have a favorite spa treatment?
My Eminence Organic Skin Care regime for the past 20 years starts and finishes my day every day. Now, our two sons and daughter have their own skincare routines each day. I find these daily rituals provide a pause at the start and end of each day to check in, cleanse, breath–simple but profound. My husband and I recently had the opportunity to stay at Canyon Ranch Tucson for a couple days and have realized how impactful a pause to realign with our wellness goals is as we age together. I also get a facial every other month and massage at least once a month.
My two favorite spa treatments are a 90-minute full-body massage with a scalp and face massage included, and a facial is a very close second.
How does your brand give back? Do you have a nonprofit that is close to your heart?
We have been working with WeForest to support reforestation knowing that trees are the single best way to clean the air and cool the planet. We are also working on our own give-back to support caregivers–stay tuned.
Where do you see the future?
I believe spas will become recognized as a significant contributor of integrated health. Our company vision is to dress health and wellness professionals for a well world. We have invested in our innovative collection of medical scrubs to establish Noel Asmar Uniforms as North America’s premier Health, Spa & Wellness Uniform brand. Medi-spas are growing and are a great example of how spa and medi-treatments have become mainstream.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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