Horst Rechelbacher's New York City memorial service was as eclectic as the Aveda founder himself.
Held March 13 at ABC Carpet & Home, the ceremony opened with a Tibetan singing bowls performance before Deepak Chopra, who led a group of about 100 hairdressers, executives — including Leonard Lauder — and colleagues and confidants in a guided meditation, urging everyone to “invite Horst’s presence into your heart. For just a moment, remember your happiest memories of him.
“Death is not the opposite of life,” Chopra told those gathered. “It is the opposite of birth and a continuation of life.”
Chopra and Rechelbacher had known each other for about 20 years, Chopra said. “We both took our inspiration from the science of ayurveda,” said Chopra. “While I focused on the healing aspects of it, Horst focused on the beauty. But we both drew from the same spirit. He engaged the five senses.”
Both were also poetry lovers, said Chopra, especially Rumi and Lao-Tzu.
Moments ranged from poignant to hilarious. Hairdresser Yves Durif had the room in stitches as he joked about an encounter with Rechelbacher at an Aveda event at The Field Museum in Chicago. “I walked into the museum and I had no idea what Aveda was. I saw all these hairdressers, everyone was in black, everyone was smelling delicious, everyone looked very happy — and not on drugs,” said Durif. “Horst was a pure hairdresser. It was part of his craft, but also he understood the power of the hairdresser. He understood that the hair of a woman or man did not stop at the shoulders. It was the whole body. We touch people so closely and we have so much power. If you use this power well — and Horst did it — then he ended up doing makeup and body treatment and so on and so forth. Fourteen years of shows and classes and a couple of drinks, great dinners, a great vacation. We were always talking about hair. He was interested about hair, what was going on.
“He opened my eyes to see more clearly my profession,” Durif continued, adding “he was a leader, a game changer, a warrior.”
At the other end of the emotional spectrum was celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, a Rechelbacher protégé, who teared up as he described the effect Rechelbacher had in his life. “Not only did he really change my life, but he opened me up to [an idea] that I never thought was possible — that a black kid from Texas would ever have the possibility of being able to change who I am on the inside as well as the outside. Just having the opportunity of being in the presence of Horst, to be surrounded by the people he attracted, did everything for me.” Gibson went to Minneapolis in 1991 to work at what he called “the Horst education center — for those of you who remember” to be a cosmetology instructor. “I didn’t know what that meant. But I knew there was something there that I had to have. I knew that Horst was going to change my life. I started at the school teaching, seeing how important these next generation of hairdressers are, and not just hairdressers. They were the most dynamic, the most incredible, the most powerful people on the planet. Because we had the opportunity to open people’s eyes and I didn’t realize that until I met Horst,” Gibson continued as the tears began rolling as he was talking. “If he were sitting there right now, he would tell me, ‘you’re so sensitive. Stop crying,’” Gibson said as if talking to his hero. “Thank you Horst for everything you did for me. Thank you for everything you did for all of us. I just want to say thank you and I continue to say thank you.”
Speaking before the ceremony, Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. — which purchased Aveda in 1997 — noted that Rechelbacher was “an original. He was outspoken in what he believed in. He believed in it no matter what. I will follow his star anywhere.”
After selling Aveda, Rechelbacher went on to found Intelligent Nutrients, a holistic beauty and lifestyle brand.
Artist Peter Max was brief: “Om shanti, God bless, Horst.”
A rose ceremony was performed in front of a large portrait of Rechelbacher, led by his widow, Kiran Stordalen, and his children, Peter and Nicole. “It was an amazing opportunity to bear witness to Horst.” said Stordalen. “He was an entrepreneur who always felt he could do more, and he died doing what he loved.”
Rechelbacher died Feb. 15 of pancreatic cancer, which he had been battling for two-and-a-half years.
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