JJ Walsh, Founder and Creative Director of Fig Face

JJ Walsh, Founder and Creative Director of Fig Face

Walking into Fig skincare salon in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood will immediately strike a sense of calm. Sure, the space is compact, but it’s not cozy—it’s luxurious. Swathed in soft, rich green, it features cascading curtains, leafy plants, a vitruvi Sage diffuser (hello!), a circular bar, and a sleek wall of clean skincare products. Even the mugs brought out to serve Goop Glow in are a matching shade of fig-inspired green. Then there’s the washroom, which is completely pink to mimic the inside of the sweet tree fruit; on the door’s mirror are the words “Give a fig about your skin.” Indeed, coming here is an experience as much as it is a service.

Fig offers B12 shots (no, they don’t hurt), 30-minute facials (the LED + Oxygen option is a must-try), and cosmetic injections (called Stingers). Newly opened to the Vancouver community, it is already bustling with skincare-lovers looking for a weekly vitamin boost or monthly facial (and conveniently, Fig offers memberships to make regular treatments a seamless process). It’s all part of what founder and creative director Jessica (better known as JJ) Walsh sees as the convergence of beauty and transaction—providing the best products and treatments, but in an inviting environment with sincere intention.

It all began when she stumbled upon a naturopath’s office in Vancouver (“I had never heard of a naturopath in my life!”) and began seeing the doctor there. Her body was recovering from birthing three children in just four years; noticing her depletion, the doctor started giving her vitamin injections. “I felt so good,” Walsh says over tea at Their There cafe down the street from Fig. “And I thought, ‘Why isn’t this so much more accessible to women and men who’ve got fast-paced lives? Surely efficiency and efficacy is the way forward.” The London native also started thinking about skincare and how clean ingredients are becoming more and more important to consumers—something that she says isn’t as much of a concern in Europe because the rules there are more strict. “In North America, especially the States, I was quite shocked by what was in skincare, and I thought, ‘No one’s really done anything in the service industry yet,’” Walsh recalls. “So I thought, ‘Ok, it needs a bit of a shakeup.’”

Despite this proficiency in wellness, Walsh actually got her start in fashion, working for the late, legendary British editor Isabella Blow (famous for stints at TatlerBritish Vogue, and The Sunday Times, and for being friends with the likes of the late designer Alexander McQueen). “I remember thinking, ‘I need to work for this woman,’” Walsh recalls of Blow. “She would come in decked out in couture, she never let us wear flat shoes, she was always in a very decadent hat, she had a filthy mouth. And I travelled the world with her for four years—outrageous things we did, but it totally opened my eyes to a different way of being, and the creative side, and how everything should be an experience.” After that, Walsh became a fashion editor at Tatler, and also wrote for Biritsh Vogue and Conde Nast Traveler; then, growing tired of the lack of creative freedom at advertiser-dictated magazines, she left journalism and launched her own experiential design firm, counting Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Harrods among her clients.

And then, just as she was growing tired of the fashion rat race, her husband got a job opportunity in Vancouver. So the family left the sprawling metropolis of London behind. “I remember arriving and going, ‘Oh my god, everyone’s just run a marathon!’ And [my husband] was like, ‘No, no it’s Lululemon, everyone just wears workout kit,’” remembers Walsh. “I loved the fact that Vancouver, from an outsider point of view, is seen as the wellness capital of the world. I thought, ‘There’s so much opportunity here.’”

All that experience led to Fig, the product of a perfectly refined vision for the modern wellness seeker. For one thing, Walsh doesn’t allow tipping, preferring to pay her staff a higher wage instead. “As a Brit, I get very anxious about tipping. I never know how much to tip, especially when I’m getting a service,” she says. “Lots of aestheticians are paid a very low wage and are expected to make it up in tips, and I just thought, ‘That’s not a very good company culture.’” She also got rid of the typical salon’s reception desk, instead having the Fig Bar: a beautiful circular table in the middle of the room that encourages conversation and movement. Even her approach to Stingers is thoughtful. “[Big medical companies] incentivize doctors—they get a cut every time they go into someone’s face,” says Walsh. “I thought, ‘That’s totally wrong.’ From a guest point of view, a customer point of view, I thought, ‘That’s just ridiculous, I don’t want to walk in somewhere and they can see money written all over my face. I want what’s best for my face.’ So we’re trying to change it by just paying our doctors a very fair wage, a very good wage; there’s no incentive to over-inject.”

Aside from all the treatment offerings, Fig sells a modest selection of clean skincare products, from Sangre de Fruta, to Beautycounter, to Goop, to vitruvi’s Gua Sha Tools—and Walsh makes sure to have a personal relationship with each company in her roster. “Life’s exciting, it’s full,” she beams. Still, it’s hard not to wonder if she misses the fast-paced, glamorous world of fashion. “When I went on maternity the first time, it wasn’t very long, but I did get FOMO. But it was so nice moving across the world here; I think if I stayed in London, 100% I’d be a different person. It was so nice coming here and getting a balance of life, I do credit Vancouver for that. But I’m still obsessed by fashion, I love watching everything, I love talking about it,” she says. “I really enjoy watching trends—I enjoy seeing what’s coming up. My heart quickens when I see exciting things and beautiful things.”

If that’s true, her heart must skip a beat every time she walks through her own door.