Beauty According to Horst

Founder of Aveda discusses the future of the beauty industry
By Cara Lucas

Gandhi imparted the now famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and Horst Rechelbacher is taking him quite seriously.

He is the founder of monster corporation Aveda and, now, the USDA certified organic Intelligent Nutrients line, which boasts products comprised of the latest in plant-based health and beauty technology.

Horst, as everyone calls him, sounds energetic, motivated, and surprisingly young—he seems a student of his own school of thought, unabashedly blazing trails for the organic beauty industry. His attitude is contagious as he talks about reform through corporate responsibility.

“I look at business as the opportunity of change because business is what has created this mess,” laughs Horst. “We have to go to rehab.”

Horst was born in post-war Austria in 1941, to a prisoner-of-war father and a mother who was “a true herbalist.” It was his mother who supported Horst and his two older brothers, and she did it through nature, gathering plants in the Austrian mountains.

“She [used to go] to the mountains because we lived very close on the big hills,” explains Horst. “I learned about identifying plants at a very early stage in my life.”

To help support his family, he became an apprentice at a hair salon at age 14, and by 17 he was cutting and styling hair in high-society salons in Italy. He often came to the US for hairstyling gigs and, after working with salon chemicals for years, eventually fell ill, becoming a victim of his own lifestyle.

“Our salons, without knowing, were extremely toxic. We didn’t have (in those days) the good ventilation systems we have today… even today they aren’t efficient,” says Horst. “My consciousness is still air purification, water purification, food purification, and, ultimately, all consumer products, because that’s what’s giving us cancer!”

But is mainstream America ready to embrace the organic beauty movement?

It’s simple, according to Horst. “They have no choice… if you follow the evidence,” Horst says.

And he has done just that. Technology is his secret weapon, and he incorporates it into his new line in the form of plant-stem-cell-based products. Aveda, which he sold to Estee Lauder in 1997, gave Horst direction and focus in his progressive endeavors with Intelligent Nutrients.

“Aveda has been my teacher of what to do and what not to do. It’s part of my evolutionary process. It is now part of a big corporate enterprise whose main objective is increasing revenue for their investors… By focusing on that, unfortunately, ingredients change. Therefore, if you change ingredients, then the product changes.

“This time, everything I do is not-for-profit,” says Horst. “This is part of my spiritual path. Once you know something and don’t do the right thing, it gets you depressed and you can’t sleep at night.”

With trails of accomplishments in his wake, there is still a lot of work to do, if you ask Horst. He keeps a humble attitude regarding his place in organic beauty: “I don’t celebrate mastery because that’s very dangerous—it builds my ego. I need to deflate my ego and be of service and not try to be served.”

The time seems to be right for another leap forward in safe, organic beauty products. Keep an eye out as Intelligent Nutrients begins to make waves globally, with stores already in the UK, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Hong Kong and Singapore. Because—for Horst—the future is now. “It’s going to be bigger than Aveda,” Horst says. “No doubt about it.”