The SPA Traveller catches up with the founder of Russie Blanche Julia Lemigova a former Miss USSR who left the glamorous world of modelling to open a Parisian spa and launch her own Russian-inspired product range…
Images: Courtesy Russie Blanche
What were you doing before you launched Russie Blanche?
I was born and grew up in Russia. In 1990 I was titled Miss USSR - during the competition I was spotted by storm model agency owner, Sarah Doukas. She asked me to join her then relatively new model agency in London and I agreed, moving to London at the age of 18.
After 15 years modelling I had a booking in Hong Kong but was not allowed into the country due to an error by the travel agent. Instead, I went to Thailand and stayed at the Mandarin Oriental. As I had missed the modelling job I worried that I had let people down and felt very stressed. So, I decided to book myself into the spa.
I saw a therapist mixing products for my treatment. The attention to detail, the welcome I received and the huge health benefits made me fall in love with the whole spa world. This experience crystalised the fact I should say goodbye to modelling before it said goodbye to me. I returned to Paris and within two weeks had bought a spa! Up until 2009 I was running a spa where we created our own massages. The final part for me was to have my own brand that was to be a culmination of my Russian heritage, French expertise and Asian fusion and in 2009 Russie Blanche was born.
Why did you call it Russie Blanche?
Vogue (French) approached me to create a specialist Russian massage/treatment. The title of the feature was to be “White Knight”. The treatment flew and it was on the back of its popularity and publicity it received that I decided I wanted to bring back to life the Russian traditions and remedies. I played on the words White Knight and came up with Russie Blanche, White Russian.
What inspired you to create Russie Blanche?
Since being a tiny girl, my mother had cranberry on her face or cucumber on her eyes and she visited the Banya (Russian sauna) once a month. I used to question her as to why she didn’t use products from a tube and why she had all this fruit on her face!
Can you explain the black and white packaging?
The white depicts all facial products and the black, all body products. The thought behind this was that “white” reflects the cooling Russian winters (the face products are very cooling on the skin) and the black packaging of the body range, depict the warmth of the Russian Banya.
Russie Blanche uses adaptogenous plants – why are they beneficial to the body?
They offer a powerful natural medicine to lower stress and cure various illnesses. Siberian Golden Root was traditionally used in Russia to enhance physical and mental performance, increase stamina and concentration, fight fatique, lower blood pressure, normalise heart function and combat stress. It has been widely used by Russian athletes, soldiers, cosmonauts and business people.
Siberian Ginseng has been recognised for more than 4,000 years for its medicinal benefits and is used to reinforce the body’s immunity and defences. It is also used for its anti-stress and regenerative properties.
Adaptogens from Russian origin have the highest pharmacological activity.
Where are your products made?
Our range, combining adaptogenous plants and pure essential oils are formulated in the laboratory in Paris under supervision of a Doctor of Pharmacy PhD and we adhere to strict laboratory guidelines – NO parabens, phenoxyethanol, silicons, mineral oils, artificial colours or animal raw ingredients.
Why did you choose Paris?
My father was Parisian and I had always wanted to escape from communist Russia. At school, I had to wear red scarves neatly ironed and I would purposefully keep it dirty and crumpled. I would tell people “I am a Marquis de la Tourney and one day I will live in Paris and look out of my room to the Eiffel Tower”. I got expelled from the school! In 1993 and in my first flat, if I stood on the toilet seat and peered out of the window, I could see the top of the Eiffel Tower.
What sets you apart from other spa brands?
Russie Blanche is the first brand to bring Russian traditions, skincare and adaptogenous plants together with a five star standard. No other skin care has used these plants before.
All our products and treatments encapsulate Russian traditions, ingredients and beauty secrets – the Russian Banya is at the heart of Russian wellbeing and the reason why it features throughout the brand. It dates back to 100AD and was popularised by Peter the Great during his reign. The healing and health benefits of the Banya are widely recognised – aid rejuvenation, cleanse and detox, comfort and heal both body and mind. There are several aspects to the ritual which can last around three hours in Russia.
The Russian-style massage is more firm and very purposeful –we have taken the techniques and polished them, perfecting the etiquette for a more refined experience. The massage features greatly throughout all of our body and facial treatments. We don’t lose the heart of Russian traditions, we are just adding to it to take it to the next level.
In which spas can people experience a Russie Blanche treatment or buy your products?
HÔTEL LE BRISTOL
GRANDES ALPES PRIVATE HOTEL 5 ÉTOILES
THE KILDARE HOTEL, SPA & COUNTRY CLUB
WYNDHAM GRAND LONDON
CROWNE PLAZA HÔTEL
WYNDHAM ORLANDO RESORT INTERNATIONAL DRIVE
AMBER SPA HOTEL