Celebrating curls at Montreal’s Natural Hair Congress – Montreal Gazette

“I really like taking care of my hair,” said Kassandra Tardif, 20, sitting down for a panel on entrepreneurship at Montreal’s second Natural Hair Congress, Saturday afternoon.

She was in the right place. The event is a celebration of black hair in its natural state, inviting guests to interact with vendors of natural hair products, cosmetics, food, fashion, jewelry and clothing, while offering conferences, panels and other events throughout the weekend.

“I’m in a natural mode,” Tardif continued, “so I know most of the products. I really know InHAIRitance.”

InHAIRitance is a salon owned Abisara Machold, who organized the first Natural Hair Congress as a single-day event in 2015. This year, she expanded it to two days while extending the scope beyond hair to encompass various issues facing the black community.

“It’s about so much more than just hair,” said Machold, who is originally from Austria and has been based in Montreal since 2010. “It’s about how you deal with the challenges of the professional world. How do people see you? (Being taken seriously is) one of my constant challenges as a black woman, young-looking — they see all that crazy hair, and think: ‘She’s bubbly and fun, with her little African hair shop.’ But I have a master’s in communication and political science.”

The goal of the Natural Hair Congress is to create a safe space where people of colour can come together and share ideas, she explained. And hair is a perfect starting point.

“Honestly, for a lot of women who just turned natural, it’s absolutely shocking to be around so many people who have curly hair,” Machold said. “We had a panel on curl diversity earlier today and we had women from Tunisia, Morocco, Iran, Jewish Montreal, Haiti and Nigeria.”

Sisters-in-law Sophia and Janet Murphy were happily answering questions at the booth for their Toronto company Roots to Curls.

“These products are specially made for the needs of natural hair,” Sophia said, noting that they do most of their business online.

“These products were never (in Canada) before; you had to go to the United States. So we started looking for products with natural ingredients and bringing them to the Canadian market.”

Black women are becoming increasingly interested in natural hair, they noted, and they enjoy being part of the change.

“When you transition from relaxed (or straightened) hair to natural hair, you’re embracing this whole new world,” Sophia said. “You’re getting to know your hair.”

“It’s become a movement now,” Janet added, “and it’s getting bigger.”

AT A GLANCE: The Natural Hair Congress continues on Sunday at the Loft Hotel, 314 Sherbrooke St. E. For more information, visit naturalhaircongress.com