Photography via Instagram/@deciem

Report: Brandon Truaxe, Founder of Deciem, is Dead at 40

All Deciem stores are closed today in memorial.

Deciem, the Toronto-based beauty company has been making headlines for the past year — and not just for their super affordable skincare line. The company’s eccentric founder, Brandon Truaxe, garnered attention for his volatile behaviour, including taking over the company’s social media and posting content that ranged from entertaining too straight up bizarre. FASHION has learned that over the weekend, Truaxe has passed away at age 40. On Monday morning, Deciem’s CEO Nicola Kilner circulated an e-mail to all staff confirming the founder’s death. Kilner directed recipients of the e-mail, “All offices, warehouses, factories and stores please close today and take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.”

From public firings to posting pictures of trash, here’s a complete timeline of the Deciem saga so far.

January 12: Deciem Shades Drunk Elephant

Our Deciem timeline begins with Reddit after one user spotted a dig at Drunk Elephant on The Ordinary’s website. The shade was buried within the description of their marula oil, “Referred to as a ‘luxury’ oil by some… It’s a fantastic oil in every sense of the word despite its affordability. One would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula.” The terminology here pointed a clear finger at fellow skincare-brand Drunk Elephant, who charges $90 for a 1oz bottle of marula oil in comparison to a $10 bottle of the same size from The Ordinary. The (now deleted) call-out seemed pretty unprofessional, especially because of its placement on the company’s official website.

January 24: Truaxe Begins his Social Media Takeover

Truaxe posted a chatty selfie-type video to Deciem’s Instagram page–the first of many–stating, “I have now cancelled all of our marketing plans… From now on I’m going to communicate personally with you.” Given Deciem’s substantial following, it seemed like a pretty drastic change and a huge undertaking.

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Hi :-) You have often asked us why we refer to our team as monkeys. Our lovey @nicolalkilner used to be a buyer at @bootsuk. She once told me that a major beauty brand always hired sales representatives who looked like models because their presence in meetings was impactful. I can't think of anything dumber than choosing people who are to represent your values based largely on their appearance. So I decided that we are going to very specifically not care about our team looking like models (if some of us do, then we are doubly lucky), and instead be so humble to say we are symbolically monkeys, because monkeys are the origin of all of us, whether or not we are models. But I also don't think monkeys are better than any other animal. Animals and us are all together working on this beautiful small planet we call Earth. I fell in love with all animals during my fortunate visits to Africa and South East Asia. I particularly love elephants because my very good friend Gill Sinclair of our caring and patient retailer, @victoriahealth, loves them and because an elephant once let me ride his loving back in Java, Indonesia, near the Borobudur Temple. Lastly, speaking of elephants, I once wrote that one would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula oil which was a distasteful joke that arose from my familiarity with the beautiful brand, @drunkelephantskincare. @tiffanymasterson: I'm sorry. When I met you at the WWD breakfast, I saw a beautiful soul. And you have worked hard to build a beautiful brand. Please forgive me. I have now adjusted that distasteful post and we will donate $25,000 to the peaceful elephant charity that your brand supports: @savetheelephants. Our super-fast and loving @smjr2000 will arrange for this donation to be made this week. Hug, Brandon ❤️ (Update: the donation has been made and elephants are smiling ?❤️)

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January 28: Truaxe Addresses the Drunk Elephant Comment 

Two weeks after the Drunk Elephant dig was shared on Reddit, Truaxe addressed the situation via social media. The post, though clearly good-intentioned, was also a very strange rambling of thoughts. Once you get past the musings of monkeys and models, an apology can be found towards the end. Truaxe acknowledges that what he said about Drunk Elephant was a distasteful joke and then casually adds that he will donate $25,000 to Save the Elephants in response. All in all, it was a very sweet way to apologize, but the elaborate (at times, baffling) caption just stirred up more conversation about founder. Back over on Reddit, one user posted, “I remember that one. I also remember thinking, If you got time to write this ‘masterpiece’, you got time to get my 100ml moisturizer back in stock, son.” Another simply asked, “Wtf did I just read.”

