'These aren't the wigs your grandmother wore,' Haya Kova's Danielle Patry says. Most of Patry's customers are women who have lost their hair to cancer.

Wigs help many through tough time

RETAIL DETAIL Maxine Mendekssohn, The Gazette

Name: Danielle Patry, owner of Haya Kova wig store, in Decarie Square, 6900 Decarie Blvd., Cote St. Luc, 514-731-4383.

Have you always been interested in wigs?

Not at all. What happened was, I own the alteration and dry cleaner next door and Esther, the woman who used to own this place, told me she was thinking of selling. Right away I thought it was a good idea. It's right next to my dry cleaning business, and it's feminine, which is fun for me.

Do you ever wear a wig?

Sometimes in the winter. It keeps me warm and I think it looks great.

What type of women buy wigs?

Wigs are really something that should be demystified; lots of women wear them for fashion. Or let's say they ride a motorcycle to work and they don't want to have helmethair, they bring along a wig and they have perfect hair all day.

So most of your customers are wearing them for fun?

No. Sadly, most of my customers are women who have lost their hair to cancer. I mean there are other reasons to want to wear a wig, but I'd say 80 per cent of my customers have lost their hair due to a medical condition.

It must be an emotional roller coaster in here.

It is. I think that some women only truly realize they are going to lose their hair when they come here and sit in my chair and look in the mirror. Most of them come here before they start to lose their hair so they can get something as close to their natural hair as possible. There are tough days - many tears have been shed in this store. We have a private room for them to try wigs on; it can be embarrassing for some women. And we never push sales. It's such a difficult time for them, I can't even imagine how they feel. Why should I try to squeeze a sale out of them? That's not what I'm here for.

Do you get a lot of repeat customers?

Not really. In general, women who buy a wig to cover hair loss don't keep wearing it when natural hair grows back.

Do you have any men's toupees?

No. That's something that takes more finesse and expertise. I have my hands full dealing with women anyway.

Do you sell a lot of wigs to Orthodox Jewish women?

Not really. I know some Jewish women cover their hair with wigs, but they don't buy them here. From what I understand, they only wear natural hair; they go for the high-quality hairpieces, and I only sell synthetic hair. I think they choose natural hair because they wear them all day - they cook in them and they have them blow-dried into different styles. You can't do that with synthetic; it would just burn.

Why do you only carry synthetic hair wigs?

They're much easier to maintain. The hair comes pre-styled. You just put it on and walk out. And when it smells, you just wash it in the sink and shake it out. You don't have to blow-dry it or put products in it to make the style come back. It just bounces back to the style you bought it with.

Why is it called Haya Kova?

I kept the same name when I bought the store. Haya is a popular name for Jewish people ... and Kova means hat in Hebrew.

What do you think is the most common misconception about wigs?

That everyone can tell you're wearing one. These aren't the wigs your grandmother wore - you know, the misshapen, funny-looking things. They're sleek and styled in today's colours and cuts.

Why do the wigs have names instead of style numbers?

I think they do it to make it more human, the same way we show the wigs on mannequin heads. They're named after famous beautiful women who have great hair, like the Raquel after Ms. Welch. I mean, it's more fun than calling it the No. 520.

What's the most popular wig style?

It's all about colour. Not everyone wants to be a blond like you'd expect. Brown is very popular, with great copper highlights. But I tell you, wigs have come a long way. They look so real. We have everything, even salt and pepper and styles with roots showing.

What's the most common question people ask?

I think people are confused about how to care for their wigs. All it takes is a good shampoo. No conditioner, just cold water. And don't lather and rub like you would with your own hair - the only thing you're really washing is the cap, because it can get sweaty. Then you just rinse and let it dry on its own.

How much do they cost ?

My wigs vary between $300 and $550.

What affects the price?

It's all about the length and the construction. They cost that much because even though they're made by machines, it takes a lot of time and designing to make a wig that fits well, is comfortable and nice-looking.