Here’s what I saw at Aveda Congress: Models in stilettos and sunglasses riding hoverboards. Stylists cutting hair on skates. An up close and personal view of my scalp, complete with surprising flakiness. A chamber orchestra dressed like woodland elves. An stage full of color-changing of drones hovering in formation, spelling out “vegan” and “Aveda.” Iris van Herpen gowns fluttering down the runway, looking alive as the hairstyles themselves. And a whole lot more.

To say Aveda Congress is a hair show is technically correct; it is a hair show, with all the salon spotlights, cut and color demos, technical workshops and runway shows you’d expect when you hear those words. It’s a four-day celebration of the art of hair, and if you’re part of the Aveda network, it’s a very big deal. The Aveda network comprises about 9,000 spas and salons and 50,000 stylists globally, from Japan to Jacksonville, Des Moines to Denmark, and many of them travel to Aveda’s hometown of Minneapolis for Congress.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked for Aveda in the past, including on Congress itself, so I know how much work goes into an event of this scale and what to expect from the show. While the brand’s mission to “care for the world we live in” was a large part of the messaging, at the heart of it, Congress is a time to focus on hair. There’s something so meditative about simply watching someone do what they’re good at — cutting, coloring, curling — and that’s what happens at Congress.

Aveda Congress isn’t open to the public — it’s a stylist-facing event — but I revisited my former home turf for two days to scope out some of the biggest trends on the main stage and backstage. 

Braids that tell a story

The Aveda Texture Team, led by global artistic director of texture Renée Gadar, showed a moving collection of braids as a tribute to centuries of stories passed down from generation to generation — braids that referenced the resilience and history of Black people. “Braids made it over the water,” Gadar said in the team’s intro video, referencing how the style was a signifier of who you were, where you came from and where you’ve been, and how braids were also used to map escape routes during slavery. “The meaning goes way deeper than the braid itself.”

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