For a long time, there was a perception that Black women wore wigs as a last resort when we didn’t know what to do with our hair, or that they were an option usually reserved for older women. However, thanks to years of innovation in the category, this narrative has slowly but surely changed for the better. Now, a new company is on a mission to make wigs less intimidating and more fun, and celebrate the creative freedom they can provide. Waeve, founded by Mary Imevbore, Tiiso McGinty, and Susana Hawken, launched in June after three years in development.
Like many Black women who attended predominantly white institutions, founder Mary Imevbore found it difficult to maintain her hair once she got to college. “Waeve was very much born of personal experience,” she says. “If I had wanted to get braids, I would’ve had to go home in order to get that hairstyle done, so it wasn’t super conducive to my lifestyle.” Installing weaves made her miss having access to her scalp, but she found that a protective style was necessary. A conversation with her mother led her to the world of wigs, which she found doubled as a way to save time and protect her natural hair.
The modern shift in how young Black women view wigs was reflected in the many conversations the Waeve team had with their followers on Instagram even before launch. “We were just talking to people about, like, “Tell me about your experience of buying hair,” [and] we recorded those interviews. We actually made a video [where] we spliced together all these different people,” Imevbore tells Refinery29. "I think, because the people that we pitched to truly had no idea about the industry, it was just so eye-opening for them, this huge market that they didn't know anything about. We spoke to so many people that we could present a compelling case that this is a problem that a lot of people are having.” This dialogue became “Her Hair Stories,” where, Imevbore says, “we spoke to Black women about their hair journeys. It was out of that that we were able to figure out the positioning of our brand.”
When there are so many options to purchase wigs online, why would one be drawn to Waeve? “The reason we started was that we didn’t feel like there was a brand out there that actually cared about the customer,” Imevbore says. “Yes, you can go on AliExpress or Amazon or whatever and buy a wig, but there's no customer service. There's no one to talk to, there's no one to guide you through the process of wearing it. There's no one actually listening to feedback and making adjustments to the product as needed. That's really what sets Waeve apart.”
Waeve’s current drop — that’s what the brand calls its collections, as a wink to the fashion world — gives customers six wigs to choose from, each named after a day of the week (except Sunday). Three wigs are made of synthetic hair and three from human, and they range from $72 to $398. Waeve believes that “synthetic is the future of the space,” and Imevbore says she hopes to help do away with the stigma. “We really have a vision for what we want to create and included in that is innovating in synthetic itself,” she says. “You can't deny that the demand for wigs is growing and you can't just increase the supply.” Plus, Imevbore adds, “Because it’s cheaper, you can get more of them.”
Instead of looking at wigs as something we wear when we have nothing else to do with our hair, Imevbore hopes that Waeve furthers the idea that wigs are a tool for individuality and self-expression, not just necessity. “We really believe in wigs as a great product to save time, save money, [and] express yourself,” she says. “We are working to create the ultimate destination for wigs where, if you want a wig, you know that you can get a really great one from Waeve for a good price and with great customer service.”
Imevbore’s passion for wigs as an instrument to give Black women the freedom to experiment with our looks is clear. “I think wigs are such an incredible tool. [They’re] such an incredible accessory and item and so we really wanted people to be able to come in at different price points,” she says. “We are a company that is by and for Black women… We're very excited to be putting out something that's fun and joyful and Black and just makes us feel happy. We hope that shows and that's transferred over to the customer.”
Response to the brand has been enthusiastic, thanks in large part to the deliberate inclusion of the customer in brainstorming, and Imevbore says this is only the beginning. “We think in five years wigs will be as universal as sneakers and lip gloss, and seen truly as part of your outfit. The same way that you think, ‘What shirt am I putting on? What shoes go with the ‘fit? What wig?’ because it’s fun and cool.” Waeve is here to help further the overall de-stigmatization of wigs — so you can view them, Imevbore says, “as an arsenal in your hair chest.”