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Op-Ed | There's No Point Being a Well-Dressed Corpse

The super rich now consume health and wellness experiences much like Hermès bags, but with a more long-lasting and authentic effect, argues Tricia Ronane.
The new Vivamayr clinic on the shores of Lake Altaussee, Austria | Source: Courtesy
  • Tricia Ronane

LAKE ALTAUSSEE, Austria — It was around 10 years ago that I first heard of the Mayr clinic. The impression I was given was of a wellness centre somewhere in Austria where takers of the 'Mayr Cure' slept in stark rooms on hard beds, ate only stale bread and broth and somehow emerged after a week — if they could hack it — in fine fettle and considerably thinner. Even then it was expensive to enjoy this 'privilege' and something I dismissed as a pointless way to spend my time, let alone my money.

Now, with a burgeoning demand for lifestyle-enhancing experiences among the super rich, the Mayr brand is really coming in to its own. Nowhere is the mantra ‘Health is Wealth’ demonstrated more perfectly than in the Austrian Alps.

Guests at The Mayr Clinic are as varied as their incentives for coming. Many heads of state have visited from all over the world. Models Jourdan Dunn and Kate Moss have both visited this year and Tracey Emin is also a regular.

When I was there, the leader of Austria’s political left wing flew in by helicopter and checked in to the penthouse suite. Cherie Blair and her daughter were the most talked-about guests from the previous week with Dr Sebagh, the French cosmetic doctor famed for his anti-ageing procedures, running a close second.

The Vivamayr Clinic, Lake Altaussee, Austria | Source: Courtesy

Not that the staff at the Mayr would ever tell you — they are far too discreet — however this is a favourite topic of conversation amongst guests who love the reassurance of knowing they are in the right place with the right sort of people. Like rehab in LA, some surely go to get ahead, although that incentive would be misguided as the general ethos is to focus on winding down and resting, not to talk or even read when dining but rather to concentrate on chewing your delicious, organic food.

The original Mayr, on the shores of Lake Wothersee in Southern Austria, was refurbished and upgraded a year ago. Its quality of care and combination of traditional and holistic medicine have consistently maintained an excellent standard, delivering results that have been the foundation of a business that is growing steadily year on year. The company has never paid for advertising, relying solely on word-of-mouth recommendations and positive editorial coverage.

My visit was to the new Vivamayr clinic on the shores of Lake Altaussee just over an hour’s drive from Salzburg airport. The pure mountain air and therapeutic salt spring play a large part in the programme known here as ‘the cure’, which effectively detoxifies and revitalises not only the digestive system but the mind.

The centre has been open for a year and a half and is without doubt one of the world’s leading detox clinic resorts. The building itself is an impressive structure of wood, glass and steel designed to accommodate stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lake from every room. It houses 60 guest rooms, state-of-the-art treatment rooms and equipment used by a team of highly-trained practitioners to brilliant effect.

The Mayr experience, particularly amongst the super-rich women here, fits in to their lives like a new Hermes handbag or Marni dress.

My goal was to de-stress, having suffered PTSD for the past year or so and my bespoke programme was mapped out by Dr. Ingrid Eysin. According to her diagnosis, my PH levels were far too acidic and my prescribed therapies ranged from osteopathy and intravenous infusions to singing bowls and yoga.

I saw the doctor for 15 minutes every day when she administered a gentle intestinal stomach massage and kept a check on my progress making any necessary changes and additions to my meal plan and therapy schedule. This level of personal care and attention is undoubtedly part of the appeal for those in need of some me time.

The clinic’s general manager Dr. Dieter Resch explains that the Mayr is the only place of its kind where everyone is treated individually and has a bespoke programme tailored to them by a medical doctor. Clients are not required to sign up to prefabricated packages as with the Mayr’s main competitors. Here, the philosophy is to help guests to better health in the long term. Their clients return year after year, in some cases several times a year, to refresh and continue their path to greater health and wellbeing.

A patient's prescription at the Vivamayr Clinic | Source: Courtesy

From my conversations with other guests I learn that the Mayr experience, particularly amongst the super-rich women here, fits in to their lives like a new Hermes handbag or Marni dress in that it provides the same buzz of the pick-me-up shopping spree but with a much more lasting and authentic effect. In the current economic climate, it also seems a less ostentatious way to treat one’s self than an afternoon shopping on Fifth Avenue or Knightsbridge. After all, there are only so many handbags and glad rags anyone can realistically house; surely it is better to have eyes that sparkle more brightly than diamonds and skin that wont match the leather of your Louis Vuitton luggage?

The business is currently expanding into day clinics with outposts in London’s Harley Street, in Mumbai, Moscow and Dubai. Each of these clinics will have a Mayr doctor from Austria visiting each month and a team of therapists to give follow-up advice, treatments and dispense supplements. One of these clinics is already open in Vienna with some international clients using it for their follow-up service. The day clinics will also provide a pre-cure preparation service that will include blood and urine analysis and pre-detox eating plan to maximise the benefit of time spent at the Austrian centres.

Further expansion possibilities seem endless, with the next venture being the restaurant business. Starting in London, there are plans for a restaurant serving the alkaline diet that forms the basis of The Mayr cure.

Dr. Resch has already added the services of London-based skincare expert Teresa Tarmey to his team at Vivamayr. Having recently completed a trial week, which saw Teresa booked solidly for her blend of laser treatments and holistic facial massages, she will visit the centre on a regular basis and provide state-of-the-art beauty therapies for guests wishing to extend their experience into aesthetics.

Given that there is a large number of the world’s wealthiest people travelling through these clinics, I cannot help but notice the lack of retail opportunities. The lobby shop is little more impressive than an airport gift store and is crying out for an ethical luxury brand to cater to the guest who hasn't brought a cashmere tracksuit or wants a nice leather tote to carry their supplements around.

Dr. Sepp Fegerl, the young and passionate leader of the Vivamayr medical team, tells me he has heard of an Italian doctor practising a similar type of medicine who is being backed by the Gucci family. Could vitality be the new luxury? After all, there is little point in being the richest corpse in the graveyard, no matter how well dressed you are.

Disclosure: Tricia Ronane was a guest of the Vivamayr Clinic.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.

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