Amy Parsons: Curating Italian Beauty Online at Mozziafiato

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2021 issue of Dream of Italy. For a limited time, you can not only join (or renew) Dream of Italy (with access to 180 back issues covering travels to every corner of Italy plus ideas on making your Italian dream come true by starting a business or moving to Italy) but you will also receive a BONUS of Rudy Profumi Mediterranean Hand Wash courtesy of Mozzafiato. Read more about Amy Parsons of Mozzafiato and her passion for Italian beauty!

Those who love Italy long for a touch of its beauty no matter where in the world they are. Italy’s legendary skincare products are one way to connect with the land and its culture and travelers often seek out the scents and sensations they experienced while visiting Italy. Now there’s a new way for Americans to access these small, handcrafted beauty brands. Mozzafiato sources and curates high-quality bath and beauty, fragrance, men’s grooming, skincare and home items from all over Italy in an online store. Creator and CEO Amy Parsons left her job as a university executive during Covid to make her hobby of buying beauty products while traveling into an inspiring business.

Kathy: When did you fall in love with Italy?

Amy: I went to Italy for the first time when I was 15 years old on a school trip. I grew up in Colorado and Wyoming, so going to Italy at 15 was just the most life-changing experience for me at that age. I could not believe that a place like that existed in the world, because I had never seen it before.

From that point forward on through growing up and in my professional life, I would travel back for fun and go back with friends and experience different aspects of Italy. But it was always just a hobby and a love and learning about the country and traveling through it.

Kathy: What does Mozzafiato mean?

Amy: The word Mozzafiato loosely translates from Italian to English as “breathtaking.” We thought that that was an appropriate word and sentiment for how we feel about the beauty of the brands. We think they are breathtaking. We also wanted to find a word to describe us that you can sound out and say relatively easily and is a fun word to say.

Kathy: How did you move from working in a university to leading Mozzafiato?

Amy: I was the executive vice chancellor at [the Colorado State University system], and I was able to travel to a lot of countries around the world representing the university. I always had, as a hobby, finding local beauty brands and locally made products wherever I would go in the world. I just had a passion for finding those types of products.

Where I would go for fun, outside of work, was always Italy. I would start researching and finding the locally made craft products and fragrances from Italy and getting to know them over time, never really thinking that I could turn my career into this. But then when Covid happened and I was home for the first time in 20 years, I started exploring the idea of whether there was a business here, combining my business experience, my love for beauty and fragrance, and my love for Italy.

Through my work at CSU, I had the good fortune to work with someone who is Italian by heritage and invests in Italian businesses and is always looking for other business opportunities that relate to Italy.

We teamed up together and started reaching out directly to these brands. It was actually rather easy to connect with them by Zoom, because they were home [due to Covid lockdowns], we were home, and they were open to discussing new, innovative ideas at this time when a lot of stores were closed and people were very concerned about the future. By the end of the summer in 2020, every brand that we pitched had agreed to be a part of it. We officially launched on November 1, 2002 and we’re importing their products into the U.S.

Kathy: Why are these brands so compelling?

Amy: The continuous thread among all these brands is that they are inspired by Italy, from the landscapes, the cities, the natural ingredients and the designs. A lot of Americans know that the entire world goes to Italy for cosmetics and beauty products, because they have that generational know-how, they have the ingredients, they have the style, they know how to produce the highest-quality products. Brands that Americans know, like Tom Ford and Charlotte Tilbury, are made in Italy.

But what a lot of Americans don’t know is that Italy is full of these gorgeous, heritage, niche, homegrown, native, Italian brands producing the world’s best products in beauty and men’s grooming that are somewhat unknown outside of Italy.

Kathy: Why are Italians so good at creating beauty products?

Amy: Italy is so diverse as a country, in terms of its beauty of coastlines and countryside and cities. They have such a rich history of artistry and artists coming from all of these different regions in the country, that it really feeds craftsmanship in a lot of different areas: fashion, auto, art, food and wine. In beauty, it’s no different. It’s very much part of the Italian culture to carry through ingredients and methodologies of making things generation after generation. That’s really special to Italy.

These brands are not in it for a short-term profit. That’s what makes them so different from an American beauty experience, which is very much driven by new brands, by the latest celebrity or influencer. Italy could not be more opposite of that approach. When you have something on your shelf at home that you know is the product of 400 years of dedication and craftsmanship of one family, it’s an extremely different feeling that you have when you use it, when you hold it, when you see it.

Kathy: What are some products you use in your daily life?

Amy: For a fragrance, I like Acqua Di Bolgheri’s Bacche di Vinum Eau de Parfum from Bibbona, Tuscany. This brand and all of its products capture the spirit and scents of Tuscany. The Bacche di Vinum scent has notes of grapes, wine, musk and flowers to reflect the vineyards of Bolgheri.

My bath and body pick is the Tuttotondo Castagna Body Butter from Florence. Tuttotondo is a newer, vibrant and fun brand with an exciting design capturing the vitality of the culture. Chestnut (castagna) has nourishing and moisturizing properties.

My favorite skincare product is the BeC Natura Elesilk Body Scrub Mask from Forli. BeC Natura is a hidden gem, producing some of the most scientifically advanced skin care lines in the world. This exfoliating gel mask contains organic extra-virgin olive oil and aloe vera to moisturize and smooth skin.

My go-to gift is the Parco1923 Home Fragrance Diffuser from Abruzzo. Parco1923 perfectly captures the essence of Italy’s national parks and the packaging is completely unique and gorgeous. The scent is reminiscent of mountain air, forest trees and flowers.

Kathy: What does Italy represent for men and for their sort of care?

Amy: Italy has this really rich barbershop culture all through the country and their love for what they call gentlemen’s grooming. Barbershops are a place where there’s community, where you have a relationship with your barber, and they use, again, craft heritage products that are the best in the world. Barbershops are beautiful, welcoming spaces made for men where they’re comfortable and where they can indulge in their own self-care routine in a very cool way. The men there take seriously self-care and how they present, and the products they use.

It’s been kind of a wonderful surprise of this business that men really seek out the Italian products. I have robust conversations with male customers about the colognes that they love and the shaving products and the beard products that they look for. The products are very affordable, so it’s a way for men to connect into that cool Italian barbershop culture and use products that are higher quality and more unique than what they’re going to find in any chain stores in the U.S.

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