Meet the Maker

Meet Irene Forte, founder of Irene Forte skincare, Italy

A woman of many talents, Irene Forte is an established and accomplished beauty entrepreneur and wellness director of the Rocco Forte hotels, known for her dedication to innovation. She combines this forward-thinking approach with her contrastingly relaxed roots – her Italian heritage and love of slow-paced Sicily – to create handcrafted, natural skincare that’s based on the principles of a Mediterranean diet. We sit down with Irene to discuss her beauty philosophy and best confinement advice.

Can you tell us about Irene Forte Skincare?
The Irene Forte Skincare approach is synonymous with the very best that Sicily has to offer, distilling the benefits of the Mediterranean diet into sustainable, natural skincare that nourishes the skin from the outside in. I worked with Doctor Francesca Ferri, who has been doing skincare for over 35 years, to create biocompatible and exceptionally skin-friendly formulas. We used over 75 of the finest Mediterranean and biomimetic ingredients; many of the ingredients are handpicked from our Organic Farm in Sicily. The line is sustainable, vegan-friendly and uses naturally derived alternatives to petrochemicals, synthetic colours, harsh surfactants and preservatives. The products are lightly fragranced with beautiful scents, specially formulated and screened to avoid the most common fragrance allergens.

Where do you find your inspiration for your products?
I have many sources of inspiration for my products. I spent a year working at Verdura Resort in Sicily in 2009. I quickly realised that Sicily’s rich organic ingredients and the produce at our organic farm made for the perfect base for a skincare line. Therefore, I was initially inspired by (and continue to be inspired by) Sicily’s authenticity, beautiful nature and rich ingredients, as well as being passionate about Sicilian handicrafts…

My Italian roots are also a source of my inspiration, hence why the line is 100% made in Italy. I grew up on the Mediterranean diet, widely considered the cleanest, healthiest and most balanced in the world. Far from faddy trends, the diet is enjoyed by those who want to benefit from increased longevity and the wonders of a diet rich in healthy oils, and unprocessed goodness. Inspired by the fact that the Mediterranean diet promotes good health from the inside out, I found the nutrient-dense ingredients to be deeply beneficial when applied topically; supplying the skin with a wealth of vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants to help enrich, rejuvenate and protect.

I would also say that Dottoressa Ferri is a constant source of inspiration. Over a 35-year period, Doctor Ferri and her team at EffegiLab in Trento have researched the benefits of a number of natural, organic ingredients, primarily from the region for the benefits of skincare. I’ve been working with Ferri since 2014; she continues to research amazing new ingredients and techniques, and teaches me something new almost every day.

Last but not least, my amazing spa teams at Rocco Forte Hotels are always teaching me and inspiring me. Irene Forte Skincare was really launched thanks to over three years of testing by my spa teams. They constantly share new ideas and give me feedback. That’s why I like to call the products Spa Grade.

Describe your philosophy when it comes to beauty?
I don’t believe in faddy quick fixes or ripping off a layer of the skin with extra harsh ingredients. I like using beauty products that promote long-term skin health- nutrient-rich, nourishing and hydrating. I also believe in actives that are naturally present in the skin or biomimetic ingredients, making them biocompatible and exceptionally skin-friendly. I also believe that what products are ‘without’ is as important as what they are ‘with’. For example, I look for beauty products that are allergy-screened (e.g. no essential oils) and that are without petrochemicals, synthetic colours, harsh surfactants, preservatives and abrasive fragrances.

How would you describe your home in one word?
Eclectic.

What makes a home in one word?
Comfort.

How would you describe your taste in one word?
Simple.

Define bad taste in interiors?
A lack of sense of place- a room/ house/ hotel where you cannot feel the spirit of the country, city or location you’re in…

Design that is so modern that it becomes uncomfortable- e.g, super dark rooms where you cannot figure out how to open the curtains or the cupboards.  Opulence for the sake of opulence.

Your favourite object in your home?
Our Jane & Gordon Martz lamp.

Your favourite hotel in the world?
Hotel de la Ville in Rome is probably my favourite hotel of ours. It opened in May 2019 and was the first hotel I was able to develop an Irene Forte Skincare-inspired spa. With notes to Sicily, the 550-square-metre spa promotes spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. The spa weaves-in the island’s culture with a colourful, singular design, natural materials, live plant walls, and the delicious floral scent of orange blossom. I’m also crazy about the food in the hotel, with menus created by our Creative Director of Food, Fulvio Pierangelini. The hotel has two restaurants – Da Sistina, a chic Roman trattoria, version 2.0, and Mosaico, a more broadly Mediterranean restaurant which centres around a large, red wood fired oven. Mosaico truly represents Fulvio’s latest evolution in cooking. I really think it’s the best food in Rome.

Or, for something very boutiquey: Rajakkad Estate in the State of Tamil Nadu in India. This little gem is 1000 metres above sea level. It is an 18th century wooden structure with seven bedrooms, surrounded by lush forests. You drive for over three hours to get there, up windy roads, until you get to this little village. It truly is in the middle of nowhere. All meals are created using ingredients handpicked from the gardens and you can choose where to enjoy them (there are different seating areas amongst the forest trees). You can spend your days doing yoga, reading and exploring the breath-taking surrounding nature.

Your favourite restaurant in the world?
Da Adolfo in Positano is pretty special. It’s a Positano institution, where their ‘red fish’ boat ferries guests along the coast to the restaurant’s rocky beach. Their Italian food is unfussy, genuine, and quite simply delicious.

Favourite address for decoration in London/ in the world?
I love 1st Dibs online, then I tend to go to a mixture of places in London for decoration: Conrad Shop, Designers Guild, Paul Smith, Andrew Martin, Julian Chichester…

A piece of advice for people in confinement?
We always talk about not having enough time to do things. The confinement is a great opportunity to read the books that you’ve always wanted to read, watch the films and documentaries that you’ve never had time to watch, learn the thing that you’ve always wanted to learn… etc. I also think that self-care is extremely important for our mental and physical wellbeing during these unprecedented times. By self-care, I mean taking an active role in protecting your own wellbeing, through things like good sleep, eating well, regular exercise/ movement, looking after your skin, and doing things your love (e.g. cooking, reading, at-home facials…)

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