Yoki Hanley relaunched her line of Itiba beauty products to wholesale and retail clients April 29 at Frederiksted Government House.
“Itiba is back and ready to serve the public again with purpose and passion,” Hanley said at the Experience Dinner in the former Old Danish Schoolhouse.
Hanley stood in the center of the towering cobblestone venue surrounded by Itiba family and friends and spoke about the life of Itiba she began 20 years ago.
The initial soap created by Hanley to soothe her baby at bath time was the impetus for her to continue to create and share the natural ingredients she used from her Crucian home environment.
“I do everything by hand in processing a skin-loving product that would mimic the original botanicals I used for that first soap,” Hanley said.
“There were so many people who believed in me and were walking the walk with me to expand my natural beauty product line for all to experience,” she added. “Our lotions, bath soaps, body polishes, and body butters contain the richness of Mother Earth,” she said.
Hanley said she used coconut, mango butter, lemongrass and lavender as the initial ingredients for the first soap. The Itiba body polish contains a blend of Crucian Wildflower honey, brown sugar, Shea butter, coconut and avocado oils fragranced with lavender and chamomile, she said.
“There are no parabens fillers or animal products,” Hanley said. “It was and continues to be a journey of evolution, not only for me, but for all on the Itiba journey of excellence in environmentally sound and organically researched products created for every skin type.”
The company was enjoying success when – like so many V.I. businesses and families – it was dealt a severe blow by the hurricanes of 2017. Hanley’s store locations and manufacturing plant were devastated, and she temporarily left the island to take care of family.
But the April 29 gathering was the signal that Itiba is back.
Hanley told the gathering she has new partners, Michael DelGiaccio and Benjamin and Phuong Ireland.
Phuong comes to Itiba with decades of experience in the beauty industry – working with American Eagle Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret, and Bed, Bath and Beyond Hanley noted.
Eight guests were seated at each of the fourteen candle-lit tables at the relaunching. The rooftop and the massive walls were cloaked in glowing colors of purple and blue and gold and pink all spread around and down onto the cobblestone outdoor space.
Guests walked up a slight incline to the cocktail venue where bartender Jahmani poured locally sourced fruit and essences like MidNite Rain and Carib Lime cocktails created by chef/mixologist Frank Robinson to replicate the ingredients in the Itiba beauty collection. Robinson owns and operates the Bes Craft Café in downtown Christiansted. He and Hanley developed a signature concept when they worked together in their offerings of Itiba cocktails at a recent Taste of St. Croix event.
The two decided the cocktails would be the perfect accompaniment for the Itiba Dinner Experience and Relaunch.
Robinson’s menu reflected many of the ingredients used in the creation of the Itiba products: The first course of Carib Lime soup was a blend of coconut milk and lime juice broth steeped with lemongrass, rosemary, mint and lime zest with citrus-marinated grilled shrimp.
The RSVP invitation suggested that guests “wear your Sunday best” to the dinner. As far as the eye could see, guests were decked out in their “Sunday Best” as they milled about the iconic venue.
Itiba has been recognized through the years by Essence, Jet, Pose, and Fashion Flair magazines. An Itiba product was part of an Academy Awards gift basket at the Oscars several years ago.
With Itiba’s relaunch, the local community will be privy to its products as they gain momentum throughout the territory and reclaim their recognition across the Caribbean and Europe, Hanley and her partners agree. In the native Caribbean Taino religion, Itiba is Mother Earth, and all life sprang from her, Hanley learned. Hanley goes back to the earth to get the herbs and plants for her line of natural skin care products.