Aveda founder leaves environmental legacy

Health and beauty pioneer Horst Rechelbacher died at his home in Osceola, Wis., at the age of 72 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Rechelbacher, a native of Austria, helped pioneer the now-mainstream sustainable health and beauty industry when he founded Aveda Corp. in 1978 with a vision for plant-based products. He grew the company into a powerhouse, and led the movement toward the use of organic ingredients, fair-trade sourcing, aromatherapy and recycled packaging along with numerous other innovations. Rechelbacher sold Aveda to the Estee Lauder Companies in 1997 in a deal that was the largest of its kind at the time.

Rechelbacher then founded Intelligent Nutrients and continued to pioneer in the beauty industry by focusing on certified organic products using food-grade ingredients and plant stem-cell science. 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.

Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, on Nov. 11, 1941, he began apprenticing as a hairdresser at 14. He came to Minneapolis in 1964 and after being injured in a car accident, he remained in Minnesota to take care of 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.
Rechelbacher was a visionary, entrepreneur and leader who played by his own rules which led to an innovative company culture. His 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.

Vanity Fair magazine honored Rechelbacher 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 nonprofit 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.”