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Work Life: Christina Russillo, Director Of Cowshed


Christina Russillo, 38, is director of the spa brand Cowshed. She lives alone in Notting Hill, London

My flat has hardwood floors, high ceilings and big windows; I love the way that it’s flooded with natural light when I wake up at 7am each morning. I used to live in a shoebox in New York, so having all this space feels extravagant. I shower and get dressed in jeans with a smart top and blazer or a shift dress from Diane von Furstenberg. Skyscraper heels are my signature look – I love Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo, which I used to buy at New York sample sales. I walk to catch the bus for to our offices in Soho, picking up Greek yoghurt with berries and a black Americano from Gail’s bakery on the way.

I try to get to the office between 8.30am and 9am before most of my team of 10 women arrive. We have a casual, open-plan office with lots of banter; our motto is ‘Take your work seriously, but not yourself’. Cowshed spas are all about sociable grooming; they’re a place to visit with friends and are the antithesis of the stuffy spas where you’re shushed whenever you laugh. I meet with retail buyers from John Lewis or Selfridges for a mani-meeting at our Carnaby Street spa, which means my invites rarely get turned down! We discuss collaborations – for example, we worked with Liberty to create limited-edition hand cream featuring iconic Liberty prints.

Over the next two years, we’re opening spas in Mumbai, Istanbul and Chicago, in addition to our existing spas in London, New York, Miami and Berlin. I sort out all the logistics, from licensing and market comparisons to hiring the general manager and ensuring brand consistency. I work closely with Nick Jones, founder of Cowshed and Soho House, and the architects, to plan every aspect. We don’t want cookie-cutter spas but we want customers to have the signature Cowshed experience, so we adapt the menu to local tastes. For example, in New York, massages are the most popular treatment whereas in Miami, facials and after-sun care top the list.

We say ‘take your work seriously but not yourself’

I meet with packaging experts to discuss new innovations over lunch at Dean Street Townhouse. If I don’t have a meeting, I grab a Pret sandwich to eat at my desk while looking at nytimes.com and mywardrobe.com. Another key aspect of my role is new product development.

We recently launched a range of toning and firming products called Slender Cow. I worked with our fragrance expert to create a new fragrance. We wanted the products to be different to other anti-cellulite products that women hide away, so we worked with the designers over an eight week period to create bright pink and neon green packaging. One of the perks of the job is testing new products and treatments – I’ve become really good at knowing how they should feel and smell.

Social media is important to us, so I meet with our e-commerce manager to discuss Facebook and Twitter and to organise events for bloggers, inviting them to the spa for treatments, canapés and champagne so they get an understanding of our ethos. My family live in the US and I’m really close to my mum and brother, so I give them a call each day at 4pm and visit every few months.

I fell into the beauty industry by accident. After working in hospitality during graduate school, I got a job at the first Bliss Spa in New York through a friend. I worked in operations for eight years, helping to grow the business and open new spas.

When I finish work at 7pm, I often have business dinners but as lots of my friends work in the industry it doesn’t feel like work. If it’s a nice night we go to Shoreditch House for drinks by the rooftop pool. I think it’s a reflection of my New York days that I don’t cook – if I’m having a night in, I get a take out salad and try to squeeze in a 9pm gym session. I’m a night owl so it helps me to unwind.

I go to bed with a stack of magazines and then check my BlackBerry to see if anything has come in from New York, before falling asleep at 11.30pm. It’s a bad habit, but I’m addicted!