Women in Charge

Celine Tadrissi, founder of Cela, is one of Toronto’s Spa Icons

Celine Tadrissi is one of Toronto’s spa icons.

Written by Christina Gonzales

Ask any native Torontonian where to go for a spa day and they’ll tell you: Hammam Spa. Along with her architect husband, Antonio, Tadrissi has owned and operated the King Street West institution since 2006 (long before the area gentrified). One could say that the Tadrissis are on the cusp of trends.

This year, Tadrissi launched her own skincare line called Cela, born out of Tadrissi’s eye for what’s hot. Customers, she says, are more in-tune with what they put on their bodies. They want to know about products that are being used on them, and Tadrissi is keen to deliver high-quality skincare that’s clean (free of emollients, parabens, and as natural as possible).

Here, Tadrissi shares her advice on trend-spotting, risk-taking, and how imperative it is to take advice from employees on the front lines.

On adjusting to the industry and cultural trends:

To me, adjusting to the industry and cultural trends is the most important thing. Everything is always changing: products are changing; what people like is changing; what they need is changing. I’m always observing. I’m at spa shows keeping an eye at works and what doesn’t.

I do believe in building a core brand and being recognizable, but you still have to be open and flexible to making adjustments and tweaking.

[Listening to your staff] creates a strong team and environment where people feel like they have a say and their opinion is valued.

-Celine Tadrissi, Cela

On taking risks:

When we first opened Hammam, we spoke to some conservative, North American spa consultants who recommended everything “traditional.” We told them about our idea of doing a co-ed steam room, and they all said it was a horrible idea. They said it wouldn’t work in Toronto. Now, the co-ed steam room is what we’re known for.

We took a risk in not creating the traditional spa environment, where the audio is always birds chirping, and the decor is status quo. We made it more of a gender-neutral space. We left it a little bit raw. If you have an idea and you think it’s a good one, follow through on it even though there are moments when people second guess you.

On the importance of valuing the front lines:

I sit on the board for the Spa Association of Canada and employee turnover is a problem across the industry. Aestheticians and massage therapists are a transient group. They’re very mobile, so they may go and work abroad for a while. I try and create an interactive work environment where staff feel that there’s a future here; It’s not a temporary.

We have group benefits, which isn’t typical for spas. We support education and pay for training. We reimburse our massage therapists for their registration fees. We try to have regular engagement reviews and bonuses. Since we’ve opened we’ve had staff nights for wine, service exchanges and steams.  

On top of that, we’re always trying to get feedback from staff on treatment protocols. Sometimes, staff say, “it’s too awkward to flip a customer over too many times.” So we’ll do one full side and then adjust. It’s so important to pay attention to all those details.

It’s critical because the staff are people who are actually using the products and working within the spaces. They’re the ones that are hands-on with clients. It’s important from an operational perspective. But it’s also important for creating a strong team and environment where people feel like they have a say and their opinion is valued. That’s why we have staff who have been here since we opened.

Scroll through the gallery below for a glimpse at some of our favourite Cela products:

Black Gold Coffee Scrub 

Our favourite of all the Cela products, the Black Gold Coffee Scrub features dark-roasted coffee grounds and coarse sugar. A little goes a long way with this scrub, and it's perfect for a morning when you're feeling dull and drab. The rich aroma of coffee awakens the nervous system, as you work the scrub from the neck down to the toes—pure pleasure.

Crème de la Crème

The mother of all creams, Crème de la Crème contains a mix of Amazonian cupuaçu butter and Abyssinian oil. Talk about a moisture fix. These, coupled with orange and grapefruit essential oils leave the body feeling both soft and fresh. 

Crème de la Crème Light

Made for those who don't like the feel of a thick cream, and for 30-degree summer days, the Crème de la Crème Light is fast-absorbing and light as a feather. Key ingredient? Amazonian cupuaçu butter, also found in its sister product Crème de la Crème. 

Essential Balm

Those with dry patches and problem skin meet your fairy Godmother. The Essential Balm is a compact miracle oil, which you can use anywhere that skin needs a boost. That includes cuticles, elbows, and knees. Eczema? Throw this on. A mix of plant butters and oils protect the skin and help clear your skin woes.

Seed to Skin Scrub

Those with a sweet tooth, rejoice. An alternative, which is as effective as the Black Gold Scrub, is the Cela Seed to Skin Scrub. A candy-scented scrub made with finely milled Amazonian cupuaçu, which rids the body of dead skin cells and leaves you feeling moist and new.