Address: 2/154-156 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9654 7383
From a conversation with Joel and Abe that has been edited
(Joel) Abe was a pharmacist, and he used to own a chemist shop in East Bentleigh.
After a while, he decided to rent a pharmacy in the city. He opened it on the corner of Bourke and Swanston St and, one day, somebody came to him with a human-hair pony-tail piece.
He put the sample in the window and, funnily enough, it was popular. He received more bits and pieces, they sold really well and – before he knew it – he opened up a showroom. Eventually the showroom became something more than the chemist shop.
Abe saw there was a niche in the market, he moved out of the pharmaceutical industry and into the wig business full time.
Creative has now been going for over 60 years.
At the start, Abe sold human-hair wigs.
If you look at photos from the 1950’s and 60’s, the wigs were designed to give volume and body. Everyone had bouffants and beehives and everything in hair was big. Now, the trade is more versatile. There are so many reasons why someone would wear a wig or hairpiece, and our clip in hairpieces and various applications of our hair extensions are huge.
Customers will often come in and ask for a human-hair wig, but for no particular reason. They might assume that human hair is better, but the truth is, it requires more work and maintenance. A top of the range synthetic wig is significantly cheaper than a human-hair wig, and it will look perfect with minimal care.
Human hair is a blank canvas. From purchase, a customer might take the human-hair wig to a hairdresser who will style and cut it. They might ask for their hair to be wavy, to have dark roots and so on, but it won’t stay. It’s like our own hair. You go outside and – if it’s raining or humid – the form of the wig will change.
It’s in our interest to do the best thing for our customers and show them all of their options.
They always end up with the right wig or hairpiece for them.
(Abe) The wigs have changed tremendously compared to when I first started.
They are bringing out extraordinary styles and colours all the time.
And a lot of our work involves comforting and reassuring customers. We are closely connected to cancer centres, Think Pink – The Living Centre, the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation, the transgender community, dancers, entertainers and all manner of people.
Diane – who is the second generation in the business – also volunteers with the ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ program. It is a worldwide organisation based in Australia, where they do workshops in hospitals for anyone undergoing treatment for cancer. Diane brings a collection of hairpieces, chats with the group and helps them feel more comfortable adjusting to the idea of a wig.
It is a wonderful program, and she has helped thousands of people with her work.
(Abe) I’ve seen everything that you can possibly imagine.
There are wig makers that have been going for hundreds of years but, in terms of selling ready-made wigs, I was the first. The one pony-tail that was given to me potentially changed the course of my life and, over the years, I’ve provided advice about wigs all around the world.
Since our establishment, we have also supported many men with the aid of a toupee/men’s hairpiece. We sell lightweight human hair with natural parting, they are available in all colours – including varying shades of grey – and they are very user friendly.
With all of this, I keep the business running quite smoothly. I’m not pushing for the business to get bigger but, for my daughter Diane and grandson Joel, I think their future is here. We may look old fashioned, but we’re up to date with everything. And, as a family business, we were the Generational recipients of the 2017 Lord Mayor Commendation Award.
(Joel) The commendation was a nice recognition of my grandfather who has shone away from the spotlight.
He really appreciated the honour.
(Abe) The City of Melbourne has changed a lot over the years.
I had plenty of time at the beginning, and I used to go out and watch the construction and evolution of the City.
Shops have gone in and out but, as far as Melbourne is concerned, it is booming. The city has changed for the better. There’s things to do and, growing up, we never had all of the options that we do now. After 6pm, we couldn’t buy a drink. Not that that’s the be all and end all, but the city is alive here.
Flinders Lane used to be mainly manufacturing, but that’s all gone. It’s filled with restaurants, young people and music.
Life is great here.
(Joel) I love working with my mum, with my grandfather, with the staff; it’s fabulous.
How many people can say that they’ve travelled the world with their grandfather.
And it’s more than just the wig itself, but what it does for people. How they make people feel. I love seeing the improvement in styles over the years. The technology is amazing. They’ve made wigs aerodynamic and not so heavy, and it will keep developing so they are more comfortable for the user.
I think there’ll always be a stigma about wigs, but there are stigmas with everything. People think that you can pick a wig-wearer, or that a wig means you’re hiding something, but there shouldn’t be judgment. We pride ourselves on no judgment here, and our doors are open to everybody.
You won’t get the service, quality or quantity of wigs like we have anywhere else in Australia. We have over 2500 styles, all of our staff have been working in the industry for a long time and we provide expertise that nobody else can offer.
After all, we are the company that started this whole thing.
Written by Aron Lewin with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott.
Mandi’s experience as a customer – “I had considered buying a wig for a little while but was a bit self-conscious and not sure what would look good. I’d looked online a few times but I didn’t know where to start. Going to the store and getting the chance to try on different wigs was exactly what I needed to get over the nerves. The lovely people took care of me, made me feel great and really listened to what I wanted while using their own experience to help me find what worked. I had fun, felt really encouraged and left feeling much more confident.”