February 1: No More Bosses

In his next selfie video, Truaxe announces that he will drop his CEO title and now be referred to simply as a “worker.” “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,” he says.

February 4: Deciem’s Feed is Garbage

No, but actually… it’s literal garbage. Truaxe interrupts Deciem’s usual feed to post pictures of trash. He captions the post with a pledge to go plastic free, and while he’s at it, cuts ties with his plastic packager. He goes on to offer Peter (who has now been publicly fired) a sponsorship for him and his family to come to Canada and work at Deciem. The caption is pretty uncomfortable to read. The four people mentioned in the post probably deserved a meeting or even an email, not an Instagram caption. Truaxe’s offer of sponsorship also feels a little inappropriate for the platform, especially given the circumstances.

February 4: Truaxe Photographs a Dead Animal

In the midst of the garbage posts, Truaxe comes across a dead animal. He then proceeds to kneel next to the body, upload a picture of the corpse to Instagram and then scold his followers, “Stop being so mean to kind animals.” It’s a little confusing given we don’t know if this sheep died of natural causes or not. Truaxe then goes on to say that Deciem will never test on animals and while we praise the brand for being cruelty free, the picture of the sheep and the videos of the garbage feel a bit unnecessary. It’s clear that the Deciem Instagram page is not controlled by a formal marketing team.

February 4: He Also Wants to Mention that He’s Not Gay

In Truaxe’s tenth post of the day (none of which have had anything to do with specific Deciem products) he describes his relationship with factory manager, Riad. He talks about his love for Riad and his family and then tags two people in the post, letting them know that he is not gay. He then casually mentions another massive donation. This time, half a million dollars for Riad’s family.

February 5: Truaxe Promises a Proper Social Media Team

After eleven posts in one day and a reported loss of 5,000 followers, Truaxe addresses his recent Instagram behaviour. “Many of you love what I did. But a few of you disliked it, criticized it and even unfollowed us,” he wrote before promising to build a new social content management team. Once again he mentions his charity work, “I’ll be in Kenya and Namibia to evaluate the best way to donate $150k to hungry children… I’m also donating $50,000 of my personal savings for this cause.” Unfortunately, Truaxe’s constant touting of how down to Earth and charitable he is, ends up making him seem a little more self-righteous than humble.

February 6: Truaxe Fires TJ Esho via Instagram

In another example of inappropriate use of social media, Truaxe publicly fires cosmetic doctor Tijon Esho. Esho, who worked with Truaxe to create Deciem’s lip-care brand, Esho, later told Racked that he was not notified of his firing prior to the public Instagram post. “The formulas were rushed. And almost everyone hated them… Our lovely customers who bought ESHO and hated it, please forgive me.” It’s a pretty savage farewell to one of his co-workers and one that definitely shouldn’t have happened over Deciem’s social media account. The post has since been deleted.

February: Meanwhile on Reddit…

The public ousting of Esho along with Truaxe’s strange series of posts got a lot of people interested in the company. Redditers started digging further into Deciem and found a ton of Glass Door reviews that had some pretty concerning content. From claims of yelling and bullying, to reports of sexism, racism and sexual harassment, the reviews painted a picture of a very unhealthy work environment. One poster, who referred to himself as an embarrassed favoured employee, painted a picture of an oligarchy-style hierarchy. The poster, who was in the favoured group, revealed he received a much higher salary and bigger bonuses. Of course, we do have to take anonymous reviews with a grain of salt.

February 9: Former Employees go on the Record

Three former employees came forward to talk about the growing Deciem drama. The three kept their anonymity but revealed that they had worked at the Toronto facility between 2016 and 2017. The trio confirmed many of the rumours, including reports that Truaxe frequently yelled at employees. They also confirmed allegations of body shaming, with all three noting that factory manager Meena Razach would pinch at people’s stomachs. Riyadh Sweden (previously mentioned in Truaxe’s ‘I’m not gay’ post) was also described as being a “bully” and a “huge problem.”

