Interview with Raphael Tolledano, world-renowned wigmaker and founder of Ralph Wigs International
Raphael Tolledano is a member of the prestigious Tolledano family of Toledo, Spain. His ancestors left Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and settled in Italy. Wigmaking has become a Tolledano family trade. Raphael began as a professional wigmaker working for the celebrated Paris Opera House for eight years, where he learned under the famous Joseph Pipeno. Recently Raphael designed all of the wigs for the musical Titanic in Chicago. Raphael has designed hundreds of wigs that have been featured in numerous theatrical productions and films.
When and why did you open Ralph Wigs International?
I opened Ralph Wigs International 20 years ago. I wanted to infuse the market with high-quality wigs that were eye catching and had a modern touch.
Where are the wigs made and sold?
Our factory is located in Palermo, Sicily. We are mainly based in New York, with branches in Israel and Japan.
Japan!? What is the market like there?
Japanese women go crazy over my wavy-haired wigs. Americans like Japanese-straight permed hair while the Japanese want wavy wigs. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side!
Tell us about your branch in Israel.
Liora is our sales manager in Israel as well as Europe. You can place orders and purchase Ralph Wigs from her directly. She works from her home in Jerusalem. Liora coordinates wig sales in various locations throughout the country and sells to sheitel-machers, who in turn sell to their clients. We are available to attend women’s gatherings and events as well.
Who are your clients?
My main clientele are Orthodox women, cancer patients, and as mentioned Japanese women. I also provide wigs for theatrical and film productions.
How has Ralph Wigs come to be known as the “Rolls-Royce” of wigs?
I focus on hair quality, comfort, and fashion. I like to create a tailor-made look. When a customer comes in, I see what suits her personally, and try to give her something that will make her look her absolute best. I keep up with the latest trends and incorporate them in my wigs. Everyone knows that when you buy a “Ralph Wig,” you are guaranteed to love the way you look in it.
Do you consider wig making an art or a science?
Wig making is definitely an art. You do, however, have to incorporate a science aspect too, in terms of exact measurements and specifications.
What do you take into account when making someone a new wig?
I try to match the hair as best as I can, based on color, texture, weight, etc. I also take into account the shape of the client’s face and their lifestyle in trying to match the right style with the latest fashions. Each wig contains more than one type of hair, to maximize a natural highlighted look as well as for combining styles: for example, the top may be sleek and silky, while the bottom will be wavy with a bit more body.
Is there really a difference if the hair used in a wig is European, Brazilian or Mongolian?
There are over 40 countries from which you can purchase hair. Every woman must assess what is suitable for her needs. In general people who want very light hair select European hair, while South American hair is preferred for a darker look.
How long, on average, does a Ralph wig last?
Ralph wigs will last five to ten years, depending on how often it is worn and how a client takes care of it.
What if a woman wants a wig that you think really doesn’t suit her?
My ultimate goal is for my customers to look their best. I will not sell someone something that is not good for her. In such a scenario, I would gently explain why it wouldn’t be good for her and show her other options more suitable.
What’s the key to comfort in a wig?
The construction and measurement of the cap is of the utmost importance. We use cotton caps with 100% silk tops and a lace front. When measuring the cap, I also take into account the thickness of the woman’s hair to make sure the cap fits well and is comfortable.
What if a customer is not satisfied with her custom-made wig?
It’s very simple: if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to buy it. My goal is not to just make money off my customers. I provide a service of making women feel great about how they look. If they won’t feel great in it, they shouldn’t buy it.
Purchasing a new wig is a considerable investment. How does your staff make a client feel more comfortable and at ease with her decision?
My policy, that the client is not obligated to keep what she ordered if she doesn’t like it, makes clients automatically feel much more comfortable. I am the only high-quality wigmaker who won’t make you keep a wig that you ordered and didn’t like.
What do you love most about your work?
I love to make women feel good about themselves. And I love to create. My favorite clients are those that come in and trust me to work my magic in making them look beautiful. I love utilizing my creative abilities and choosing for my clients the wig that will suit them best in terms of color, length, body, and style.
For more information contact Liora: