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Hotel heiress Irene Forte channels her Italian heritage in new beauty line

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It’s fair to say Irene Forte – daughter of hotel mogul Sir Rocco Forte, niece of famed designer Olga Polizzi and cousin to The Hotel Inspector TV presenter Alex Polizzi – has entrepreneurial pursuits in her blood.

The 31-year-old Oxford BA French and Italian graduate, who is Wellness Director at her family’s $440 million empire and oversees the spa programs across all 14 of the luxury Rocco Forte Hotel properties, has now added another string to her beauty bow by creating her own skincare line.

I met with Irene in New York City for the launch of the collection at Shen boutique, but the Irene Forte Beauty story starts on the sun-drenched fields of her family’s farm in Sicily.

Irene Forte, 31, who is Wellness Director at her family’s $440 million hotel empire, has added another string to her beauty bow by creating a skincare line inspired by her Sicilian roots

‘As an Italian who grew up in the UK, I’ve always wanted to create something that connected me back to my roots. I also fell in love with Sicily, and wanted to do something that tied me back to this magical island,’ explains Irene.  

‘I first stepped foot in Sicily in 2003 to visit the site that would soon become Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort. Six years later, the resort opened its doors and I spent almost a year working there. I was living in the resort, and didn’t have a car, so I spent evenings testing lots of different things in the spa and from that point I got into beauty. 

‘I also fell in love with the people, the culture, the food and the breath-taking nature of the island.’ 

Irene describes the skincare line as ‘the Mediterranean diet for your skin’ and drew inspiration from that lush Sicilian landscape where she could source the purest natural and organic ingredients for her products. 

Irene poses with Brooklyn boutique Shen founder Jessica Richards  

‘The Mediterranean diet has been long considered the healthiest diet to follow—and I strongly believe that it is also the healthiest diet for your skin. We have some amazing ingredients in Sicily that I knew could do wonders on the skin, such as Prickly Pear (considered a plant-origin Hyaluronic Acid and the latest super food, which is rich in Vitamins K, E and C); Hibiscus (known as the ‘botox plant’ and loaded with Alpha Hydroxy Acids); Pomegranate (rich in Vitamin C, flavonoids and anthocyanins, which are strong antioxidants for the skin); Olive Oil (rich in polyphenols and Vitamin E),’ she explains. 

Irene knew that she wanted a natural brand, but one that was backed by science: ‘I wanted the line to be 100% made in Italy, and so I just needed to find the right lab to formulate the products/ tell me it was possible. I met with a number of labs and when I finally found Dr Dottoressa Ferri, I knew she was the perfect fit.’

‘She was delighted to use our farm’s ingredients and Ferri’s philosophy is the development of formulas with an organic cosmetic matrix that are skin-friendly, with no pollutants. She also has over 35 years of experience in making skincare, a team of biologists and dermatologists and a research center.’ 

The science behind the magic: After 3 years in development, Irene has worked closely with renowned Dr Francesca Ferri to create the line that distills the sun-soaked richness of everything the Italian island has to offer

What started as a 9 piece collection expanded into 32, and counting, with Irene simultaneously working on the branding, including name, logos, and packaging. It had to be from the Italian island, and sustainable of course: ‘I wanted sustainable packaging. I finally found recycled fibers in colors inspired by Sicily for the boxes and found the right bottles and jars for each product, sourcing different pieces from various different suppliers; the bottles and jars had to be glass. All the inks used also had to be vegetable/ soya based inks.’

Whilst sustainability is a priority, Irene also wanted the designs to stay true to the region that inspired it all: ‘Aesthetically I wanted something that had a touch of Sicily, whilst still be young, luxurious and cool.’

Lush Sicily: Whilst making sustainability a priority, Irene also wanted the designs to stay true to the region that inspired it all, the Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort (pictured)

The line is available in all Forte spas and since last July at Net-A-Porter.com too, but as of February 2020 Irene Forte Beauty products can now be found in a handful of select boutiques around the world from Niche Beauty in Germany, to Shen Beauty in New York, to The Beautyaholic’s in Rome, and also in London’s Liberty from March. 

Moving the products to carefully chosen bricks and mortar stores will allow customers to experience the tactile packaging, the smells of the products, and their textures for themselves, says Irene: ‘I think starting out, and when your brand is not known that well yet, it’s really important to have these more ‘niche’ retailers that have a loyal client base that trusts the shop team’s recommendations.

‘Jessica Richards (of Shen) is renowned for selecting the highest quality, niche brands to line her shelves, and she has a very loyal customer base. I love her selection of brands, I think they fit well with mine, and her store is like a playground for beauty lovers. Also, her team is great, incredibly knowledgeable, and they know how to sell.’

And she hasn’t just been successful with her business, Irene, whose own ex is Cressida Bonas’ half-brother Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, recently got engaged to tech whizz Felix Winckler, 40, who previously courted Princess Caroline of Monaco’s daughter Charlotte Casiraghi. 

Her bridal beauty regime? You can bet she’s going to be using her own line: ‘The night before the the big day, I will definitely do the Pistachio Face Mask (after the Almond Cleansing Milk, Lemon Toner, Apricot Face Peel, Hibiscus Serum and Hyaluronic Acid Vial). I will leave the Pistachio Face Mask overnight.’ It’s amore! 

It’s amore!  Irene recently got engaged to tech whizz Felix Winckler, 40

Pretty packaging: What started as a 9 piece collection expanded into 32, with Irene simultaneously working on the branding and sustainable packaging. Pictured: Lemon Toner ($77) and Hibiscus Night Cream ($181).

Sicilian style: Whilst making sustainability a priority, Irene also wanted the designs to stay true to the region that inspired it all. Pictured: Prickly Pear Body Cream ($129) and Hyaluronic Acid Vials ($233)

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