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February 10: Truaxe Reprimands Followers 

Five days after Truaxe’s last speech, he once again addresses the disapproval towards his behaviour on social media. “Despite my respect for you, you continue to be disrespectful on this account,” he says into the camera. “I’m going to start changing things because Deciem… I founded Deciem, so our social account is actually my property. I’ve welcomed you, but if you’re going to abuse it I’m going to ask you to leave…” He then reports that Deicem would now be deleting all negative comments.

February 11: Truaxe Accused of Racism 

As concern continued to grow over Truaxe’s behaviour, one follower commented, “Brandon are you okay??” underneath a post. He replied, “Yes but you don’t seem so well. Please use Modulating Glucosides when it’s out. Goodbye.” Not only was the response rude, but Affinity reported that the suggested product may have skin-lightening properties. Since his response was aimed at a person of colour, it seemed like Truaxe was basically telling the follower to bleach her skin. The comment created a lot of upset and he ended up giving a statement to Teen Vogue, “Whoever assumed that MG, which calms inflammation, relates to ‘bleaching’ skin is either a hateful person or one who assumes everything and understands very little.” Regardless, the response was pretty rude whether he meant it that way or not.

February 22: Truaxe Lays Off his Co-CEO

Co-CEO Nicola Kilner was let go from Deciem and soon after Stephen Kaplan, chief financial officer at the brand, resigned. In response to the firing, Truaxe told WWD, “It’s my company. It’s my house. If someone doesn’t like how I decorate my house, it doesn’t matter if they’re my mother or a guest, they have to leave the house.” This statement is in stark comparison to Truaxe’s thoughts at the beginning of the month, in which he tells his followers he doesn’t want to be seen as a boss. After the firing, Kilner told ELLE that when it came to Truaxe, “It was never [just about] business. It was much more personal.”

March 25: The Firings Continue

One month later, Racked reported that Truaxe had fired his whole U.S. team. The decision seemed extremely rash and, again, had people wondering if everything was really running smoothly at Deciem.


April 4: Deciem Uses a Homeless Man to Promote Their New Store

This photograph had a lot of followers upset. The picture, which appears to have been taken without the man’s consent, left a bad taste in people’s mouths. It only got worse when Truaxe addressed it. “This person is disrespectful to the beauty of the library; he is disrespectful to the beauty of Fifth Avenue,” he told Racked. “But this person was so peaceful. He was just reading his book, which homeless people should do more of.” Ouch. The comment is problematic for many reasons and the drama continued when Truaxe posted a screenshot to Instagram of a comment left by an upset viewer. He did not block out their personal information which led to accusations of bullying from other followers. Truaxe then quickly deleted the picture and offered the original commenter $20,000 worth of Deciem products…

April 5: Truaxe Responds to Trump Comparisons

Truaxe posted a screenshot of a Sunday Times Magazine profile that compared him to Donald Trump. In his caption he defends the president and asks his followers to respect Trump in the same way that they would respect their family. It’s not clear why Truaxe chose to start defending the president at this time, especially given that the article he’s referring to was published back in 2016.

April 5: Truaxe Diverts Blame in Firing Accusations

Truaxe posts another media screenshot to his page emphasizing that he is not the one who decides who gets fired. Instead, he directly calls out his Human Resources Director for making the decision. He then denies reports that he had fired his whole U.S. team, saying only two people were let go. His hands-off response to these lay-offs are especially interesting given his previous reaction to Kilner’s firing.

