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Free Spirit
An interview with Jerry DeSouza, creative director of Spa Esprit Group

By Tara Mastrelli

Jerry DeSouza isn't your typical spa guy. As creative director of Singapore-based Spa Esprit Group, he's not only trying to change the grooming industry, but the F&B industry one place at a time—there's Strip: Ministry of Waxing, Browhaus for brow shaping, House, a beauty joint with a café and bar, fine dining concept Tippling Club, pizza parlor Skinny Pizza, and Beauty Emporium, a one-stop beauty store. From irreverent ads to the use of squeezy toys in treatment packaging, DeSouza is all about pushing the envelope. "Fun, humor, and playfulness are the DNA of the group," he says. Here he talks wax as an art form, creating a lifestyle, and designing in former army barracks.

HD: For those not familiar with your brands, tell us a little bit about Spa Esprit Group.
JD: The Spa Esprit Group is one of the most unique homegrown beauty and F&B brands in Singapore, with the primary intent of bringing about a new advent to respond to the lifestyle needs of the modern person. Always exuding cutting-edge style, the group is passionate about bringing quality, value, and innovation to their clients through all their products and services.

HD: You go from designing in a 35,000-square-foot former army barracks to designing a space that's almost locked in underground by the subway. How do you maintain brand identity and a tie through all the various brands when dealing with different building types, locations, and markets?
JD: Each of the brands reflects the personality of founder Cynthia Chua and myself. I draw inspiration from the different spaces and environment, be it large or small. Each of our brands has very clear brand identity and I mold each design around it. The design is also greatly influenced by the country’s culture and markets.

HD: Do you ever say, 'Cynthia we're a spa brand, why are we doing pizza?' Or are you both secretly out to conquer the world?
JD: From eating well to being groomed, we want to offer a complete lifestyle cycle to the consumers. To provide innovative, fun, pampering, and nurturing offerings in a stylish setting without having to break the bank.

HD: How does art figure into your designs? Do you work with artists?
JD: I am an artist and treat each of my designs as a piece of art. There are thoughts behind every design and detailing I create, not just exact replicas that I just plonk into every store. For Strip New York, wax is the inspiration and key material, and I played with the different melting points and texture of wax, resulting in [everything from] wax furniture to wall art.

We do work with artists. For Strip New York, we worked with a Singaporean artist, Chua Koon Beng, to create huge pieces of wax art pieces on canvases.

HD: So you’ve just opened in New York, London, and Hong Kong. What's next?
JD: Expanding to Paris, Los Angeles, and Tokyo are some of the key cities we are working on. We aim to be present in all the major cities and revolutionalize the grooming industry, globally.

hdtalks: the interviews

During HD Expo 2014, Hospitality Design’s Michael Adams sat down with HBA’s Michael Bedner to talk about his half-century in the hospitality design industry. View the video.



Produced by: Emerald Expositions
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