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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Could this be the end of the road for budget skincare brand The Ordinary?

There's trouble brewing on Instagram for Deciem as owner Brandon Truaxe posts shocking video announcement 

There are reports online that the stores have remained closed since the announcement. Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images
There are reports online that the stores have remained closed since the announcement. Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

I first heard about The Ordinary skincare brand by Deciem from make-up artist and YouTuber Wayne Goss in 2014. It was around this time that the brand started to gain traction on the internet, with its line of shockingly cheap yet effective skincare products. And it didn’t just offer your basic moisturisers, either; the not-so Ordinary portfolio included oils, retinoids, serums, acids, a couple of sunscreens and even foundations – things that are generally classified as “skincare investments” and often cost a pretty penny.

The Abnormal Beauty Company, as Deciem popularly calls itself, turned the beauty industry on its head with its mission to make skincare more transparent, and packaged its goods in basic, functional, almost medicinal looking bottles. Founded in 2013 by Brandon Truaxe, Deciem offers a number of sub-brands under its umbrella, including Niod and Hylamide, but The Ordinary has been its most successful line so far. The ever-expanding range is stocked on a number of websites (and often sells out), and has bricks and mortar stores in the United States and United Kingdom. Deciem grew at such a fast rate that Estee Lauder acquired a stake, and currently holds a 28 per cent minority share in the company.

Trouble on Instagram

But things took a turn for the Toronto-based company at the beginning of the year. While its products continue to be stellar, its social media output has been the source of controversy since Truaxe decided to get rid of his social media team and take care of the brand’s online presence himself, in a bid to keep things transparent.

What followed were a number of problematic posts on Instagram that have made fans not only question the ethics of the company, but Truaxe’s mental health. He has used the platform to post negative comments about competitors, as well as break professional ties, fire current employees and threaten ex-colleagues, voice racist comments, express his support of president Donald Trump, and make fun of a homeless man. He has even set fire to his products and threatened to sue “sloppy journalists”. Finally, he posted a video on Instagram to announce that he would be shutting down his company. And all this comes amid accusations of sexism, racism, body shaming and sexual harassment by ex-employees that he has never addressed.

Is this the end?

In a video shot in the back of a car with two men he claims are fellow Deciem employees, Truaxe says he is ceasing all operations until further notice. He claims his employees, barring a few, have all been involved in major criminal activities, including financial crimes, and claims he has been made fun of and called a porn actor and drug dealer.

The video is geotagged to The White House, and has been posted with a caption that includes a list of people (including Stephen Spielberg, Brad Pitt and "Prince Al Walid") and brands (Estee Lauder, Alshaya, LVMH and Marriott) that have been “laughing at him”. He also claimed that “revolution is coming”.

This is not the first time a post by Truaxe has confused followers, but since the video went up, the brand’s stores have remained closed and its website completely shut down. Which begs the questions of whether he is serious this time around, or whether this is all just an elaborate marketing ploy.

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Even though Deciem has been steadily losing followers on social media, people have continued to buy and use its products. Since Truaxe went public with his latest declaration, worried fans have been posting about stocking up before everything sells out, and some have been questioning whether this is, in fact, a marketing trick to try to clear excess stock.

Indeed, when I checked the Cultbeauty website to panic order some of my favourites, they were sold out. The brand also stocks on Beautylish and Asos (both deliver to the UAE), but Beautylish responded to a customer saying that they will no longer be carrying Deciem products once current stock has been sold, as the brand’s founder has discontinued the partnership.

Could this be the first case of social media being used to self-sabotage a young but successful brand that has gained a large and trusting fan base? Can the situation be salvaged? And is it ethical to support a company despite the questionable values of its founders, as long as it suits your pocket?

These questions have been plaguing me since I saw that video. Whether or not this is truly the end remains to be seen, but if not, Truaxe will have to embark on some serious damage control before customers will be able to trust Deciem again.