For Irene Forte, the family business was the perfect segue into her own eponymous endeavour. Armed with the backing she'd inherited as the hotelier family's Wellness Director, as well as the experience from the subsequent interim line she developed for all Rocco Forte Spa locations, she took that knowledge and her unique positioning to develop Irene Forte Skincare.
London-based with Sicilian roots became not only a description of its founder but also centrefold to the identity of the enterprise. Harvesting organic ingredients grown at the family's Verdura Resort and collaborating with the formidable Doctor Ferri, a veteran of cosmetic scientists, the label became the embodiment of nature meets science. Potent and power-packed products were developed with active natural ingredients to create effective and proven results.
Here, the London-based founder discusses her own beauty philosophy, her favourite indulgence for self-care days and her hidden talent.
What were the most influential elements in formulating your products and the brand itself?
1) Sicily and our organic farm 2) My spa experience with the support of the Rocco Forte Spa teams 3) Doctor Francesca Ferri 4) Sustainability.
I loved the idea of creating the Mediterranean diet for skin with the ingredients we grew at Verdura, that were tried and tested by spa professionals, and offered professional levels of potency for home use. [Doctor Francesca Ferri] has over 35 years of experience and I wanted to create natural skincare backed by science, as well as build sustainability into the DNA of Irene Forte Skincare from the start.
What do you most want the Irene Forte Skincare customer to imbibe through your products?
I want to offer natural skincare that is made better by science; Irene Forte Skincare distils the benefits of the Mediterranean diet into effective but gentle skincare that nourishes the skin from the outside in. This is exactly what I want the customer to imbibe through my products.
The moment/time that impacted your skincare approach the most?
I went to work at Verdura Resort in Sicily over 10 years ago and during that time I was living in the resort and didn’t have a car, so I would spend the evenings playing with products in the resort’s spa. This is when I really started to gain an interest in beauty, and started to learn about natural ingredients and products.
Your can’t-miss skincare practice?
Serum is an unmissable step. Essentially, face serums are super concentrated; they're lightweight moisturisers with small molecules that penetrate deep into the skin, delivering key active ingredients. They’re vital to any skincare routine and I cannot live without our magical Hibiscus Serum.
The skincare cure-all?
Hibiscus Seed Peptides, which are in my Hibiscus Serum, Prickly Pear Face Cream and Hibiscus Night Cream. These botanical peptides combat wrinkles in a similar way to botulinic toxin by inhibiting the mechanical factors responsible for the appearance of expression lines on the face.
"I loved the idea of creating the Mediterranean diet for skin with the ingredients we grew at Verdura"
What does your AM skincare routine look like?
Unsurprisingly, I use Irene Forte Skincare. I start my morning with a bit of water and the Almond Cleansing Milk. I then splash the Helichrysum Hyaluronic Toner on and pat my skin to boost circulation, balance the PH of my skin, and remove the calc from London water. Following this, I use the Hibiscus Serum. The Almond Eye Cream comes next and then I usually finish the routine with the Prickly Pear Face Cream.
Your PM routine?
In the evening, I use the same cleanser and toner. I then use the Hibiscus Serum, followed by the Almond Eye Cream. I also use the Hibiscus Night Cream or the Rose or Orange Blossom Face Oil with some self-massage techniques. I add a layer of the Hyaluronic Acid Vial before if my skin is feeling dry or, I put on the Pistachio Face Cream overnight instead of the Hibiscus Night Cream.
Any generational skincare tips you’ve picked up from women in your family?
Not specific skincare tips, but certainly a healthy way of life. Sleep is very important for us, and we never jeopardise sleep for work or other things. We also follow a Mediterranean diet. It's not about faddy trends and unsustainable eating habits (just like my skincare).
Any Italian-specific skincare approaches you utilise?
It’s all about eating the Mediterranean diet and following the Mediterranean diet for skin.
Favourite product for your face?
I love a good night cream; my Hibiscus Night Cream is an indulgent treat.
Your go-to beauty look?
I like the non-makeup look. I dab some Westman Atelier concealer over necessary areas on the face mixed with a bit of my Rose Face Oil. I use the RMS 'un' cover-up under my eyes, and then use the By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder. I then use an eyebrow pencil to add some definition to my eyebrows and finish it off with some of my Pistachio Lip Balm on my lips.
The most exciting thing about the changing beauty landscape?
It’s exciting to see so many players in the beauty industry starting to come up with more sustainable alternatives to their existing packaging, and the growing focus on considered ingredients – natural, organic, upcycled and vegan.
Favourite indulgence for self-care days?
I love at-home treatments and use the Skinned app to book a monthly facial with London-based facialist Desi Valentine; I’ve been seeing Desi for about six years now! I also liked to have a massage at least once a month with Lucja Maslowska; she’s amazing and is extremely experienced in different types of massage, nutrition and meditation.
Most valuable advice you received as an entrepreneur?
My father has always told me that the business world is tough and that you will never succeed without working hard and giving it your all.
Highest and lowest points as an entrepreneur?
Highest points are simply every success, such as signing new retailers, getting great feedback from customers and adapting and developing something new. There are challenges every day, especially with a start-up, so the hardest thing is to stay resilient and find effective solutions to problems without letting them get you down.
Your hidden talent?
I don’t really have one… I can still do backwards walk-overs (I did lots of gymnastics as a kid).
Your backup career?
Unsurprisingly, a hotelier!
What people would be most surprised to learn about you?
I was an avid Chelsea Football fan, and I wanted to be a premier league football manager until I was about 18.