New Brand Sole Toscana Brings The Splendor Of The Italian Countryside To Organic Skincare
If you can’t visit Italy, Sole Toscana hopes to transport you there through skincare.
The new direct-to-consumer brand from Nu Sebastiani bottles ingredients cultivated in the Italian countryside for American consumers seeking well-crafted merchandise with artisanal origins. It’s launching with four products certified organic by NATRUE that run from $50 to $100: Rosehip & Calendula Triple Cream, Neroli Radiance Serum, Rosewater Wellspring Cleanser and Espresso Bright Eyes.
“I really want to bring the beauty of Italy to the U.S. There’s something so romantic and wonderful about it, and it’s not something a lot of people in the U.S. get to experience,” says Sebastiani, noting, “There’s not a lot of Italian beauty in the U.S., and the very little there is isn’t certified organic.”
Sebastiani’s road to Sole Toscana traveled through Hong Kong, where the current Austin, Tex., resident was located from 2009 to 2017. While in Hong Kong, Sebastiani, who has two daughters, was forced to cope with its serious pollution problem. The pollution heightened her attention to toxins in everything from food to beauty products. Sebastiani relished opportunities to escape to Italy, where her husband has family and the comparably healthy environment provided a refuge from Hong Kong’s poor air quality.
“I really want to bring the beauty of Italy to the U.S. There’s something so romantic and wonderful about it, and it’s not something a lot of people in the U.S. get to experience.”
“Also, because of having kids, I was much more aware of what I was putting in and on my body. I started really examining the skincare I was using. I realized a lot of it was fancy labels and marketing. The ingredients weren’t necessarily natural and, even if a product said it was organic, it wasn’t certified organic,” says Sebastiani. Initially, she dabbled in DIY skincare to verify she was slathering her skin with clean ingredients. She took her skincare project a step further two years ago by leaping into creating a brand around the ingredients she’d encountered during Italian sojourns.
One of the first actions Sebastiani took when she began developing Sole Toscana was make a list of every contact she has. After she reached out to those contacts, word of mouth about Sole Toscana spread, and the brand amassed an insiders’ group of thousands of early devotees. It tapped the group to solicit information about the products they rely on a regular basis. That information helped her settle on Sole Toscana’s debut products, which are intended to form the foundation of daily routines. In addition, she turned to the group to test Sole Toscana’s formulas against an existing luxury organic skincare brand. Sole Toscana outclassed the competitor.
“This group is going to be at the core of the brand,” says Sebastiani, discussing the brand’s digital distribution model. “It’s important that we know who is using the brand and what they want and need, and that we always service that need. Later, if we work with partners to expand the distribution, as long as we can do that in a high-quality way, we would do that, but it really needs to be the right distribution done in the right way.” Sebastiani adds bypassing retail allows Sole Toscana to keep its prices down and offer premium products. She estimates its ingredients cost in excess of three times ingredients in most personal care brands products.
“Over there, farm-to-table is a way of life. It’s fresh, clean and simple. I’d go to the local butcher, talk him and ask him, ‘Is this beef grass-fed?’ He would look at me and say, ‘It’s a cow.’ It isn’t trendy at all. It’s what we we’re striving to have in the U.S.”
Another important element of the brand’s development was identifying ingredients from organic farms in Italy it could incorporate in skincare. Sebastiani details, for example, that the aloe vera in Sole Toscana’s products comes from a multigenerational farm that takes care to select the best parts of the plant and processes them within an hour of being harvested to ensure freshness. Although the processing gets underway promptly, it’s actually performed slowly to make certain the aloe vera’s potency doesn’t diminish.
“Over there, farm-to-table is a way of life. It’s fresh, clean and simple. I’d go to the local butcher, talk him and ask him, ‘Is this beef grass-fed?’ He would look at me and say, ‘It’s a cow.’ It isn’t trendy at all,” she says. “It’s what we we’re striving to have in the U.S. and Hong Kong.”
Sole Toscana’s packaging conveys its Italian connections. The logo features the Sienese sun, a symbol of Tuscany, and cypress trees, a common sight in the region. Customers ordering the brand’s products online receive them in a box that’s decorated with a picture of the Tuscan landscape. Its recyclable containers are sourced from Italy.
Sebastiani has invested $100,000 to ready Sole Toscana for the market. She’s not in a huge rush for the brand to break into the black. Sebastiani reasons, “I don’t think we could have done this if we were going to drive hard to recoup the investment as quickly as possible. We had to have some faith in what we were doing, and we have fun doing it. It’s our own money and that allows us to make decisions on our own rather than what would happen if we had investors.”