As any beauty entrepreneur will tell you, it takes more than a great product to make a new skincare line a success. Even a veritable miracle cream needs some extra oomph—say, a high-tech ingredient, flashy packaging or an endorsement from one of the Desperate Housewives—to cut through the department store clutter. For Rodial founder Maria Hatzistefanis, that extra something has been herself.
A glamorous, olive-skinned beauty, the Grecian- born Hatzistefanis, 37, is Rodial’s own best public face, a prominent party fixture whose chic social circle has played a valuable role in the line’s visibility. Last December she hosted Jennifer Creel, Byrdie Bell and about 30 other Manhattan socialites for the launch of her antiaging cream, Glamotox, at the Carlyle Hotel. The following month Hilary Tisch and designer Jenni Kayne hosted a lunch for her at the Hotel Bel-Air. In the UK, meanwhile, Allegra Hicks included Rodial products in her fashion show goodie bags, and Bella Freud plugged them in her beauty column in the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine.
Hatzistefanis’s strategy of putting her products in the right hands seems to be working. Despite having no advertising budget, the line has achieved cult status. Within a week of its debut, Glamotox (tagline: “the glamorous alternative to Botox”) sold out at New York’s Henri Bendel and the UK’s Harvey Nichols. And wait lists are already forming for the bust-boosting lotion, Boob Job, out in April. (The product claims to increase cup size by 8.4 percent.)
“These women are ambassadors of the brand,” says Hatzistefanis, who shares a town house in London with her financier husband, Stratis Hatzistefanis, and their two sons, ages five and three. “Socials are also at the front lines with magazines, and that does help the business.”
Hatzistefanis was not born into the jetset; her family, though well-to-do, enjoyed what she describes as “a very easygoing lifestyle” on the Greek island of Mytilini. After graduating from the University of Athens, she worked briefly as a beauty editor at Seventeen magazine in Greece before moving to New York, where she got an M.B.A. at Columbia. She worked at Salomon Brothers for three years—“Everyone was in pinstripes and reading the Financial Times, while I was in Prada and reading Vogue”—and then, in 1997, she moved to London, where she started Rodial with the help of her husband’s investment.
The line was inspired by her grandmother’s homemade concoctions, like a moisturizer of beeswax, olive oil and pomegranate. “My grandmother would be in the kitchen mixing up things and putting them into little jars,” she recalls. “I can still smell the pomegranate juice.”
Antioxidant-rich pomegranate extracts grace all Rodial formulas. (Rodi is Greek for “pomegranate.”) “I saw a gap for serious skincare products made with natural ingredients,” she says.
Over the past 10 years in London, where she and her husband are active patrons of the arts, Hatzistefanis has amassed a network that includes Hicks, Caroline Stanbury and Issa designer Daniella Helayel. “I go to parties and meet people through friends,” she says. “There’s no science to it.” One of her closest pals, socialite and author Kalliope Karella, says that Hatzistefanis “wins people over with her warmth and charm.” Free jars of Boob Job can’t hurt, either.