Brandon Trauxe, the founder of Deciem whose behavior had become increasingly erratic over the past year, has died, according to an internal e-mail at Deciem. He was 40.
The e-mail, from Deciem chief executive officer Nicola Kilner, said Truaxe passed over the weekend, and asked for Deciem’s operations to close for the day. A source with knowledge of the situation told WWD that Truaxe died in Toronto, but the cause of death could not be learned by press time.
Deciem posted a statement on its Instagram account that said, “Brandon, our founder and friend. You touched our hearts, inspired our minds and made us believe that anything is possible. Thank you for every laugh, every learning and every moment of your genius. Whilst we can’t imagine a world without you, we promise to take care of each other and will work hard to continue your vision. May you finally be at peace. Love, (forever) your Deciem.”
The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Deciem’s minority investor, also issued a statement: “Brandon Truaxe was a true genius, and we are incredibly saddened by the news of his passing. As the visionary behind Deciem, he positively impacted millions of people around the world with his creativity, brilliance and innovation. This is a profound loss for us all, and our hearts are with Nicola Kilner and the entire Deciem family.”
In the past year, Truaxe’s behavior had become unpredictable — he posted business announcements to Instagram, he cc’d reporters on e-mails to chairman emeritus of Lauder, Leonard Lauder, and he was eventually ousted from the company after unilaterally deciding to shutter operations in October.
But before that, Truaxe was one of the first to champion radical transparency, and to build a multibrand, fast-moving vertically integrated business with that concept at its core. The company’s most popular brand, The Ordinary, has become a cult skin-care brand from selling technically named products for low prices — often below $10.
That concept was true to Truaxe’s belief that luxury was not about price.
“The thing about luxury, when I say it’s not about price points, what I mean is it doesn’t matter if it’s cheap, expensive, affordable, not affordable — luxury ultimately has to exclude one thing — and that is being taken for an idiot,” Truaxe said, during an interview with WWD at New York’s Plaza Hotel in 2017. “Like, love this atmosphere, hate this coffee. It is horrific, it is actually one of the worst coffees I’ve ever had in my life. But you’re not fooling me — I’m accepting that I’m basically paying rent for the environment.”
He was admittedly unfiltered.
“I actually do have a filter,” Truaxe said, in 2017. “It’s a filter that takes anything that you’re not supposed to say and amplifies it even bigger.”
On Instagram in October, Truaxe alleged that financial crimes had been committed at Deciem, and instructed employees to stop working and the company to close. That move led to Lauder seeking injunctive relief in Canada, which removed Truaxe from his post at the business and locked him out of Deciem’s Instagram account. Court papers from the proceeding said that on May 9, Truaxe was detained by authorities in the U.K. and taken to a psychiatric hospital in London for several days. He later stayed for three days at another psychiatric facility in Canada, according to the documents.
Truaxe continued to post on his own social media though — chronicling e-mails with lawyers, the news, his hotel stays and, most recently, his mezcal consumption, on his personal account, with fans frequently commenting with support and concern.
Truaxe undoubtedly changed the way beauty establishment players looked at doing business, according to David Olsen, ceo of Cos Bar, who first met Truaxe when he was working as a global vice president at Net-a-porter.
“I loved what he was doing,” Olsen said. “He was a mad genius, and I told him as much directly. He seemed to relish that. That diversity of brands, speed-to-market and [vertical integration] were all kind of obvious things the old school beauty industry was aware of, but weren’t pushing for. Deciem forced them all to take a long, hard look and reevaluate everything. [He] was truly a game changer and left us far too soon.”
Olsen also called him a “trailblazer in transparency.”
“It’s what people loved about him, but it was also a double-edged sword,” he said.