Q & A with Amy Darland: Owner of San Francisco's Famous International Orange Spa and Yoga Studio
San Francisco's International Orange day spa and yoga studio is a favorite among celebs Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler, and has been featured in such publications as InStyle, O, the Oprah Magazine, and Daily Candy. IO's mission is to "be a bridge to your better side" by involving clients in their own transformation; offering effective, nurturing wellness treatments; creating a beautiful, calming, distinctive environment; and stretching the day spa form with yoga.
We talked with co-founder Amy Darland (pictured to the right), a Georgetown graduate who worked for Lucasfilm before moving east to the William Morris Agency, where she helped represent award-winning screenwriters and directors and met eventual IO co-founder Kary Chendo. Darland, a massage lover from infancy (her mom practiced baby massage on her as a baby, and their extensive family travel always included relaxation treatments), is a certified massage therapist. Her family now lives on, and also works, an organic farm in the high desert of New Mexico that provides special, high-quality organic remedies to IO.
MindBodyGreen: How did the idea for International Orange come about?
Amy Darland: Inspired by the slow food movement, we (Darland, pictured above right, and co-founder Melissa Ferst, pictured above left), founded IO in 2001 with the idea of stretching the day spa form with yoga. This was a concept that no one had done before, and San Francisco was a natural breeding ground for us. Our intention was to create a "less is more," inviting, transformative space to strip away the chaos, the data, the stuff of metropolitan life, and encourage taking more time for our bodies and ourselves. Named after the iconic color of the Golden Gate Bridge, we hope to serve as a bridge to our better side for our clients and the community.
MBG: What does mind/body/green wellness mean to you?
AD: Holistic health and healing for humans, as well as our home on Planet Earth. If we don't take care of our bodies and minds and our home, then nothing matters anyway. This sustainable holistic approach to healing and wellness is what we strive for with International Orange and in our lives at large. If we can take it step by step, one person at a time, then that feels like intelligent progress that will make our world well. We really seek to do this even on the smallest level, even one person at a time.
MBG: What's IO's most popular types of wellness treatment?
AD: Our most popular are our two signature treatments: the IO deep-cleanse facial and the IO 60-minute massage. Like our mission, both signature treatments focus on the natural healing properties of body and skin. It's back to the basics. The deep-cleanse facial is a beautiful mix of deep cleansing, toning, double exfoliation, in-depth pore extraction, a specialty treatment mask, and rehydration. Both are a combination of intelligent skin/body therapy and pampered relaxation.
MBG: IO is such a calming and unique environment — why is this so important to IO and how did you create such a unique space?
AD: At IO, we believe in stripping away the excess and focusing on the essential. Working with our creative director, Matt Dick, we modeled IO after an art gallery—a quiet, contemplative haven where the mind is free to wander. Our all-white walls, reclaimed Brazilian wood floors, farmer's market flowers, and organic snacks all speak to our dedication to sophisticated simplicity.
MBG: Any tips to create a more calming environment in our homes?
AD: I love to bring the spa wellness experience home with me—even simple things like candles, incense, a meditation spot, or just a pillow and a quiet corner. Baths are amazing with Epsom salts or our own Bathe bath soak from International Orange, with essential oils. Add a little mint or cucumber and lemon or ginger to chilled water or hot water for refreshment. And almost most importantly, turn off all tech devices once a day. (Give it a try, at least.) That includes cell phones, the regular phone, TV, radio, and computer. Even if it's for 15 minutes of quiet, it can make such a difference. That's why one of our mantras at International Orange is "Practice silence." Our modern life is ultra-busy, and things are always "talking" to us, beeping at us, threatening to pull us in their direction and off-center. A simple few minutes to reboot our own power source is often enough to make the difference of a little more peace and joy.
MBG: The winter is coming… Any body-care tips?
AD: This incredible salt rub with essential oils made by hand by my mom on my family organic farm in New Mexico. Great for sloughing off dead or chapped skin and then for rehydration. It's the best salt rub I've ever used, and it's excellent for the body.
Also, an amazing line of body balms is made by hand by a friend of mine here in SF. It's In Fiore, and it's a total cult favorite of the Fashion Week model elite and film stars alike. Liv Tyler and Kate Hudson are both fans. These high-quality natural products have wonderfully complex and sophisticated scent blends, and will keep even the driest skin dewy and hydrated through the winter.
MBG: Who inspires you?
AD: Well, of course, Gandhi and MLK Jr., but also anyone who seeks to heal their mind, heart, and body. People who are honest with themselves and compassionate about where they are in their own evolution. People who know that they must be real and authentic with themselves first and then share that growth with others in a grounded way.
MBG: Guilty indulgence?
AD: Corn dogs!
MBG: If it was your Last Supper, what would your last meal be? Where would the meal be? Who would you like to be there (past/present/future)?
AD: All-local fare prepared in the slow food movement manner:
- Joseph Campbell
- Rudolph Steiner
- Virginia Woolf
- Frida Kahlo
- Georgia O'Keeffe
- My grandpa Rusty, who passed away when I was 15, and my grandpa Woody, who passed away when I was three months old.
For more on Amy Darland and International Orange: