Wigs Fit for a Vogue Cover. Or a 7-Hour Flight.


In a lofty office in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Shani Lechan gives her clients the hair of their dreams. It usually takes only a couple of weeks.

In one room she offers initial consultations, taking their measurements and learning about their preferences. A few months later, they’ll visit a second room, where Ms. Lechan will makes sure everything is the perfect fit.

The Shani Wigs office is painted cream with a concretelike finish, the molding is elegant, the windows are floor-to-ceiling and there is a marble fireplace in the waiting room. Not far away, a tufted pink space cloud of a sofa provides a place for visitors to sit as they wait for an audience with the wig maker.

In this minimalist, Kardashianesque space, Ms. Lechan, 31, greets customers from around the world: Los Angeles, Florida, India, Turkey, South Williamsburg. Some are Orthodox Jewish women; others are cancer patients; at least one is an international supermodel (that would be Naomi Campbell). All of the women come for the same thing: an undetectable, sumptuous human hair wig. The price tag can range from $5,000 to $18,000.

Wigs are everywhere. To the untrained eye, they might not seem to be as popular as they were in the 1960s or ’70s, when they were worn by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Cher and Diana Ross. But today, many wigs and toppers go undetected on red carpets, at galas, in movies and on magazine covers — provided, of course, that they’re good enough.

Ms. Lechan’s goal is the same with every wig: to make a custom creation indistinguishable from her client’s natural hair. It doesn’t matter whether that client is Ms. Campbell, who found herself in Ms. Lechan’s consultation chair last year requesting 30-plus inches of long, straight, natural black hair for a Vogue cover shoot, or an Orthodox woman choosing to cover her natural hair to adhere to religious customs, as Ms. Lechan herself does.

“I was introduced to wigs at a very young age,” said Ms. Lechan, who was born to Orthodox Jewish parents in Paris, where she grew up on the Right Bank. “My mom wore wigs, people around me wore wigs, so it was nothing crazy for me.”

About 10 years ago, she went to a wig store to try on wigs with a friend. They did not seem appealing to her. Ms. Lechan knew that she would eventually be married and have to wear a wig. When that time came, she said, she did not want it to look bad.

“I thought, If this is going to happen to me, I don’t want to look like that,” Ms. Lechan said. “I wanted to learn how to make wigs.”

While studying business administration at Reichman University in Israel, she signed up for a wig-making class on the side. Ms. Lechan began to earn pocket money by making and styling wigs for her friends, using a sewing machine that belonged to her father, a garment maker, to sew tracks of hair onto wig caps.

“I looked at my best friend, who was married at the time, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to make you a wig, your wig is not good,’” Ms. Lechan said. “Then my mom wanted a wig, and then her friend wanted a wig, and this whole thing started. As soon as I was in it, I had the vision and the ambition to really make it a business.”

In 2016, after she was married at 23, she moved from Paris to Brooklyn. She began to pursue her dream by going door to door in the Orthodox community offering her wig services. Sometimes, she traveled an hour’s drive outside Brooklyn to Jewish communities in Lakewood, N.J. She worked nonstop for years doing wig repairs and cutting and styling wigs. She saved her money — her husband, Dov Narboni, advises her on investing and helped her secure loans — and in 2019, she opened her first storefront location in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

When I make a wig and the wig comes out beautiful and the client is happy, this makes my day — like, that’s it,” Ms. Lechan said, her dark eyes widening. “It’s a real transformation and hair is very powerful.”

It is an evolution in wigs that Rachel Licht, 35, is happy to have found. An Orthodox Jew, Ms. Licht began wearing wigs when she was married at 19.

“It’s not easy — you don’t feel like yourself,” Ms. Licht, who owns a catering business in Westchester County, N.Y., said in a phone interview. “Even though, you know, there are wigs that kind of look like your hair and do a good job and whatever. I’ve always done it, but it’s been hard. It’s been a challenge.”

Now a mother to four boys, Ms. Licht was desperate to feel comfortable in her wig.

“I really, really wanted to feel like myself,” Ms. Licht said. She seems to have found what she was looking for in Ms. Lechan’s wigs. “This is next level,” she said. “This is special. This is unique. This is different.”

When crafting her wigs, Ms. Lechan imitates the placement of natural baby hairs — the wispy hairs normally found at the hairline. During wig pickup, she places the wig on the client’s head and begins to place or pluck hairs at the front of the wig with tweezers or a needle. She then cuts the lace around the forehead of the wig to match the client’s natural hairline. Part of the magic of the unit is in its customization, something hard to find in a store-bought, one-size-fits-all wig.

Ms. Licht flew across the country recently with two of her young sons and she wore her wig for the entirety of her nearly seven-hour flight, she said.

“I didn’t even rip it off right when I got home,” Ms. Licht said with a laugh.

It is that comfort that has Owen Gould, a celebrity hair stylist who works with Kirsten Dunst, Julianne Moore and the model Barbara Palvin, repeatedly working with Ms. Lechan. Mr. Gould found Ms. Lechan’s work on Instagram and reached out.

“I never have to worry about it looking wiggy,” Mr. Gould said on a phone call from Los Angeles. “The running theme is that everyone who I put them on is like, ‘Wow, it sort of doesn’t look like a wig.’”

That detail is the work of a three-woman team. In a room on the opposite side of the consultation area, they sit at tables with sewing machines, carefully stitching tracks onto wig caps. Ms. Lechan hopes to add a fourth employee before the end of the year, she said.

On Instagram, Ms. Lechan posts a series of videos in which she tries to decipher which celebrities are wearing wigs at red carpets or movie premieres. She thinks it’s important to shatter the stigma that many women who wear wigs feel. Whether for religious reasons or medical reasons or simply to feel fabulous, wigs are personal.

“If you’re a person that’s wearing a wig and you don’t have a choice but to wear a wig, but you know celebrities are doing it too and they’re proud of it, that’s amazing,” Ms. Lechan said. “That gives such a different message.”

“You feel like you’re as beautiful as them,” she added.



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