Brandon Truaxe, founder and former CEO of skincare company Deciem, has passed on at age 40. The company's official Instagram account posted about the news last Monday, 21 January. As of press time, his cause of death has not been made public.
The company, best known for brands like The Ordinary and NIOD, has welcomed 2019 a bit hazily due to a myriad of controversies they were embroiled in last year under Truaxe's leadership. His erratic behaviour resulted to both fans and Deciem minority shareholder (and beauty conglomerate) Estée Lauder requesting for him to seek professional help due to concerns about his mental health, which he refused to accept. From axing employees through social media to the company's temporary shutdown, Truaxe was booted from his post in October 2018 and was replaced by his co-CEO Nicole Kilner.
All the drama aside, it's no secret that Truaxe made Deciem the cult favourite brand it is today. Whether you separate the man from his creation or you see them as one and the same, there is definitely a connection between the two that is and will not be so easily severed. With that, as a nod to Truaxe's difficult but undeniable genius, here are some of our thoughts on how the self-dubbed Abnormal Beauty Company contributed to today's beauty industry.
The no-nonsense philosophy of Deciem as a brand seems to have rooted in Truaxe's perception of his own role in the company. As quoted in a now-deleted Instagram post, he dropped the 'CEO' title and mentioned that he preferred to be labelled generically as a 'worker'. He elaborates by saying, "Responsible people don't need CEOs...and I've never liked any of my bosses in my life so I don't want to be a boss, I want to be a friend. I want people to be my friend and not my employee." And as if to prove a point, if you go to the Deciem website and want to find out more about the employees, you can see that they are arranged randomly. Choosing the 'Display in order of importance' option will lead you to a photo of a monkey with the words, "Oh hello. I am very important and high up the corporate ladder."
Without a doubt, it was refreshing to see a booming beauty company with a grounded and hands-on person at its helm. Just like the brand, which aims to make skincare more accessible and straightforward, we get to see Truaxe at the top of most of the company's operations, even handling its social media presence, as a show of a direct relationship between company and consumer.
However, on the downside, such directness and decentralisation in an organisation is prone to a lot of pitfalls — Deciem's own story attests to this — because it is difficult to run a system without a stronghold on authority and leadership. Glassdoor reviews and employee testimonies of the company also became a spectacle, with former workers stepping up to claim that Truaxe's leadership was downright aggressive and has resulted to very serious allegations of abuse of power about the management, an antithesis of the very thing he was claiming to be.
As the story progressed, the allegations came and went, more controversies bloomed and it seemed to have been endless at the time. But looking back now, the series of events surrounding the brand makes for a great case study on the importance of communication within and outside a company. Such scenarios showcased that a company should ensure a two-way exchange not just with its consumers but also its own employees. That the value of the company is not just reliant on its name or a select few but in every single person who takes part in realising its vision.
On making skincare more familiar
Before Deciem's The Ordinary's rise to fame, curating your very own skincare routine is more of a hit and miss. Unless you're really into reading labels or researching your products, terms such as Pycnogenol, Azelaic Acid or Magnesium Ascorbate were best to be left to chemists. However, with its mission to produce a transparent ingredient list and a more accessible and affordable skincare line to its consumers, it's safe to say that Deciem helped not just its consumers but beauty enthusiasts, in general, to become more eager to learn about the ingredients they need for particular skincare problems. It focused more on the activeness of the ingredient instead of highlighting generalities like 'anti-ageing' or 'brightening'. Since then, many beauty companies have followed suit, knowing that their consumers are now also well-versed in a more scientific beauty language.
On the industry and the ongoing discussion on mental health
While his cause of death is still unclear, everyone bore witness to Truaxe's struggle with his own mental health issues, as documented on his own company's social media platform. The call for diversity, openness, and dialogues regarding many issues are not just trends that should come and go but instead should be treated as actual issues that need addressing.
With this, we wish that Brandon may finally find his peace, and even with the ups and downs during his reign, may Deciem move forward for the better — without losing its founder's vision for transparency and authenticity.
If you are or someone you know are struggling with their mental health, call these suicide hotlines: 1800-221 4444 (Singapore), +2 804-HOPE (4673) (Philippines) or 603-79571306 (Malaysia).
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