Midtown Wig Designer Snips Prices for Medical Patients
MIDTOWN — He's giving more bangs for fewer bucks.
George Mayer, who's sold hair-pieces to the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Cher, is snipping $150 off the price of a wig for any woman buying one for a medical condition.
"Unfortunately, that's a big part of the business," Mayer said, sitting in a showroom ringed with wig-wearing mannequins. "Hair loss is a traumatic experience. We like to help however we can."
At Mayer's company, Jacquelyn International Fashion Products in Midtown, about half the customers have lost their hair for medical reasons, he said. Conditions range from chemotherapy for cancer treatment and alopecia totalis — a loss of hair over one's entire body — to trichotillomania, a condition in which people compulsively pull out their hair.
The rest of his patrons buy wigs for fashion or as a result of hereditary hair loss, which affects about 30 million American women in the United States, compared to about 50 million men.
Mayer stocks thousands of wigs, and they come in a wide range of prices — from $200 to $400 for one made from synthetic material, to $500 to $3,000 for one made with human hair. A custom-made wig with human hair can cost as much as $5,000.
"It's like when it comes to buying a mink coat or a diamond ring — there's different types, different hair types," explained Mayer, whose company has been in Midtown for more than 40 years. "Not many Europeans are selling their hair now, so it can be more expensive, and the price is going up faster."
Given the prices, Mayer said he reguarly gets calls from nonprofits or individuals seeking donated or steeply discounted wigs. He often obliges, giving wigs away to the American Cancer Society and other groups. The $150 discount, which was introduced this week but does not have an expiration date, was not merely a marketing strategy, but a way to help those in need year-round, he said.
"Sometimes the hair-loss is more traumatic than the actual disease," Mayer said. "It's very difficult to deal with. There's often crying, it's very depressing."
The wigs are designed in his shop on West 37th Street, then made at a factory in China. The work is essentially "crocheting," he said, and a custom order ultimately takes about five to six weeks to complete. Some women even bring in their own hair to be made into a wig.
"It becomes a very personal thing," he said. "Family members donate. It can be very meaningful."