In the early noughties, when the concept paying money for a shared office was just coming into being, co-working spaces mostly took the form of white-washed and over-lit spaces in rundown downtown office blocks. If you were lucky, there might have been a sad rubber plant. Around each column and in every corner groups of intense twenty-somethings were hard at work launching tech start-ups or fashion brands. Coffee stains were a fun decorative feature.
This changed, of course, in 2010 when WeWork shook up New York City co-working with polished and integrated version of what communal working might look like. Glass walls, a bright color palette and bean bag–equipped hangout spaces began the inevitable rise of the co-working space as a community as well as networking hub.
But despite the space’s popularity, it was still something of a surprise when WeWork opened its first gym, Rise by We, in the Financial District at the end of 2017. Venturing into the saturated market of fitness clubs didn’t exactly seem like a natural step for a company that specialized in creating a relaxed atmosphere for staring sloth-like at your computer for hours on end. Yet to savvy observers it made total sense.
WeWork isn’t ultimately a purveyor of working space. Their “product” is a chill, communal vibe. Couldn’t it therefore be transposed, in a way, onto the various different spaces in which we spend time? It’s the thinking behind their residential living service, WeLive, and it’s a tactic that lifestyle brands everywhere are attempting to emulate. Say you’re an ambitious freelancer. You feel productive in your WeWork space and enjoy its free-flowing beverages and networking opportunities—the ingredients for the perfect place in which to take care of your massive day-to-day workload. A gym offering that same atmosphere comes built-in with the promise of those same returns on your fitness routine. You’ve already bought into the aesthetic and the vision of who you are in that space—stamping it onto another activity is an easy sell.
For healthy, globe-trotting Equinox members, staying at a hotel with the same promise of luxury as their beloved (and expensive) fitness club is a no-brainer. This is why many will choose to stay at the first ever Equinox Hotel when it opens in Hudson Yards in June. No surprise it has a state of the art gym, great class menu and even indoor and outdoor sea water pools. Being an Equinox hotel also means its rooms feature sleep chambers with complete soundproofing and a total-blackout window system. If you’re going to work out hard, your rest is just as important for your well-being. Future hotels in L.A., Houston, Chicago and Seattle are slated to open through 2022.
“We are a company that has always seen the world differently and defined trends rather than following them,” Harvey Spevak, executive chairman at Equinox told Observer. “Everything we’ve done to this point has given us true license to enter hospitality and chart its future with a completely fresh, uniquely ‘Equinox’ experience and point of view.”
In other words, Equinox isn’t just a gym, it’s a way of life. And developing your brand beyond its core into a related lifestyle sector is where other innovative “space-based” brands are heading.
“What sets us apart is how we foster relationships,” said Lauren Taylor, director of programming and partnerships at Spring Place, the co-working company run alongside Spring Studios in Tribeca. “We develop our community and support the companies and projects that are being created within our spaces. Also, we listen to the members, learn from them and adapt to help them and Spring Place itself grow. We define ourselves as an eco-system.”
An eco-system is the best way to describe how branded spaces are changing: it assumes the inevitability of nothing—not even the contents of that space—staying the same.
Christopher Krietchman, founder and CEO of Wellvyl, a co-working and wellness brand that hosts events and aims to open its own brick and mortar location, is taking this logic and running with it.
Krietchman is currently building a community around pop-ups and one-offs as a way to road test how members want to connect. So when he does open his first space at the end of 2019 in Manhattan, it will offer a curated host of activities based on research.
“This is why we run experimental/fusion events like Speed Dating Boxing Workouts and Speed Friending Workouts,” he told Observer. “Others are still treating co-working spaces as office spaces—a cubical environment. They are missing an opportunity to make profound connection and engagement with others via a healthy lifestyle. This is what we are doing with Wellvyl.”
Krietchman might be the first to openly build a brand around any shifting collection of activities that makeup a “lifestyle,” but it doesn’t seem strange to members. They’re too busy transitioning from a workout class to Wellvyl’s ensuing social event to notice they’re seamlessly being sold every way to spend their time by one single company.