Trading Fame for Love. The Salon58 AwakenGrace Experience.

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Once again the crème le crème of Cape Town society gathered at Jackie Burger’s Salon 58 housed in the PJ Olivier Art Centre to celebrate the power of living in the now. Typically, the absolutely gorgeous weather of Stellenbosch matched both the mood and energy that surrounded the initiates of Salon 58 as they gathered in the quaint courtyard sipping on Graham Beck Brut Rosé and Beaumont Wine’s Pinotage.

“Being mindful, being kind and a deep appreciation of the beauty in even the most ordinary things, that’s what living with grace means to me,” said Jackie of this salon’s theme having drawn from her own inspirational journey that sprung from a growing desire to find balance and perspective in her own life. “We live in a progressively desensitised world where we are observers rather than participants. I, too, fell into a rut chasing the next big thing instead of living in the now and allowing myself to give and receive with grace.”

No truer words could have been spoken in this day and age when we seem to be constantly chasing emails, likes on our Instagram or twitter accounts and agonising over why no one thought that our latest Facebook status was witty or not. We are constantly looking at ways to connect ourselves with strangers whose opinions seem to be more important and relevant than our own ‘voice’. Jackie continued further explaining that the word ‘surrender’ comes to mind: to surrender to and embrace a more conscious way of living; allow ourselves to fuel our senses with the beauty of our surroundings and find solace and inspiration in our unique sense of self.

As over a hundred people gathered into the ‘temple’, the conversation session centred on the essence of mindful living and explored the concept of exploration using fashion and food (uhm, hallow probably two of my favourite pastimes!). Together with Dr. Yvette de Villiers, the consideration the need and importance of living with grace, which seemed so relevant in this day and age. “By growing our awareness of the effect our behaviour has on our environment, a conscious evolution of mindfulness takes place. We awaken a sense of grace within ourselves when consciously choosing to react to situations of stress with kindliness, and gratitude” explained Yvette to the guests who from the minute they arrived were treated to an immersive experience.

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As in the tradition of Salon 58, and for those ‘not in the know’, it’s a gathering of the best in the business with its perfect setting for the relaxed, stylish event that Burger described as “a gathering of friends”. “I have been planning this day for three years,” she explained at the first soirée held last year in February. “As everyone knows, I am an admirer of Coco Chanel, not just for her fashion but because she was a woman who was not afraid to take risks. Salon 58 is the expression of one of my dreams, to create ‘some place of magic’, as she once said, where we can kick off our shoes and connect while enjoying one of life’s ultimate pleasures, that of good company.”

And the company does not get any better than Alwijn Burger aka TheBlomBoy who together with Goeters beautifully conceptualised the immersive experience that the guests ‘surrendered’ themselves to on the day. The white room showcased a series of mood boards created by each of the collaborators to provide snapshots of their inspiration, memories and points of views whilst an installation by artist and photographer Jeandri Streicher paid homage to the strength, wisdom and beauty of women. This celebration seemed apt as August is Women’s Month in South Africa. The botanical scented beauty of Wild Olive African Artisan Apothecary products added a clever and unique sensory layer to the ambience of the setting.

As I mentioned earlier, food is a self-indulging passion of mine so when Jonny Hamman and Marius Uys of Slippery Spoon Kitchen partnered with former public relations client WoolworthsFood to create a series of simple, elegant and refined taste sensations the day couldn’t get any better (although I was wrong about that one too!). “We love serving food that makes you think. Food is life and every meal you have, whether simple or not so simple, should be a beautiful memory” explained Johnny afterwards. “Simple food and dishes with one or two flavours are the way forward. We were not designed to enjoy 15 different flavours in one meal. Simplicity and quality are what matters.” As always, coming to Salon58 makes sense of what I’ve been feeling instinctively and in line with Det nye nordiske køkken which I was taught to value as a child.

But this wouldn’t be a Jackie Burger soirée without fashion and in particularly her trade mark signature piece: the white shirt. The white shirt is considered one of the simplest, most stylish fashion item and Burger, who owns quite a few herself, worked with Jenny le Roux of Habits (our neighbour in Claremont) to illustrate its style possibilities. “It represents possibility, simplicity and creativity – a blank canvass to showcase one’s personal style. It is truly times,” explained Jackie as her hands fluttered from the many that hung on rails. Her beliefs were reinforced by Le Roux, who shared the design philosophy intrinsic to a white shirt before presenting her collection consisting of classic cuts with contemporary details.

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As is always part of the awaken experience, Juanita Kotze (The Librarian) created a conceptual performance piece allowing each of the cast of women featured to explore her state of grace personified by a poem, a phrase or quote. The powerful voices of Catriona Andrew, Megan Kruger, Erica Wessels, Trude Gunther, Vicky Davis Retha Erichsen and Kim Cloete delivered a ‘goose flesh’ moment as they soared up into the vaulting and reverberated back down causing a sense of meditation and reflection. I found myself reflective on a quote by Roman Payne ““You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” It’s a manifesto that has been reinforced by the AwakenGrace experience.

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Though I never partook in the workshops by hairstylist Dawid Kriel of the Institute Aethetic who showcased the return of the curl and hair colours that transcend seasons and trends whether ice-cool blonde, platinum or grey, he illustrated the why-to and how-to of wearing your style with confidence along with MAC Cosmetics team who proved that all women can wear red lipstick and that, like finding the right share of grey for your hair, it’s just a matter of finding the right share of red for your lips.

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As guests reluctantly started to break away from the groups of friends, both old and new and head towards their cars to head home inspired and reflective, I couldn’t help but notice Jackie standing alone on the stairs waving her goodbyes. Rather like a High Priestess of Taste instead of being the doyenne of South African fashion that she is, she had inspired, delighted and reaffirmed our own ‘grace’ and strength we each have within.

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La Reine est Morte — Vive La Reine