A Pioneer’s Legacy: Horst Rechelbacher


Aveda’s founder harmonized body, mind and spirit.

In February of 2014, the beauty industry lost a pioneer hairdresser and salon owner when Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher passed away at 72.

Horst’s vision shaped the way many in the world viewed the planet, the industry and even themselves.

 “His vision inspires us every day, not only at work with Aveda, but in our lives,” Aveda Global President Dominique Conseil wrote in a communication to all Aveda professionals.

“Horst led a life of extraordinary leadership, creating a vision of what he wanted to be, and then bringing that vision to reality,” he added.

From Hairdresser to Owner

Horst was born on November 11, 1941, in Klagenfurt, Austria, to an herbalist and a shoemaker. His family’s apartment overlooked a small salon, and at age 14, he embarked on a salon apprenticeship, and immediately began winning the Austrian Junior Championships. At 17, he moved to Rome, where he worked in an exclusive Italian salon.

Throughout the early 1960s, he traveled Europe as part of the European hairstyling competition circuit, winning many awards along the way. As part of this recognition, Horst had the opportunity to work the show circuit in the United States.

On his second American trip, he was teaching seminars in the Midwest when his car was struck by a drunk driver. He was hospitalized in Minneapolis, and the accident left him physically incapacitated for six months and in financial debt. In an effort to pay his hospital bills, he began working in a Minneapolis salon before opening his own — Horst of Austria in 1965.

As a salon owner, Horst created a unique model of economic sustainability for salons and spas.

Aveda is Born

In the 1970s, Horst traveled to India to study yoga and meditation, immersing himself in rich cultural traditions. On the trip, he became inspired by the spiritual and medical teacher Swami Rama, and gained knowledge of the ancestral Ayurvedic therapies, herbal remedies and a more comprehensive approach to health and well-being.

Drawing on Ayurvedic principles, Horst launched Aveda in 1978 with the ambition of developing beauty products that would care for professionals, their guests and the planet through the power of pure flower and plant essences.

Aveda became a lifestyle and a global movement, encouraging many to live more balanced lives by achieving a sense of harmony in body, mind and spirit.

Horst-stylingAveda became the first business to endorse the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) (a non-profit organization that comprises investors and environmental, religious and public interest groups to promote investment policies that are environmentally, socially and financially sound) in 1989.

 Two decades after founding Aveda, Horst sold it to Estée Lauder and shifted his focus to Intelligent Nutrients, a health and beauty company that establishes the highest standards of food-based, safe, non-toxic and USDA certified-organic ingredients.

His Impact on the Beauty Industry

Over the years, Horst influenced and affected thousands of hairdressers, salon owners, clients and many others both in and out of the beauty industry.

David Wagner, founder of JUUT Salonspas in Minneapolis said, “I’ll never forget my first show with Horst in New York back in the early days. I had never been in front of such a large and prestigious group. We did beautiful hair and the audience loved it. After, Horst came off stage he gave me a kiss on the forehead and a great big hug. I had passed my test. He was so meticulous, and at the same time recognized when you were doing your best. He inspired so many of us to get better than we ever imagined we could be. He taught me how to see beauty, create it and most importantly help the clients see themselves as beautiful. He was a Daymaker.”

Debra Neill Baker, Principal at Neill Corporation, knew Horst for decades and his impact was profound. “Considering that my relationship with Horst began in 1979, my memories are wide and deep of the influence he had on me, our business, our industry — our world,” she says. “One rich memory is the event we held at our home in Springfield, Louisiana. We had set up a big wedding tent positioned on the river in front of our home, and approximately 200 hairdressers sat under the tent for a full Sunday as Horst shared his thinking and passion for contributing to the planet with the hairdresser using shampoo as the means of ‘waking up the world.’

 “He spoke of Ayurvedic wisdom, wellness practices, personal responsibility, and anointing everyone with essential oils and aromas as he expressed his vision for each and all. It was magical! It spoke to a part of us that only a few ever considered — our higher purpose. It was so meaningful and steeped in transformational concepts that it resonated, and the culture began to grow and build, one hairdresser, one salon, one guest at a time.”

“For me personally, I had found my path, and to this day I honor Horst and Edwin for having the most profound influence on my thinking and acting as it relates to my work, expressing who I am and my gift to the world.”

Marilyn Ihloff, owner of Ihloff Salons and Day Spas in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said, “Horst helped us all to aim at a North Star of conscious living and service by creating a connection with our guests and our team with the intention of leaving the planet better than we found it — and being more beautiful while we do it!”

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Archived Comments

2 Comments (Comments are closed)

  1. Deborah Ann Stroscheim says:

    Miss YOU!

    • Anita says:

      Never a stylist. Always a believer in Aveda. Thanks Deborah for all the knowledge and delight we found at Congress!!!

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