This year I had the opportunity to attend every hairstylist’s dream: Aveda Congress. Though I wasn’t sure what I was in for, Aveda Congress turned out to be a delight for all the senses. A major hair show with over 3,500 attendees, Congress happens once every two years in Minneapolis, where Aveda headquarters reside. Because there’s not a lot about it online, I arrived with open minded anticipation of what the weekend might bring.
After two days of continuous presentations, education, shows, and demos, I was fully immersed in Aveda culture for the first time ever. We saw everything from textured and permed airy hairstyles from Tippi Shorter and Allen Ruiz, precision futuristic cuts from Ricardo Dinis, bold innovative hair color from Ian Michael Black, fashion week contemporary styling from Jon Reyman, and a shocking finale presentation from Antoinette Beenders, among countless other equally inspiring presenters. But it wasn’t so much the talent that spoke to me as much as it was the culture and embodiment of the brand as a whole.
Though I had known Aveda was known for it’s natural and holistic properties, these days those words can seem more like buzzwords than anything of value. It wasn’t until after attending Congress that I learned that Aveda encompasses so much more. With a unique commitment for preserving the environment, clean water, and indigenous cultures, Aveda brings something rare to a major hair care brand- a big business with a heart.
Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher started the company in 1978 in an effort to create a global plant-based cosmetic company ushering new consciousness into the world of beauty. Though the company was eventually sold to Estee Lauder and Horst has since passed, his spirit lives on in the company. As the first Congress since his passing, SPIRIT was the theme of the event. After a relaxing sound bath ceremony and meditation which started the weekend, global brand president Dominique Conseil greeted us with a warm welcoming in Horst’s memory.
In between the artistic presentations, theatrical performances, and inspirational demos, the show was interspersed with a strong message: that doing good is just as important as looking good. Salons and stylists were praised for raising money for charities (did you know Aveda as a whole has raised 44 million for charity in just 2 years?!), as well the importance of taking care of oneself. The Aveda Earth Fund is part of their mission to give back to society and is an example of their longstanding commitment to social and environmental leadership and responsibility. This fund allows them to partner with nonprofit organizations focused on caring for the earth and protecting biodiversity.
Aveda’s passion stems from its belief that “there is no responsible alternative to doing business other than through the pursuit of environmental sustainability.” It is in this that they have created a partnership with the Audubon society, whose passion stems from its mission “to protect birds and their habitat for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biodiversity.” During a lunch break, the Audubon society president gave a moving speech about how touched he has been to partner with Aveda as models walked around the room wearing avante-garde clothing made from recycled Aveda materials (and designed by fashion students!).
While my weekend immersed in Aveda allowed me to feel a part of something bigger, I didn’t let that influence my critical perspective on hair care. I tested and played with Aveda products all weekend and was swept up in aromatherapy bliss. The scents are handcrafted by a perfumer with essential oils that balance the body as a whole. Every product, from skincare to haircare, is carefully crafted to work in tandem with a health and wellness regime. My newfound favorites? The thickening serum and dry shampoo, [but more on that later!].
All in all, I’ve been won over by this line that asks us to broaden our narrow definition of beauty. Whether you’re a hairstylist or consumer, know that you can feel a little less guilty splurging on haircare when you know your dollars are going to a kind and ethical place.