Wigs have been a part of beauty culture for centuries, dating back to ancient Egypt. In the present day, they serve a plethora of purposes. For some, wearing wigs is a way to cope with hair shedding or loss. In the Black and queer community, particularly, wigs have long been a means of hair protection and self-expression. The continued interest in wigs has resulted in an industry boom in recent years. Fortune Business Insights reports that the global wig and extension market value is projected to reach $13.28 billion by 2026.
However, despite the demand, wig shopping is a notoriously challenging experience. For many, it can be hard to determine the wig size, length, or color best for them. Many brands have sought to address this issue, but Parfait strives to be the ultimate solution. Founded by four Black women in STEM, the brand makes buying a wig easier by utilizing artificial intelligence.
Co-founder and CEO Isoken Igbinedion says her childhood paved the way for Parfait. She dealt with hair loss after chemically relaxing her hair at ten years old, an experience many women of color can relate to. “I started using hair extensions to give my hair a break and a chance to regrow,” Igbinedion says. “I spent the next 20 years navigating the friction-filled, highly manual market of hair products and services.”
Her experience inspired her to create the solution she yearned for, and she assembled a powerhouse team of women to help her do so. Igbinedion connected with Simone Kendle, now CMO, while they attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Parfait’s CTO, Ifueko Igbinedion (Isoken’s younger sister), attended MIT, where she met now COO Marlyse Reeves. In addition to their noteworthy educational background, each founder brings a wealth of tech experience to the table. They have each worked at major companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM, NASA, and Amazon.
“Our unique perspectives navigating the tech industry as Black women acted as a catalyst that drove our passion for improving the wig buying experience for women,” Igbinedion says. “We use technology to address the core issues consumers have while purchasing, customizing, and installing these hair products.”
The founders initially launched their company in 2020 under the name Hairtelligence but later rebranded as Parfait (after the tasty, layered dessert) to acknowledge the depth of the wig-wearing experience. “Our hair is one of the most intimate yet publicly shown elements of who we are to the world,” Igbinedion adds. “A layered approach to wig-wearing for us means understanding the needs of our customers and supporting them across all of those layers for a truly tailored experience.”
What Makes Parfait Unique
Parfait’s secret sauce is its use of artificial intelligence and facial recognition. “We are the only company to use AI and facial recognition technology to create custom wigs on demand,” Igbinedion says. Here’s how it works: For each wig style, you can select features (including texture, length, wig type, part style, and more) via a questionnaire. After filling it out, you can customize your cap size and color by simply snapping a few selfies.
This form of technology benefits consumers who may order and install their own wigs and stylists looking for an easier way to serve their clients. “We’ve designed an on-demand novel manufacturing process that allows us to scale customization without sacrificing quality by developing digital tools for stylists to ensure quality and repeatability,” the CEO explains.
Parfait’s unique approach has put the brand in its own lane, attracting a $5 million investment from Upfront Ventures. The company has also garnered investments from celebrities like tennis icon Serena Williams, Grammy-winning singer Kelly Rowland, and rapper Chamillionaire.
Singer and actress Justine Skye (who rose to fame on Tumblr and became known for her purple hair) also endorsed the brand, recently collaborating with the team to create a wig collection. By teaming up with hair trendsetters like Skye, Parfait is continuing to establish itself as an innovative player in the wig space. “[Justine’s] pride in who she is, the positivity she brings to advocating for self-expression, and fashion-forward influence made her the perfect partner for our first co-created collection,” Igbinedion says.
Skye’s collection has five different styles—from a 30-inch jet-black straight wig to a 14-inch blonde bob. Of course, there’s also a purple ombre wig in the mix. “My relationship with wigs has become much more interesting and exciting due to my partnership with Parfait,” Skye says. “There are so many wig companies, but you never know what you’re getting. With Parfait, you know what you’re getting.”
What’s next for Parfait? The founders seek to keep raising the bar in the wig industry, and amplifying the importance of AI Technology in beauty along the way. “Beyond being a go-to brand for consumers and stylists alike, we aspire to bring 21st-century manufacturing technology to an industry whose processes have never been standardized or modernized,” Igbinedion says. “We’re creating the future we want to see, one that is more expansive and inclusive of who is considered and designed for. We want our customers to feel inspired to do the same while wearing our products in their everyday lives.”