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Meet The Leaders: Irene Forte, founder of Irene Forte Skincare

Irene Forte Skincare believes beauty is more than skin deep, and that a company’s existence is part of a much wider system of people, nature and other organisations. The Butterfly Mark-certified business is committed to ensuring that their processes and products are truly sustainable – and ethical – at every stage of their lifecycle.

We caught up with founder Irene Forte to find out more about what makes a successful leader, her leadership style and what advice she has for aspiring leaders in sustainable luxury.

What makes a great – or successful – leader?

I think many characteristics make a great or successful leader. I have pin-pointed three below that I believe are extremely important:

  1. Empathy. Years back, I helped develop a training program with the School of Life to help our Rocco Forte Hotel team with emotional intelligence. What I learned in creating this program with the School of Life team was the importance of empathy; empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it‘s putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling. I believe that this is vital to be able to lead successfully.
  2. Passion. Many have told me that to be a successful leader you need to be passionate about what you do. Hence, I always knew that I was going to get involved with something that I was passionate about and loved. When days are tough at work, it doesn’t matter if you love what you do. And you can still happily lead your team!
  3. Resilience. My father taught me that the business world is tough and that you need to be resilient. I saw him go through the financial crisis in 2008 (where hotel sales dropped by 40% overnight) and now Covid (where he has had a year and a bit of almost zero revenue). He is incredibly resilient and doesn’t crumble when something goes wrong, but instead quickly adapts and takes considered decisions to make the best out of a bad situation. This is incredibly important to be a successful leader.

What are your personal strengths as a  leader?  

I think my strengths are probably the three points I have mentioned above! And probably the most important is empathy: I really believe in being empathetic and treating people as you would like to be treated. I think this is something that I do with my team – and this helps ensure that we have a great environment at work. People come first, they’re the most important part of any business.

What is  the  toughest lesson you learned?  

With a start-up, there are challenges every day, and you make mistakes all the time! One of the biggest mistakes I made was when I first launched the brand. The production of our lids was so behind schedule and we were in such a rush to launch, that I didn’t ‘quality check’ them before the product was filled – they went straight to my lab. We went out with products to all of our spas, and also sold a number of pieces online, and quickly realised that our supplier had forgotten to topcoat the lids. Paint from the lids was coming off on everyone’s fingertips and skin the minute the lid had any product on it or was damp. So, I had to recall all the products – and had to manually change over 5000 lids at our fulfillment house in Glasgow (in Scotland) two days before Christmas. 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 adapt.

And  the  most rewarding?  

I don’t think I have a most rewarding lesson; all lessons are rewarding in some way, as you learn from them. They often result in pivots!

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring  leader?   

Try and connect and meet with as many experienced people in the industry you are involved in, and get as much advice from these individuals as possible. Surround yourself with the right support network.

Why should people be positive about  the  future?  

The call for sustainability is now louder than ever. It’s great to see younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) leading the charge. We’re seeing a global trend towards responsible investing. We’re seeing an eruption of new sustainable solutions. And the US has re-joined the Paris climate agreement!

Find out more about Irene Forte Skincare’s impact and sustainability commitment here


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