Deciem is Getting Sued by Minority Stakeholder Estée Lauder

Over the last year Deciem has built up something of a cult following and the Toronto-based company has exploded globally, opening up stores in major cities like New York, London and Amsterdam. They’re most known for their super affordable skincare

Over the last year Deciem has built up something of a cult following and the Toronto-based company has exploded globally, opening up stores in major cities like New York, London and Amsterdam. They’re most known for their super affordable skincare line, The Ordinary. But they’re also known for their eccentric founder and CEO, Brandon Truaxe. This year, Truaxe decided to single-handedly take over Deciem’s social media accounts and the events that followed ranged from entertaining to straight up bizarre. The past six months have been filled with drama and we’re here to take you through every bit of it. From public firings to posting pictures of trash, check out Truaxe’s social media journey 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.

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Hi :-) I had the best time yesterday posting about my day. Many of you love what I did. But a few of you disliked it, criticized it and even unfollowed us. I won't argue with you. I'll listen to you and build a social content management team. We don't have such a team because our social content has always been my doing but it was too curated for no reason until recently. While Mira and our amazing creative team work together to hire this social content team, I'll be in Kenya and Namibia to evaluate the best way to donate $150K to hungry children as promised in our Vitamin C post a couple of weeks ago. I'm also donating $50K of my personal savings for this cause. Random charities aren't the right way to donate but I'll find the right way to donate for us. Meanwhile, our lovely other Brandon will be here with you on social answering your questions and sharing good energy like always. I love you and I'll speak to you soon. I can't wait to meet some of you at our stores starting with Covent Garden. And then I'll go back to Morocco to find the beautiful man who gave me the soap so he can help me share the soap with you. And this soap will be very special because we will donate all of our gross profits from its sales to create good jobs for good people in beautiful Morocco. We are already successful and don't need to profit at all from a peaceful soap. ❤️🐪

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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 i

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