Truaxe founded Deciem in 2013, and the Toronto-based company quickly gained a cult following for the radically transparent approach it takes with its nine (soon to be 10) beauty brands, the most popular of which is The Ordinary. Many items from The Ordinary retail for under $10 – a fraction of the price many prestige labels charge for similar products. E-commerce product pages include detailed information on ingredients. Deciem operates over 30 store globally. Estée Lauder took a 28 percent stake in 2017.
However, Truaxe's death comes after a turbulent year where he clashed openly with Estée Lauder and Deciem's own management team. He fired then co-chief executive Nicola Kilner last February and retitled himself a "worker" at the company. Kilner was re-hired in July, but Truaxe regularly took to Instagram to air his grievances with Estée Lauder and others he perceived to be conspiring against him.
The conflict boiled over in October, when he ordered Deciem's The Ordinary stores to shut down and replaced the company's website with an all-red background. Estée Lauder obtained an injunction in Ontario Superior Court that effectively ended Truaxe's active role with Deciem. Today, Kilner is chief executive, recently joined by chief financial officer Stephen Kaplan, who had resigned in February.
In his final Instagram posts published two days ago, an apparently inebriated Truaxe told followers he “indulged” in mezcal and tequila in a series of videos addressed to President Donald Trump. He gave users a shaky tour of his Toronto penthouse and shared his home address.
The comments section of the last post received an outpouring of condolences on Monday afternoon. Followers expressed surprise and sadness.
“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,” said a spokeswoman for The Estée Lauder Companies.
A Deciem representative did not reply to a request for comment.
Truaxe's radical transparency was integral to Deciem's initial success, but ultimately became a liability as one of the world's largest cosmetics companies got involved and revenues soared into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
The addition of social media to the mix exacerbated the turmoil, as Truaxe broadcast evidence-free allegations of financial misdeeds and other crimes to hundreds of thousands of followers.
"That kind of personality is very compelling online, that kind of transparency,"said Maureen Brewster, a lecturer at The New School's Parsons School of Design who specializes in beauty and fashion in pop culture. "He [Truaxe] was guaranteed to always have an audience no matter what he did after he got to this certain level."