Britain’s ’50 Most Desirable Beauty Salons’

There couldn’t be a more appropriate name for this calming, little haven in Edinburgh’s city centre.  This beautiful two-location salon is a bit of a beauty industry legend, so no wonder you voted it as the Most Desirable Salon in the UK. Set up by owner Fiona Fowley ten years ago to fill a perceived hole in Edinburgh’s beauty offering, it has continued to win awards and stay at the cutting edge of the beauty industry.


“I had travelled in Asia and Australia and even studied Thai massage in Chang Mai in Thailand,” explains Fowley, who has enjoyed a career in the beauty industry that spans 18 years. “However, when I came back to Edinburgh I noticed that the quality of day spas and salons was not particularly high.”


Fowley decided to draw on her travels to create a salon in her native Scotland. The Bruntsfield Road site opened first, and, with three treatment rooms, it still remains the smaller of the two sites today, but it was quickly followed by the opening of a new establishment in Teviot Place.


The concept behind the salons is the idea of offering customers a “sanctuary in the city”, somewhere they can relax and forget about the stresses of everyday life. To this end, the opening hours of Zen are incredibly accommodating – until ten at night and seven days a week. Fowley did this to find a way to allow everyone to benefit. She realised that many people, from workers who toil nine to five to those who stay at home and look after children are not able to come to a salon between the hours of ten to four. “Our kinds of opening hours were unheard of then, and they are not getting any more common now,” she says.


The opening hours are not the only thing that sets the salon apart. “We have tried to be very innovative and are always looking for new ideas,” says Fowley. “We were one of the first Scottish salons to introduce mesotherapy, which is still not that prevalent. We brought in digital imaging for the face and we were one of the first businesses to bring in text reminders for their clients. “It may not sound like something particularly cutting edge, but when we did no one else was and set us apart. We also make sure we fully consult with each customer before their treatment and follow up on what their experience of the salon has been to really learn what they want from us.”


However despite the obvious passion for the beauty industry it is Fowley’s flair for design that really brings this vision to life.


“I baulk sometimes when Fiona asks for £3,000 for chandeliers but when I see them up and hear all the clients talking about them, I know she was right,” says Kieran Fowley, the business’s other director. But it doesn’t stop at chandeliers, there are plasma screens in the waiting area, fresh flowers in reception and each treatment room is set up to deliver a completely bespoke experience. The colour scheme is based around purple, with pale wood and funky shelving providing a back drop to the rather more electric touches.


“Each treatment room has individual climate control panels,” says Fowley. “You can also adjust the music levels in every room and change the lighting. People don’t want the same ambience for a facial as they would for a wax.”


This attention to detail is just one of the many reasons why Zen’s peers voted it their number one. Other comments include “Love the purple interior with the crystal lighting”, while and another praised the professionalism of its staff.


“We recently travelled to Sydney and Hong Kong to get inspiration and found that the things we do help to deliver a superior experience and excellent customer care,” says Fowley. “We pride ourselves on finding out what our clients want and need and then delivering it to them.”


There are deliberations over the possibility of opening a thrid site but for the moment Fowley is content to continue developing the two businesses she currently has. “We are alwaystrying to upgrade our offering,” she says.


This pioneering spirit combined with a flair for interiors and a passion for beauty makes Zen a salon everyone should make a pilgrimage to Edinburgh to experience. It is a Scottish success story.

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