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Hi @nicolalkilner (??). I saw your beautiful soul the first time you walked into the otherwise-corporate lobby of @bootsuk in peaceful Nottingham. I have loved this same beautiful soul until this very moment—because, when you had every chance to share negative energy with @elleusa/@elleuk, you instead chose to give respect to the beauty of what we had shared. Nicola, it’s I, Brandon. Please, please—respect our history and tell ELLE that our goodbye had nothing to do with @drtijionesho. You know that @smjr2000 committed his life since he was 15 years old to help educate the world about HIV. He joined me at DECIEM a year before you did when we had so little money and were struggling to find means to spend on marketing our first products in the UK, because we both knew that such effort would make DECIEM an initial success and would also allow Boots to recognize what an incredible buyer you were at such a young age. When we met at @timleach9’s cozy flat in London in February this year, I offered you kindness and forgiveness for having had forgotten our trust. On this beautiful occasion, you told me that Shamin had told our team that I had psychosis. On the next day, I called you and told you that I would fire Shamin if you were certain that he did indeed cloud our team’s judgement of me—and, yet again, you betrayed the love Shamin has shown all of us at DECIEM from a time before you had joined us—all the while knowing that Shamin would never mean to hurt me, you, our team or our world. Your absence today hurts me, but I cannot invite you back into a loving family whose hard-working, brother-like Shamin you betrayed. I can forgive you for telling ELLE incorrectly that I “stripped” you from your title to be a “coworker” while you and I know that it was your loving decision—but I can never forgive myself if I ever forgive what you did to Shamin. I hugged your beautiful mom in Nottingham last month. You and I both love her—like we love each other. ?? -Brandon

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April 8: Truaxe Responds to a Recent Interview with Kilner

In yet another media screenshot (where are the products?!) Truaxe addresses a recent interview between Kilner and ELLE in which she told the magazine,”I truly believe Brandon has good reasons for everything he does.” Truaxe’s emotional response to the article was pretty personal and it seemed out-of-place to casually share it on Intagram, “Nicola, it’s I, Brandon. Please, please–respect our history.” Truaxe also repeatedly talks about Kilner’s betrayal and how she can never be forgiven for some of her actions. “I hugged your beautiful mom in Nottingham last month,” he tacks on at the end. Is all this really appropriate for a company page?

April 10: Truaxe and Kilner Bury the Hatchet?

If there’s one thing Truaxe loves, it’s emojis… and screenshots. He combines both in this amicable exchange between himself and Kilner.

April 25: Truaxe Urges Followers to Call 911

In the most disturbing incident to date, Truaxe posted a now-deleted video to Instagram urging his followers to call 911. He tagged the location of the video as a small airport and there appears to be an issue with his baggage. In the background, a man referred to as Jonathan can be heard saying, “I’m trying to help you, Brandon. You need to calm down. You’ll end up getting killed.” Truaxe, looking directly into the camera, responds, “This is abuse. Please tell them I was getting sued and this is going to go on the Deciem Instagram account in exactly one minute.” In a second deleted video he leaves comments under the post continuing to ask his followers to call 911. In his urgency, he also manages to include tree and camel emojis. He adds, “They have my luggage” and “Call police.”

April 25: Don’t Burn After Reading?

After a pretty terrifying string of posts, Truaxe posts another video later in the day. Still in the same outfit, he smiles widely at the camera and teases some sort of new product. “Don’t burn after reading,” he says and captions the post with an emoji sticking out its tongue. There is literally no explanation or even mention of the previous posts, a choice with led confused followers to become frustrated. “Is this some elaborate performance art? Like, what the fuck,” said one Reddit user in response to the videos. Another commented about Truaxe’s lack of respect for the police, “Why in God’s name does he think it’s ok to clog up the system with 100’s if not 1000’s of his followers calling the police?”

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April 26: Truaxe Goes on a Rant

Following the baffling events of the day before, Truaxe returns to Instagram to rant about the criticism he’s received, “I’m just really enjoying reading all the idiots that write on Instagram and all the sloppy journalists that can’t even afford their phone bills who are saying that I’ve got mental health issues.” He then threatens to sue all of the “vultures.”

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April 27: The End of the Road?

Racked gained access to a series of emails Truaxe sent to all of his Deciem employees, attorneys and to Leonard Lauder and Estée Lauder executives. In them he writes, “I’m done with DECIEM and EVERYTHING. No need to discuss.” He also posts a video to Instagram telling his followers he loves them and that he is going home.

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April 28: … Or Not?

