This spring we had the pleasure of working with Victoria Melody, a visual and performance artist from the UK, filming a documentary about the production of hair extensions.
When she was taking part in a beauty contest in Brighton for her project ‘Major Tom’ which premiered in 2013 she had hair extensions which made her ask questions about where the hair had come from. These questions sparked the beginning of her next theatre project that took her to India and Russia in an attempt to trace the hair used in her extensions back to the person who grew it.
We spent months researching the questions: where do Russian women sell their hair, how do hair dealers find these women, how much do they buy hair for?
We found that the majority of hair dealers are not open to speaking about their business, and even the salons who buy real hair refused to talk about this as soon as they understood we were going to make a film about this subject.
We visited a unique hair factory in Mosalsk, that produces around 1,5 tons of hair every month. Their dealer collects hair from all over Russia and brings it to the factory for processing. But again he decided to stay away from filming and didn’t want to reveal his identity. So much mystery in this hair business…
We did find one hair dealer from Volgograd who turned out to be interested in our film and agreed to show us this world of the Russian hair business. We were really surprised to discover hair harvesting events still take place. In Volgograd , for example, they take place every Friday in a shopping centre where people come and bring hair that they want to sell. One old lady brought her hair that she had been keeping for years and after having seen the advert on the bus stop “WE BUY HAIR” decided to sell it and buy a gift for her grandson, another young lady got bored of her long hair and wanted to get it cut right there for a small amount of money.
After Volgograd we travelled to a very small town of Borisoglebsk where we met a young lady who wanted to sell her waist length hair because she wanted a change. Although she was a little concerned about the outcome having had grown her hair for the past 9 years, in the end she was really pleased with her new haircut as well as with the amount of money she was paid by the hair dealer. It was lovely to share with her the excitement of this big change and follow her to the hairdresser for this film.