The Beauty Industry Loses an Icon; Horst Rechelbacher, Founder of Aveda & Intelligent Nutrients, Dies at Age 72
Sustainable beauty industry pioneer & environmental activist.
MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Horst M. Rechelbacher died peacefully at his home in Osceola, Wisconsin, Saturday, February 15, 2014 after his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.
“Yours in service for a green, healthy and non-violent planet”
Rechelbacher was a pioneer in the now-mainstream sustainable health and beauty industry. He founded Aveda Corporation in 1978 with a vision for plant-based products. He grew the company into a powerhouse, and led the movement towards the use of organic ingredients, fair-trade sourcing, aromatherapy and recycled packaging along with numerous other innovations.
He was an outspoken critic of the environmental and personal dangers of petrochemicals, synthetic ingredients, conventional pesticide-based farming and chemical-laden manufacturing methods. He viewed his products as a way to create awareness as well as provide healthier, safer alternatives.
Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, on November 11, 1941, he began apprenticing as a hairdresser at 14. He came to the US, and specifically Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1964. After being injured in a car accident, he remained in Minnesota to take care of his medical expenses and opened his first Horst & Friends Salon in 1965. He first introduced his line of shampoos in 1977, the first plant-based beauty line, which became Aveda. He was a visionary, entrepreneur and leader who played by his own rules. This led to an innovative company culture, whose work spawned a revolution in the beauty business and influenced many other industries as well. His legacy includes the Aveda Concept Salons and the Aveda Institute and ushering in a new consciousness in the beauty and wellness industry.
A man of his time and ahead of it, his search into the world of greater traditional wisdom and plant study began in the mid-60s. He often credited his mother, an herbalist, for this lifelong interest. His never-ending study of plant-based medicine and health took him from India ashrams to primitive tribes to partnerships with the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of MN and the Mayo Clinic. He collaborated with noted physicians, chemists and pharmacologists, as well rock stars, traditional healers and shaman worldwide.
Rechelbacher sold Aveda Corporation to The Estee Lauder Companies in 1997 that was then the largest sale of its kind. His focus then shifted to Intelligent Nutrients, where he continued to pioneer in the beauty industry – this time focusing on certified organic products using food-grade ingredients and plant stem-cell science, and continuing his life-long vision of creating safer, healthier products for consumers and the planet. In 2012, he turned the co-presidency of the company to his longtime partner Kiran Stordalen and daughter Nicole Thomas. Under their leadership the company will continue to advance his life’s work and mission.
Rechelbacher was recognized as one of the most notable Austrians living in America by the Austrian press, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wolfgang Puck. Vanity Fair magazine honored him as one of the most influential environmentalists in the U.S. in 1995 and again in 2005. He is one of the three original founders of Business for Social Responsibility, which focused its mission on business and the sustainability of all living species. In 2004, he became a founding member of the Organic Center, a non-profit dedicated to organic education, research and promotion. NAHA (North American Hairdressers Association) honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2007, the International Congress of Esthetics and Spa presented Horst with the Crystal Award. Rechelbacher also received the Rachel Carson Award for a Lifetime Commitment to Environmental Ethics & Integrity. Also in 2007, the Spa & Salon Professional Association honored him as an Industry Innovator and Legend for his lifetime contribution to the cosmetology industry. The Twin Cities Business Magazine inducted Horst into their 2008 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, acknowledging his contributions and recognizing him as one of the states’ most accomplished business leaders of all time. In 2009, the President of Austria awarded Horst the "Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria."
Horst, a self-proclaimed “student” of nature, never lost his fascination for learning. He signed all his correspondence “Yours in service for a green, healthy and non-violent planet,” and left this planet with the same mission. There will never be another like him.