In a post the next day, Truaxe walks around New York City and hurriedly mentions some new products he has coming out. It seems that rumours of him leaving weren’t true after all? He says one of the products is a, “quote on quote bleaching cream.” This references the incident in which Truaxe was accused of racism a few months back. When he talks about it, his eyes go wide and it seems like he’s joking around. It’s a move that seems pretty immature and insensitive. He also spends time talking about Trump Tower.

May 1: Burn After Reading Explained?

In a new video, Truaxe wanders around his hotel room talking a mile a minute. “I don’t support Trump, or whatever, maybe I do,” he says at one point. In a whispery voice he goes up to a wall and says, “Something’s behind this room. I’m going to figure it out with a shot of this pill they gave me… I don’t know, they keep restocking my mini bar.” Then he’s suddenly talking about a movie and hysterically laughing. It seems to have something to do with his Burn After Reading post. It’s all very confusing.

May 23: Problems Beneath the Surface?

In this quick video Truaxe alerts followers that he’s found some “really bad wrongdoings” from some of Deciem’s shareholders. He doesn’t elaborate further but says, “It’s a serious matter. This is not games.”

May 25: Get Your Product Info Elsewhere

With followers continually asking for more product information on the Deciem Instagram page, Truaxe posts a response making it clear that the Deciem page does have info but to ideally go to other sources. “It’s better to find it on other channels, because if you read it here, you probably won’t trust it as much,” he says. Interesting marketing tactic…

May 26: “I’m Not on Drugs”

In a quick post, in which Truaxe professes his love for Richard Branson, he clarifies in his caption, “I’m not on ‘drugs’ or ‘mentally’-incapacitated.”

May 28: Truaxe Calls out a Mystery Competitor 

In a post dedicated to Deciem’s new lab in Toronto, Truaxe segways into some sort of weird hypothetical, “Imagine how comical it’d seem if you were a competitor wasting time with a bunch of fake accounts here “bashing” us for no valid reason at all.” We have to wonder which skincare competitor he’s referring to. Who’s out to get him? Where’s the proof? Why post it on this picture? So many questions!

July 3: Kilner Reinstated as Co-CEO

After a month of Instagram calm and a feed full of products, Deciem was back in the news again. This time, however, it was for the announcement of Nicola Kilner’s return. 2018 has been a pretty wild ride for Deciem so far and the year is far from over, but Kilner’s return seems to be a positive step forwards. Even so, speculation still surrounds the Abnormal Beauty Company. From the negative Glassdoor Reviews to the collection of deleted Instagram posts, customers aren’t 100% sure what to believe or think about Deciem. One thing that’s never been in question is the quality of the products, which is perhaps why customers are so involved in all the controversy. At the end of the day, when the head of a company takes over its social media and uses it as their own personal account, there’s almost always going to be drama. And it doesn’t seem like Truaxe is ready to give up the reigns any time soon.

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Without filters. A revolution is coming. Every one of you who has been laughing aT me will with certainty face criminal prosecution. Estée Lauder Companies Inc. has been the biggest stock promotion. Richard Duntas, Bernard Ass (LVMH), Marica “Tracy” (Bliss, Remedè, Soaper Due Per Shoe), Hyatt (Grand Hyatt, Andaz, er al), Marriott (St. Regis, W, Marriot, et al), So many porn “studios”, nearly all @deciem employees, most of “Hollywood”, Gill Sinclair, India Knight, Caroline Hirons, India Knight, RBC, BMO, Boots, KKR, most of the Lauder family, Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Karim Kanji, Antonio Tadrisi, DF Mc, LVMH, Dia Fooley, Michael Davidson, Hanif, Zark Fatah, Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, etc), H&M, $100 monkey, Too Faced (founders too), TSG, Alshaya, Amanresorts, Erwin Zecha, Oliver Zecha, Steven R Riddle, the Coc and Corcky managers, PRIDE organizers, IT Cosmetics, Nicola L ReadingTons, all of Dishoom, All of Delaunay, David Yurman, Tom Ford, Tim Cooke. McKesson, Rexall, Jamin Asaria, David Jackson, York Heritage and others — sentencing doesn’t begin with any point but sentences like this one do. Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Michael Less, Stephen Spellberg e.T., AON are also included with certainty. ARGO stood for “Ali Roshan GO”. You idiots. Father, please please be safe if you can for the next few hours. I love you all. -Brandon (RIYADH, please be EXTREMELY CAREFUL in the next few hours). Aurora (TSX) : you are finished. Michael Basler, Gordon Wilde, David Trinder, Eric Jacobs, Allan Gerlings, Dalton Pharma SS, Michael OH CON ELLE, Charm IS T A 007, Robert Jones, Cascade, Prince Al Walid, The White Company, Obagi (brand and doctor), Freedom Health, ESHO-isT, Alexandru Serban and baggage, Apotex: Goodbye also. Peace is coming. ?? ?. It’s clear now. @esteelaudercompanies @richardbranson @realdonaldtrump @gowlingwlg_ca @zuck @musicianjessecook, et. al.

