ISPA's 2019 Innovation of the Year Award Winner: Noel Asmar Uniforms
by Ryan O'Gara

When Noel Asmar founded Noel Asmar Uniforms 17 years ago, her focus was on quality. She admits it was by no means an eco-conscious company.
But over the years, her goals have shifted. In addition to quality, Asmar is emphasizing sustainability. And that spawned an idea that she hopes will be her company’s legacy one day.

About 18 months ago, Noel Asmar Uniforms debuted uniforms that are made from recycled products. For her efforts, Asmar received ISPA’s Innovation of the Year award at the 2019 ISPA Conference & Expo on Sept. 13 in Las Vegas.

For a humbled asmar, the honor confirmed everything she has been working for over the past two years.

“It was a bit of an affirmation that I’m going down the right avenue,” she says. “We dipped our toe in the water, then we grew it a little bit more. This for me says, ‘You know what, Noel? Our team is doing the right thing. We have to keep going.’”

Instead of cotton and polyester, the Sustainable Collection features spa uniforms made from recycled water bottles. Instead of the water bottles ending up in landfills, they are crushed, pelleted and spun into fabric to make the uniforms. Instead of uniforms that last a few months, they last three to five years.

And most importantly, instead of using new materials to craft her uniforms, Asmar recycles materials already out there.

She has given employers a sustainability story to tell eco-conscious employees, who will be able to not only look good in their uniform but also feel good, knowing they work for a company that cares about the environment.

“I think maybe the biggest part of this is that hotels and spas have a story to tell now about their uniforms, which aren’t usually the sexy stories,” Asmar says. “Now they can talk about how they are playing a big part. I think that when you’re employing people today when we have staff shortages, people care about values. To know that a hotel is going to dress you in an ecofriendly way is an HR perk.”

It underscores how the world is changing, and the spa community has been quite receptive to the shift.

“I think our community embraces change and embraces innovation. Not all communities are like that,” Asmar says. “The award means a lot to us as a company just to help put us on the map and get people to recognize that there’s a group out there taking this seriously.”

The greatest and most immediate challenge is education. Asmar feels that it is important to be more than just buzzwords that play well on social media. She wants consumers to understand why using uniforms from recycled products is important.

“I feel like it’ll be our legacy one day,” Asmar says. “I want to be the first uniform company in North America that goes strong on really high-quality, sustainable uniforms.”