The Unethical Truth Behind Hair Extensions

Words: Beth Fuller

 

There’s an increasing ask for transparency in the Fashion industry due to organisations such as Fashion Revolution who brought us the ‘Who made my clothes?’ movement, but, do we know who made the we buy?
Unknown to most, the hair industry has a dark story. The sourcing, production and selling of hair used for hair extensions has been an unethical business since it began. As disenfranchised women are the main victims – having their hair robbed or bought for as little as £2 – there has never been a better time to take a look into improving the status quo.

 

‘disenfranchised women are the main victims – having their hair robbed or bought for as little as £2’

 

Hair extensions and wigs are such intimate products as they’re produced by another human body, hence, it feels odd that they’re also a commodity. Moreover, it’s rare that the hair we buy is 100% human hair. As explained in the eye-opening Refinery 29 documentary, it is typically mixed with plastic and scraps of hair from drains and brushes. This concoction is then sold on by a hair broker and companies alike as ‘remy hair’ (remy hair is considered to be the finest quality of human hair as the cuticles are kept in tact and are not stripped).

To better the shocking disparity between the profit made from hair extensions and the lives of the women that the hair once belonged to is REMY NY. The Vietnam-based hair extensions company functions as a fair-trade source for 100% remy hair. To learn more about this progressive , we sat down with Dan, founder of REMY NY, to hear about his hopes to change the inner workings of the hair industry for the better.

 

 

What was your reason for beginning Remy NY?
I saw an opportunity to help young women in Vietnam who often live in poverty or turn to the sex trade due to a lack of opportunities.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the hair extensions industry and how it typically works?
Most hair companies operate in developing countries as consumers care more about how much they have to pay than who’s being exploited halfway across the world. So a lot of companies in Asia have no choice but to pay pennies on the dollar for hair and use cheap labor to meet consumer demand.

 

What have been some of the effect Remy NY has had on women so far?
We’ve helped a homeless woman move into a small apartment, and her severely rotten teeth finally taken care of. We’ve helped families put food on the table by earning an income just for reaching out to their networks. Overall we’ve helped women better their lives by affording them the ability to buy an investment that will help feed their families for years to come.

 

“We hope that more women who wear hair extensions realise the impact they have on disenfranchised women living in poverty around the world and that by buying , fair trade hair, they can not only help these women but also change the industry.”

 

Have there been any memorable moments in providing such a great source of income for these women?
We’ve touched the lives of many women and their families, but the most memorable ones are when we learn that the money earned goes toward helping their children pay school tuition. Mothers always put their children first, even in developing countries.

What are your hopes for the future of Remy NY?
We hope that more women who wear hair extensions realise the impact they have on disenfranchised women living in poverty around the world and that by buying ethical, fair trade hair, they can not only help these women but also change the industry. As for the future of REMY NY, we hope to see our company helping women living with Alopecia or have undergone chemotherapy feel beautiful again, but also on the runways of NYFW to PFW.

 

 

To find out more about Remy NY, click here.