World Massage Champion Slav Marinov has begun collaborating with spa furniture brands to boost awareness of how massage tables affect health and wellness. During the Equiphotel event in Paris, we encountered Slav Marinov at the RKF stand where we were drawn into the realm of spas and wellness centers. Although the French brand designs and produces luxury linen for the hotel industry, RKF is now the only distributor of Gharieni’s massage table MLX Quartz in France. The company displayed the Quartz table where Slav Marinov offered massages to visitors. While this product is not new on the market, the man standing nearby is.
This article was first published in ArchExpo e-magazine on November 10, 2022.
World Massage Champion Slav Marinov began as a sports trainer in Bulgaria over 30 years ago, after completing his education at the National Sports Academy in Sofia where he also studied physiology and anatomy. His work as a personal trainer led him to massage the athletes as part of their training, sparking his interest as a massage therapist.
He moved to London 16 years ago where he focused entirely on obtaining qualifications in different massage techniques including Deep Tissue, MFR, Reflexology, TMJ, Cupping and more. He recently discovered the existence of the World Massage Championship and, in 2019, won the UK national championship and qualified to compete in the WMC. He has since accumulated many awards and earned the prime spot in this year’s world championship.
Acquiring multiple awards has allowed him to create his own brand Slavma which he uses to help others identify the best product options, including spa furniture. One of his preferred products is the Quartz, which exemplifies how an impeccably designed spa table can also be recognized in the medical field.
During the Equiphotel event, we spoke with Slav Marinov and his partner Anna Tsankova, a skinologist and wellness expert who was voted the Best Pampering Therapist in London by Daily Candy in 2008 and who has collaborated with L’Oréal, Chanel and LVMH.
Can you tell us about your transition into massage therapy?
Slav Marinov: My knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, along with my natural interest in nutrition, helped me transition into a full-fledged massage therapist. As a personal trainer, I used to work with weightlifters and bodybuilders, and nutrition was a great part of their success. It’s the biggest part, more so than the actual training.
Anna Tsankova: It’s part of the holistic approach that we see as a trend in the wellness industry—from skincare to personal training to wellness therapy. It’s really important that you start from the inside out, so we need to combine different aspects into training methods including nutritional advice, meditation, stress management and anything that would support the therapy or training. Now, therapists are becoming more educated.
How many furniture brands have you tested over the years and why do you advise using Gharieni high-tech products?
Slav Marinov: I’ve worked in different places and tested quite a few brands. The ones I’ve collaborated with here [at Equiphotel] are the best. I’m not saying this because they’re here. In fact, I’m here because I truly believe in the quality of what they’re doing.
Many companies producing massage tables focus on the main elements of the product: It’s a table the client gets on to receive a massage. Gharieni tries to take this to a different level by designing the equipment using advanced technology in a way that adds to the human touch, to add to how the therapist works with his or her hands in order to enrichen the experience of the client.
Gharieni added a water-duvet mattress to the Quartz bed. The company did a lot of scientific research to design the product for the army, for soldiers who experience physical and mental trauma following missions. Our bodies are about 85% fluid, so this table moves and resonates with the movement of the fluids in our bodies. It slows down the brain activity and the pulse of the client in order to help people with traumas.
Can you tell us more about how Gharieini is creating a multi-senses experience?
Anna Tsankova: It’s about adding on to achieve this 360-approach experience. Human touch is irreplaceable. With its products, Gharieni enhances the quality of the experience, of the customer’s journey, and they incorporate all the senses: touch, smell, sound, etc.
For the Quartz table, they’ve added aroma therapy through inhalation, for example, which reaches the blood supply much faster than through the skin. They’ve also incorporated heat and quartz or sea salt which have other benefits for the client. It’s this inclusion of different senses that makes the experience amazing.
Anna Tsankova: In a wellness magazine published in the UK, research showed that complementary therapy is going to be recognized and incorporated in medical settings such as hospitals to support conventional medicine. Extensive research has also shown that nearly 35% of people who have received complementary therapy such as aromatherapy, reflexology, massages and acupuncture, for example, have reduced the number of visits to their general practitioner.
Have you ever collaborated with architects or interior designers on spas as an advisor? What advice would you give them?
Slav Marinov: Not yet, we’re at the beginning. Throughout my career, I’ve been mainly focused on what I do with my hands. Now, I’ve reached a higher level and I’ve started looking to add onto my competence.
In terms of advising designers, it depends on the objective of the project. If it’s a five-star spa, they need to find a way to do something unique and better than the others. As a culinary example, you can enjoy eating a strawberry on its own much like you can appreciate a delicious cheese, but if you eat them together, it’s a symphony. Try to design the treatments and the protocols in a way that mixes the strawberries with the cheese.
How can furniture and the layout of a spa affect the outcome for guests and employees?
Anna Tsankova: Most designers [combine elements] already and there are very creative people, but we live in a time when staff shortages, retention and wellness is a huge issue. In order to retain staff and provide impeccable treatments in five-star spas and hotels, the designers and their hotelier clients need to think from the therapist’s point of view.
Too often, the efforts are focused on the ‘look’ of the spa and the client experience. Since they don’t get advice from therapists, the end result could include ergonomically unsuitable chairs or working stations. I experienced this firsthand in a project I recently finished where everything was tailor-made. It looked amazing in the photos, but the chairs for the clients and the tables for the beauty therapist were completely unsuitable.
I know in a few months it will affect the health of the staff and cause them to be unhappy working there. It will require more energy and finance for the spa owners and managers to recruit new people. I believe designers should work with a therapist or at least have the spa tested by a therapist. We’re very open to such collaborations with designers.