By Mike Shen
I love baths. LOVE them. I take one almost every day for at least thirty minutes before I shower. Baths help me relax and steady my mind before I tackle another unpredictable New York City day. Then as a gift from the heavens, my publisher hands me a press kit on Köl by Köl Design, a non-gender specific bath line created by husband and wife team, Sally and Andrew Brunger. Extensive travelers, the Brungers conceptualized a unique line of bath products that bring people a bathing experience based on alluring locations around the world. Their products have already been featured on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and in the official gift bags for guests of the 76th Annual Academy Awards.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical in the beginning. Could I really close my eyes and transport myself to a region through space and time by solely sitting in my bathtub and inhaling exotic aromas? At the time, all I had were scented candles that my wife purchased with strange names like Napa Valley Harvest and Summer Snow in the Himalayas. Goat’s Milk on a Gooseberry Farm wasn’t too appealing. Of course, we had some generics like Vanilla, Lavender, and Peach. So believe me, I needed something new – something visceral, organic, and not so feminine. And if Köl bath products are good enough for the Fab Five, then who was I to not keep an open mind and try something new?
Well Köl by KölDesign made me a believer. There are four fragranced bath lines: “Curacao”, “Picnic”, “Bethlehem”, and “El Maroc”. Unlike most scented bath products, Sally and Andrew developed the fragrances themselves instead of using teams of chemists in stoic laboratories. You can experience each scent with foaming baths, sea salts, or bath soaps. “El Maroc” was my favorite, with “Bethlehem” following as a close second. The citrus, clove, and leather aromatic notes in the “El Maroc” foaming bath brought back very old memories of when I was wandering the streets of Japan, walking into antique shops, strolling through spice markets, and literally tasting culture through new and exotic scents foreign to my American-conditioned nose. On a tactile level, the bubbles from the foaming bath actually stayed, unlike bubbles from so many other bath products that disappear in a few minutes. It might sound cheesy, but I’m a sucker for a killer bubble bath.
Now given that I actually did tour the Mediterranean in 1996, the tantalizing scents of rosemary, fig, and myrrh in the “Bethlehem” sea salts literally transported me back to the stony streets of Israel and the dirt roads to the Sea of Galilee. I may have been completely off with “El Maroc”, given that Japan is nowhere near Morocco, but the product served its purpose – to enchant the senses, invoke memories, and ease the mind. There isn’t any strict amount of sea salts or foaming bath solution that you should put in the bath. Be adventurous and vary the amount you use on a soak-by-soak basis depending on your mood.
I cannot do this product line justice without praising its Mix-Your-Own Facials and Scrubs. Köl is the only cosmetic company to offer “mix-your-own” dry facials and scrubs. All the facials and scrubs are 100% natural, possessing the natural scents of the region from which the ingredients originate. By adding warm water to the natural clay or herb bases, you can create facials and scrubs to the consistency that’s perfect for your skin type. The “Kolayan” facial mask is named after a region in India where the clay is found in prehistoric beds and is used by both men and women for deep facial cleansing. At the very basic level, facials masks like “Kolayan” help to absorb oil and remove dirt that can clog pores and cause acne. Given that this may be the first time many of you use facial masks, I suggest pouring a small amount (about a teaspoon) into a small cup of warm water. Mix the concoction into a light paste, and then spread the product evenly across your face – avoid your eyes and lips. While you’re soaking in the tub, leave the mask on your face for about 15-20 minutes. With practice, you’ll find the right amount of product to mix with water that’s right for you. I personally didn’t find the mask too drying. It cleansed well, leaving me with a smooth, refreshing complexion. Those of you with more sensitive or dry skin should use the “Noordhoek” facial mask instead.
The “Coltibueno” facial scrub seems to be a huge hit for KölDesign’s male clientele as well. The scrub is made with fennel, marjoram, and sage, which are herbs that are common to the Tuscan region in Italy. A little product goes a long way, so make sure you only mix a small amount in the palm of your hand with a few sprinkles of water. Rub the product gently in a circular motion around your entire face and upper neck. Unlike the mask, you can rinse immediately after application. I recommend using the scrub 1-2 times a week before shaving to exfoliate dead or dying skin cells for a nice healthy appearance. I can’t emphasize enough how much women pay attention to the skin quality of men. Using the facial mask and scrub on a regular basis will help you maintain a healthy, glowing, more youthful appearance. Now who among you wouldn’t want that?
After having successfully launched their hotel amenities line and Köl Travel Essentials Kits in May of 2004, the couple is designing travel bags, dop kits, and carry-ons that are perfect for you jetsetters who want a sublime bathing experience no matter where you go. Look for these products to debut in Spring 2005.
Köl clients seem to cross all lines of age, sex, and culture. Don’t sell yourself short and get scared off by the exotic names of some of the products or the “mix-your-own” concept. KölDesign has managed to create one of the rare bath product lines that is both attractive (ie., sleek, simple, and gender-neutral) and top-notch in quality and scents. If you must, start slow with on their fragranced bath soaps, which also work great as a massage base (ask my wife). Check out their website for a full list of products, a few of which I did not have the fortune of testing. Celebrity fans include Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Tobey Maguire, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Adrien broday, Jack Black, and more. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with at least a few of these products. And you’ll definitely score some points when your lady friend checks out your bathroom. Bubble bath, anyone?
Köl by KölDesign
New York Vendors:
BoConcept – 104 Madison Avenue
New London Pharmacy – 246 Eighth Avenue
Henri Bendel – 712 Fifth Avenue