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October 8: Deciem’s Doors are Shuttered and Oh, Apparently a Revolution is Coming…

This is it. The Instagram video that’s signalled the end of Deciem. The company’s customers were sent into a frenzy after Truaxe capped off a year’s worth of utterly confusing behaviour with yet another minute long monologue filmed in the back of a moving car in which he states that almost everyone at Deciem “has been involved in a major criminal activity, which includes financial crimes” and that he would be shutting down all operations until further notice. Many of the company’s New York stores were closed on the same day and its website indicated that ten locations in Canada and four locations in the U.K. were shuttered as well.

October 11: Minority Stakeholder Estée Lauder Sues Truaxe Right Out of Deciem 

After three days of chaos and and speculation Truaxe posted another update on Instagram. This time it’s screenshots of a legal notice sent by Mark Gelowitz, a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Toronto, on behalf of the Estée Lauder Companies, which own a minority stake in Deciem. The notice addresses the company’s alleged intentions to sue Truaxe in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and summons him to a Toronto court house this morning. It also seeks to remove Truaxe from Deciem’s Board of Directors and looks to appoint Nicola Kilner (Deciem’s co-CEO) as the sole interim CEO of Deciem. In addition, Estée Lauder asks that Truaxe be prohibited from employing or terminating any Deciem staff, communicating with employees, suppliers, or business partners, and issuing statements on its social media accounts. However, if Truaxe’s most recent post is to be believed, he’s currently in Amsterdam accusing a Hilton DoubleTree hotel chain of placing a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s outside his suite.

October 12: A Toronto judge removes Brandon Truaxe as Deciem’s CEO
Only one day after the Estée Lauder Companies applied for an injunction to remove Brandon Truaxe as Deciem’s CEO, the Ontario Superior Court has officially barred Truaxe from any involvement in operations of the company he founded five years ago. Co-chief executive Nicola Kilner will serve as interim CEO.

October 20: Brandon Truaxe sends threatening emails to Estée Lauder execs, who, in response, have been granted a restraining order

November 2018: The company has its biggest month in sales, earning 27.3 million Canadian dollars

December 13: Deciem announces they’re relaunching at Sephora

The brand says it will re-enter the retailer in January 2019 and that it has 50 new products in development including a baby line that will have five ingredients or less in each product.

January 21, 2019: Brandon Truaxe has died

On Monday morning, Deciem’s CEO Nicola Kilner circulated an e-mail to all staff confirming Truaxe’s death which contained the following message.

I can’t believe I am typing these words. Brandon has passed away over the weekend. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling.

All offices, warehouses, factories and stores please close today and take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.

We are all in disbelief and shock but I will be in touch again very soon.

I love you all incredibly much, as did he.

The weekend prior to the announcement, Truaxe had posted a number of strange videos to his personal social media account in which he describes himself drinking tequila and annuncing the address of his Toronto penthouse. The cause of his death has not yet been confirmed. We will update this post when more information becomes available.

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