Delivering Hope

Wigs by Kim Transforms lives

Twenty-five years ago, Kim Fessel embarked on a career path born out of necessity, one that would eventually change her life, as well as the lives of many others she would meet.

At the time, Fessel was searching for work that would not only help to support her family, but also that would allow her to have flexible hours. She decided upon a career as a hairdresser.

“It was just an occupation at the time that I could do,” she said. “I was a single mom and I needed to be home with my kids when they were sick or if they had a sporting event. I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up, and I didn’t know what else I could do where I could be my own boss. So, I decided to do hair, and it’s worked out quite well.”

If you’re a New Salisbury or Corydon resident, you may know Fessel, as she is the owner of Wigs by Kim, located in Hope’s Hair Salon in Corydon.   

In 2011 a new opportunity presented itself to Fessel, one she had never considered until her father approached her with the idea of learning how to do hair replacement.   

During the first part of her journey, Fessel enjoyed a very successful career as a traditional stylist, cutting, coloring and styling hair, along with other services associated with the profession. In 2011 a new opportunity presented itself to Fessel, one she had never considered until her father approached her with the idea of learning how to do hair replacement.   

“My dad actually talked me into it,” she said. “He wore hair replacement and he had to go to Louisville to get it done. It was very expensive and time-consuming, so he said, ‘Hey, if you can go to school for this, I’ll pay for it, and you can pay me back by doing my services.’” 

Fessel says she “went for it,” and that this part of her career really took off once she was trained. Her services include hair replacement on the scalp as well as wig consultations and fittings.

When Fessel began doing hair replacement, she had her own shop called Shear Miracles. She says she was very sensitive to the fact that many people don’t want to go out into public if they are bald, nor do they want people to know they’re having hair replacement services done. This especially applied to her female clients. Fessel designed her shop to have a private room where she could do consultations and the hair replacement.

“Hair replacement is non-surgical and you’re in and out in less than two hours.  It’s glued on with a medical-grade adhesive, like the adhesive used for prosthetics. Once it’s finished, you can’t take it off. It has to be soaked off — it’s a process. Clients come back every two to four weeks and have it soaked off then reattached. I use human hair, so if you put a motorcycle helmet on, go swimming or ride roller coasters, whatever you do, it doesn’t hinder the hair at all. It’s like your own hair. That’s the great thing about it.”

– Kim Fessel @ Wigs by Kim

“Hair replacement is non-surgical and you’re in and out in less than two hours,” she said. “It’s glued on with a medical-grade adhesive, like the adhesive used for prosthetics. Once it’s finished, you can’t take it off. It has to be soaked off — it’s a process. Clients come back every two to four weeks and have it soaked off then reattached. I use human hair, so if you put a motorcycle helmet on, go swimming or ride roller coasters, whatever you do, it doesn’t hinder the hair at all. It’s like your own hair. That’s the great thing about it.”

If clients come in for a wig consultation, Fessel also meets with them in the private room.

“I have them fill out a form and ask them if they know why they’re experiencing hair loss,” she said. “Some are cancer-related, some aren’t. Sometimes it’s hormones or it’s hereditary, or it’s due to stress, or it’s alopecia. There are so many reasons of hair loss, and a lot don’t know why they’re losing their hair.”

Fessel has also used her knowledge to work with a program for cancer patients called “Look Good Feel Better,” provided locally through Harrison County Hospital.

“That was so humbling,” Fessel said. “These women were going through cancer, and they felt bad enough, not to mention how they looked all of a sudden with their complexion and no hair. I would go in and try wigs on them and teach them how to change their makeup to where they looked better. I volunteered for the program for five years.”

Fessel reaches out to cancer patients, or anyone in need of hair replacement, by leaving her information at the cancer centers in New Albany and Corydon. She’s donated a lot of wigs to the cancer center in New Albany, which they can give to people who can’t afford one.

Fessel reaches out to cancer patients, or anyone in need of hair replacement, by leaving her information at the cancer centers in New Albany and Corydon. She’s donated a lot of wigs to the cancer center in New Albany, which they can give to people who can’t afford one.

Fessel admits that working with clients who are in search of hair replacement can be challenging.

“Most of the people who get their wigs — it’s bittersweet,” she said. “They’re upset that they’re in the shop. They won’t even look at themselves in the mirror.  That’s frustrating for me, because I’m trying to help them. They don’t want a wig, so they won’t give me any advice as to what they want. They’re just real bitter and angry. That’s something I’ve had to learn to deal with over the years. I just let my professional demeanor go to work, and I just try to comfort them in any way I can.”

Fessel says that wigs today are so different from the wigs manufactured years ago. They are lighter in weight and are easy to care for. You can wash them in cold water, shake them out and they will retain their style. Ones designed for cancer patients are made with a softer lining to make them more comfortable for patients who have undergone cancer treatments.

Fessel has met a wide array of clients over the years who have benefited from her expertise and training. There are two clients who have made an impact on her.    

“Many people know about Locks for Love, but there’s another organization called Children With Hair Loss,” Fessel said. “When you donate your hair to them, they make wigs and donate them to young people up until they’re 18 years old. I had a young girl about 7 or 8 years old who had alopecia, and I told her parents about the program. They were very thankful for that information.”

Fessel also recalls a story about a high school teenager whose family came to her for help.

“They had just moved into town, and the girl wore a wig. She wanted to be on the swim team but couldn’t swim with her wig,” she said. “I did hair replacement on her, and she was able to swim. Nobody ever knew the difference. She was so thankful. It just changed her life. For a high school kid in a new school, trying to fit in, it was just very overwhelming for her. I helped her until she graduated and went on to college.”

“It’s the most humbling business I’ve ever been in,” Fessel said. “It’s one thing to cut somebody’s hair and give them a new style and make them look better and feel better,” she said, “but when you actually give them hair, words can’t even describe it. It’s just been awesome.” 

For more information, call 812-736-3928.  Wigs by Kim is located in Hope’s Hair & Nail Salon at 2016 Hwy 337 NE in Corydon, IN.

Story by Julie Engelhardt

Photos by Michelle Hockman Photography

 

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