Horst Rechelbacher Remembered

In the multi-billion-dollar-a-year beauty industry, there is Before Horst and After Horst. Before Horst Rechelbacher, beauty was about artificial dyes, synthetic fragrances, and frothy chemical bubbles. After Horst, for the millions who turned Aveda into a household name, it was about herbs, essences, and plant bark. The celebrity hairdresser from Germany—who landed in Minneapolis when he got into a car crash while on a lecture tour some 40 years ago and set up shop in Wayzata to pay his hospital bills—cooked up his first clove shampoo in his kitchen sink. The murky brown concoction smelled pungent, not pretty. The first client who tried it said: “Yuck.”

By the time Horst died of cancer on February 15 at age 72, he had turned that “yuck” into an international embrace of his mission: to make pure products while protecting the planet. Colleagues at Aveda (which he sold to Estée Lauder for a reported $300 million in 1997) and Intelligent Nutrients (the all-organic line he founded in 2006) knew Horst as inspirational, demanding, and visionary. “Thirty years ago, other companies had coffee breaks,” says makeup artist Fatima Olive, part of Aveda’s first artistic team. “We had meditation breaks.”

Weeks before he died, his inner circle gathered at his Minneapolis home; his spirit was intact. “We were doing a meditation using singing bowls, and Horst was saying, ‘No, that’s not how you do it, this is how you do it,’” laughs Olive. He made a lifetime telling others how to do it: not with chemicals, bubbles, and dye, but environmentalism, aromatherapy, and wellness. “He brought a fearless determination to everything he did,” says his wife, Kiran Stordalen. Minnesota—and the world—will never be the same.