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The Art of Handcrafting Wigs

Nikia Londy

When you think of artisan goods, you probably don’t think about hair extensions or wigs, but Nikia Londy, hairstylist extraordinaire and owner of Intriguing Hair in Boston, is an artist. She and her small team sew wigs and hair extensions by hand from ethically sourced and fair-trade human hair, providing clients with high-quality, carefully crafted hairpieces. And the story behind her business is beautiful.

When Nikia was a child, she often styled her great aunt’s wigs, which ignited her passion for hair artistry and led her to pursue a cosmetology career. “Hair was always something I’ve been doing, even if I go back into my childhood and teenage years, trying to make wigs, trying to color hairpieces and adding hair to my own hair. So that led me to do advanced training later.”

During her schooling, Nikia apprenticed at a high-end hair augmentation studio in an affluent town in Massachusetts. There, she learned about hair augmentation for medical hair loss and fell deeper in love with the art of creating extensions and wigs.

Additionally, Nikia had a side hustle selling premium hair extensions to local salons and online. Eventually, a lightbulb went off. “When I was apprenticing, most clients were wealthy Caucasian women. I didn’t see a hair augmentation space for black women in the market. So, I wanted to create that space,” she said. Nikia opened Intriguing Hair in 2015.

The business was off to a great start, with clients raving about the salon’s work and telling their friends. And a couple of years later, something unexpected happened. Women from all ethnicities with medical hair loss and transgender women began making appointments at Intriguing Hair. “They had the same pain points as black women. They wanted a private setting—they wanted a higher quality product. That opened my eyes to more—our brand is much more. It’s for more people than just the African American communities.”

Nikia has dreams for Intriguing Hair. She wants Intriguing Hair to be like Drybar, a chain of salons solely dedicated to blowouts. “When you think blowouts, you think Drybar. They’re one-in-one. So that’s what I want when people think of hair extensions and wigs. I want Intriguing Hair to be the first thing that comes to their minds. So that is what I strive for—to go from a small business to a huge brand.”

Tell us about your hair extensions side hustle.

I had already been wearing hair extensions, but when I decided to work for myself and start Intriguing Hair, it began with me selling hair extensions out of the trunk of my car. I would go to all the stylists and salon owners I know, and I would tell them, ‘I’ll come to you when you have a customer at whatever time. I could be there immediately,’ and I would just travel all throughout Massachusetts. That’s how I built up my brand name and stuff like that.

How did you learn the skills to make wigs?

My great-aunt and my godmother were into sewing. And that was my first interaction with figuring out needle and thread and how to make that work. I think I made my first outfit when I was 10, so it was around nine or 10 that I started learning how to sew. And the same principles apply to hair. We take the person’s custom measurements, and we make the wig by hand to fit their head.

Some people do make them with sewing machines. My issue with doing the machine way is that it never is going to fit the person’s head exactly. Because you have to take it off of the head block. That’s why I prefer handmaking. I can get an exact measurement, and it’s not moving it from the head block to the sewing machine and back and forth, back and forth, and it kind of never fits exactly right. So, I prefer hand stitching.

When did you decide you wanted your own business? What are some challenges you faced?

Well, interestingly, I think it’s always been me. I actually started my first business at 17. I would go to New York, and I would buy stuff and then sell them online. So those same principles applied. But I don’t think for a long time, honestly, I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t think I was worthy of having my own business. I thought it was so hard. Back then, I didn’t think that it was going to be easy to do. Now I think it’s so much easier, and I think social media makes it as people are always giving tips and stuff like that.

But back then, I felt like it was very difficult, and there weren’t too many people that I could look at and say they looked like me. Now I see it all the time on Instagram; people have wig companies and things like that. But when I was growing up, it really wasn’t so commonplace.

What’s a piece of advice that you wish someone had given you when you first started your business?

One thing that I did that I would tell anyone never to do, and I didn’t know until after I started my business. I actually had a 401K plan, and I cashed it out just to get money upfront to start the business. I just told someone this advice recently, and I think this is important. Another piece of business advice is that whatever you think the price is, times it by three because you have to think about the unexpected costs or the costs that you’re not even familiar with.

What resources were you able to access in Massachusetts when starting your business?

I was doing a lot of different programs, and I will say in Massachusetts, there are so many programs for someone that wants to start a business. I went to Roxbury Innovation Center, and I did a pre-accelerator program. Then I went to Fairmont Innovation Lab, and it helped with public speaking and pitching.

And then, I was part of this program with startup mentors, which is now called Women of Color Entrepreneurs. And they basically help women owners with their business and help them. They give you a mentor, et cetera. I’ve done a lot. I’ve worked with Fearless Fund, and I’ve done work with BeautyUnited. I’m always trying to improve upon what I have. And there’s always help out there if you’re not sure of what things you need to do.

What motivates you to keep going with your business?

I love what I do. It brings me tremendous joy. I’m thankful every day that I get to do what I love. I’m grateful that I have two amazing employees that have been working with me since almost the beginning of when I started my business. I get to work with people I love; not everybody gets to do that. It’s a family unit. Even when there’s so much work, it’s like it’s not work because we’re like a family unit, and we get to make a positive impact on the lives of women who need our product the most.

Every day I get letters. I just opened a letter, and it was a super-emotional card. We make people feel confident and beautiful inside. I have really three core customer bases. African American women. Our work is so impactful to them because they want to wear their hair natural, but it’s not accepted in the workplace. We also help women who have medical hair loss, and they might feel uncomfortable about how they look. They just want to go back to how it was when they did have hair. We also have clients that are transgender, and they come as their other self, and they need help to become this new person. Going on that journey with them is what gets me to today. Seeing the transformation—90 percent of the time, there’s someone smiling, there’s someone hugging me, there’s someone crying.

What does offering a high-quality product mean to you?

There are so many different people that sell hair extensions or are wig makers. I’m always amazed by the level of excellence that Intriguing Hair provides. Sometimes I do trade shows and see multi-million-dollar companies, and then I look at their product, and I’m surprised that they’re selling it to people for three times the amount we sell our product for. It just makes me know that what we’re doing is what needs to be done. Sometimes, you can have self-doubt, especially when things slowed down during the pandemic. But when you are literally doing the best of your ability, having a top-quality product, handcrafting at the highest level of detail—we will always be in business.

You can learn more about Intriguing Hair at intriguinghair.com.

Editor’s Note: All photos provided courtesy of Intriguing Hair.


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