After nearly 20 years at the forefront of the plant-based beauty and health business, Intelligent Nutrients co-owner Kiran Stordalen needs no schooling in the principle of cause and effect. Is your hair looking flat? Rub in larch resin; it adds volume. Stressful day? Dab on neroli oil; it’s a natural refresher. Eyesight waning? Alas, there isn’t a single potion in the Intelligent Nutrients ingredient glossary for that; when she first realized she’d begun squinting to read, Stordalen blamed the skin-cleansing gadget she had just started using.
“I thought all that vibrating was making my eyes fuzzy,” she admits with a laugh.
A pair of cheaters made everything clear, and, she notes, adds a dash of “looking smart” to her style—one that, like her vision, has evolved over time: from jeans and nappy sweaters as a student at St. Olaf in the ’80s (“I was going for that academic vibe”), to the designer deconstructionism of the ’90s (“I loved how Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto took goth and punk into this avant-garde space”), to the edgy minimalism that defines her style today.
“I try not to get too trendy,” says Stordalen, who typically pairs a jacket by, say, Stella McCartney or Rick Owens with a J.Crew T-shirt and a pair of Rag & Bone skinny jeans. “I like plain and simple. Early on, everything looks good on you and you like to explore. Over time, that became less interesting to me.”
At 51, Stordalen understands perhaps too well the power of time. On February 15, she bid farewell to her life partner of more than 20 years, visionary Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, who died of pancreatic cancer two and a half years after being diagnosed. “Horst had one foot in this world and one foot in another world for a long time,” says Stordalen, who met him at a photo shoot in the late ’80s. “Whether you recognize it or not, once you get that diagnosis, you’re in the process of letting go.”
Five months later, she is still in that process—holding on to places, memories, and dreams she shared with her husband, but also asking, “What is this new chapter in my life is going to be like? Horst was a powerful personality with a strong point of view. That’s a great, comforting thing. But it also keeps you in a certain mode.” At the Minneapolis headquarters of Intelligent Nutrients, which Horst founded in 1992, Stordalen and co-president Nicole Rechelbacher, Horst’s daughter from his previous marriage, are finding their own mode. “We have Horst’s roadmap,” says Stordalen. “But we also have an opportunity to spread our wings and think about how we see this business moving forward.”
One thing that will not change: the commitment to creating earth-friendly products. Her travels with Horst to India, North Africa, and other countries to source ingredients impacted Stordalen’s moral code as well as her dress code. “I want to be cool. I want to be hip,” she says. “But I also have a grass-roots approach. My perspective on fashion comes partly from my experiences visiting farmers, working with indigenous people, and thinking about emerging economies.”
Her favorite pieces include hand-crafted bangles she picked up at local bazaars as well as the Hunter boots and basic T-shirts she pairs with her skinny jeans at home in Osceola, Wisconsin, a hobby farm and essential-oil research distillery where the hip crowd includes 10 dogs, four alpaca, seven goats, and various ducks and hens.
“There’s something gritty and earthy there that is wonderful,” she says. “I learned from watching Horst’s passing that I want balance in life. He worked up until the very end. It’s who he was. I want to do something great with Intelligent Nutrients and take vacations. Because no matter who you are or what you believe, all you have is now.”