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Irene Forte Skincare is the Italian skincare brand at the forefront of the ‘Natural Science’ movement.

How did it all begin?

I had been working at Rocco Forte Hotels for almost a decade, overseeing their spa and wellness offering (amongst a few other things). During that time and through my experience working with the spas, I saw the opportunity for natural and experiential formulations to be improved by scientific insight. I also wanted to create a business with sustainability at its core.

I had the perfect base from which to start a natural line with our organic farm in Sicily, but I knew that I needed a brilliant scientific mind to help me formulate. After a lot of research in Italy, I came across my formulator in early 2014: Dottoressa Francesca Ferri, who had started formulating clean cosmetics and food supplements over 35 years ago. Her philosophy lined up with mine, and I thought that she was the perfect fit to help me bring a ‘natural skincare line made better by the guidance of science’ to life.

After a number of years of development, as well as then trying and testing them with elite spa professionals in the Rocco Forte Spas, we launched Irene Forte Skincare.

What sets your business apart?

We created products at the forefront of the ‘Natural Science’ movement; natural, plant-based (and certified vegan) formulations that are guided by science and clinically proven. They have outstanding fragrance and feel but with low allergenic potential. Most natural brands fragrance their products with essential oils. Our rejection of essential oils and our distinctive use of lab-formulated allergen-screened fragrances enable us to deliver the sensory trigger of fragrance without the normal associated levels of skin irritation. Indeed, because of these special fragrances, we are the only fragranced brand that is clinically approved for sensitive skin. As a B Corp certified brand, we also built a business with sustainability at its core, and were one of the first skincare brands to do sustainable luxury.

What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?

I saw the opportunity for natural and experiential formulations to be improved by scientific insight. I wanted to create a natural brand that was both efficacious and kind on the skin. I also wanted to create a luxury skincare brand with sustainability at its core.

Where to next/What is your brand vision?

I’m trying to build a dominant market brand that is recognised as the ‘Natural Science’ brand, and differentiated as a sustainable, allergen-screened and youth-enhancing product range. I also want to be recognised as the best Italian skincare brand.

Irene Forte

Founder of

Irene Forte Skincare

What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?

I’m passionate about sharing a sustainable health mantra; this has led me to create my eponymous line. I’m also passionate about Sicily; the people, the culture, the food and the breath-taking nature of the island. I wanted to do something that would help the Sicilian community. Last but not least, I love the people I work with; this is often the most rewarding part!

Share an example of early life that has shaped you?

I’m an Italian, who was born and grew up in the UK. Spending all of our long summer holidays in Italy as a child allowed me to truly develop a love for all things Mediterranean, and to create something that brought me back to my roots.

Highlights of your business journey so far?

Launching! Securing some amazing retailers globally, including the likes of Liberty, Bergdorf Goodman, Le Bon Marche’, Bluemercury, Nordstrom, Ludwig Beck and more. Winning some prestigious awards, such as New Beauty, Elle Green Beauty Star, Marie Claire, Attracta Beauty and Get the Gloss. Most recently, securing growth investment from L Catterton, the world’s largest consumer-focused fund.

Key lessons you have learned along the way?

There are challenges every day, especially with a start-up. I have learnt to persevere, be resilient and never give up. I have also learnt to have a team that I can trust and that complements my own skill set.

Best piece of advice you have received?

My father has always told me that the business world is tough and without working hard and giving it your all, you will never succeed.

Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?

Try and connect and meet with as many experienced people in the industry you are involved in; get as much advice from these individuals as possible. Surround yourself with the right support network. Have a team that you can rely on, trust, and that complements your own skill set. Learn to take criticism and adapt things following feedback. Things will always go wrong and you just need to be strong enough to keep persevering.

What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?

I invested a little bit of my own money to start with. I then took on an angel investor who is still involved today. Most recently, I closed a Series A round of funding with L Catterton in order to fuel the next stage of growth and global expansion.

Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?

I think my first biggest challenge was when I needed money at the beginning. Rocco Forte Hotels was interested in coming in and if I had agreed to their initial terms, I would have lost the majority from the get go. In hindsight, if I had agreed to these terms it would have made it impossible for me to raise again, and the business would not have survived. While it was very tough to negotiate (especially with family involved), I didn’t undervalue the business and stood strong, and Rocco Forte Hotels has been a great minority shareholder since. Today, it means I still have control, and that I was able to bring in two other strategic investors along the way.

Why is it important to support women-led business?

It’s important for many reasons. All women have the capability to become empowered leaders.

60

Seconds

with

Irene Forte

My inspiration is...

Everything.

My greatest fear is...

Something bad happening to someone I love.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...

Camping in -20C for 10 days. I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat.

Guilty pleasure?

Sugary energy bars.

Mantra you live by?

Be kind to everyone.

Female role model?

Olga Polizzi.

Women-led brand you love?

Too many to list.

Top productivity tool?

Regular exercise, eating well, at least 8 hours sleep!

Irene Forte Skincare has created a SPECIAL OFFER exclusively for Women's Chapter Members

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Connect with

Irene Forte Skincare

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