National Hair Journal Interview with Edward Katz
“Meet Edward Katz”
Edward Katz and his wife Ann Marie run Edward Katz Hair Design, the best non surgical hair replacement system in Los Angeles that counts some of the most famous names in Hollywood among its clientele. We describe him as Hollywood’s “second best kept secret” because Ed keeps a low profile to protect the privacy of his clients. But if the outside world does not know the name Ed Katz, hair-management and fashion professionals certainly do. Time magazine called him, “An undisputed leader of hair replacement system” and Vanity Fair told readers “Edward Katz is the Armani of hair replacement.” Playboy trumpeted, “His work is unequalled in the world.” In fact, over 100 editorials have been written about Edward and he has been featured on CBS, NBC, KTLA and ABC. He also has over 600 films TV shows and theatrical projects to his credit. Edward is sure to raise eyebrows because he uses only synthetic hair for his clients and eschews overseas factories, preferring to personally oversee the production of all his hair systems right here in the United States. To learn more about Edward Katz, the man, the technician and the “Italian fashion designer,” we visited him in his studio on Cahuenga Blvd in Los Angeles.
NHJ: You have a business that would be the envy of any hair replacement professional. Glamorous and powerful people from all over the world seek your services. How did this come about?
EK: I’ve been in this business for 20 years so I have benefited from a lot of word of mouth. If you take care of your clients, sooner or later they are going to tell a friend about you. I also have personal connections. I’ve always been a really active tennis player. I would play six days a week every week and, having lived in Hollywood all my life, you can imagine I have met a lot of celebrities. They were part of my social scene. When I started my business, I naturally felt comfortable helping the same people I’d been playing with.
NHJ: Hollywood stars have the best makeup technicians and stylists anywhere on the planet and yet they come here. Why?
EK: Because we know how to make a superior hairpiece. We don’t use human hair. It always shocks people when they hear this… they think human hair is the only way a hair transplant can look real, but in reality, I believe synthetic fibers are better.
NHJ: This statement will surprise a lot of readers.
EK: Yes it will. But this has been my experience. My clients are the final judges.
NHJ: Is all man-made hair similar?
EK: Kaneka Corp. makes the finest fibers I’ve seen so far (Kanekalon). With these fibers we can take any person, whether they have no hair whatsoever or just a fringe, and duplicate their existing hair color and texture in five or more different areas.
NHJ: Explain the five areas.
EK: It’s a sophisticated process. We take hair samples from different parts of the client’s head to get a perfect match. We blend these existing hair samples with some two hundred different colors to capture all the color variations and highlights. Then, for added realism, we create different shades, with the front being the lightest, the top being a little bit darker and the back being the darkest part.
NHJ: How does this compare with a traditional template and hair sample?
EK: You may have noticed hair wearers who have what I call a “one-dimensional” look. That’s because their hair system does not have the kind of subtle blending I’ve just described. I try to make my client’s hair look “lived in,” natural. Here in California, I want my client’s hair to look “sunlit.” Their hair has to be right for the life they live.
NHJ: Let’s go over things step by step, starting with blending. You mentioned two hundred different shades; how does that compare with other hair centers?
EK: Any discussion of color has to start with the type of hair. I mentioned that we work only with synthetic hair. This is a key factor. In most hair centers, a client provides a swatch of his or her hair which is then matched against another blend of human hair. Unfortunately however, human hair can start to oxidize and change color after only a day, or a week or two because of exposure to the sun, pollution and poor hair quality and so it will no longer match the client’s existing hair. It will have to be dyed or replaced.
NHJ: So there are two moving targets; the client’s growing hair, which is oxidizing as a result of exposure to the sun and pollution, and the hair system which is subject to its own color change at a different rate?
EK: That’s correct if you are talking about human hair systems. It’s a huge challenge for the blenders and for the stylists. The processed human hair used in most factories is especially vulnerable to oxidation because it has been stripped of its protective layer of cuticle.
NHJ: If human hair is constantly changing, why don’t the human hair factories work with a greater range of colors?
EK: Human hair would be unmanageable. Every color oxidizes at a different rate. We can work with a broader palette than they do because our colors do not change. Where they limit themselves to five or six shades, we may use fifteen different shades to get a “full dimensional” look. We may use gray, or a combination of grays and blondes, in the front because the front should be “sunlit.” This is where the sun would be hitting your hair. We are looking for a very natural, soft look that will blend into the client’s skin.
NHJ: I’d like to talk about templates. You mentioned that a lot of hair restoration salons only take hair pieces sample from the back of the head. I’m looking at one of your templates and it looks very complicated. What is it telling me?
EK: You’re looking at those “zones” we talked about. If the person has temple hair and sides, we’ll take a blend from there. We’ll also take a blend from the back. Then on the top of the person’s head we will make another blend, probably a shade lighter. That may take another fifteen different shades of color. Then we will go to the front and create a hairline that is totally different with another group of colors. All of these zones have to come together and match to give a full three-dimensional look instead of the one dimensional look that human hair pieces commonly give.
NHJ: What about the mold? What method do you use?
EK: We take plaster molds because they provide a very detailed map of the client’s head. Most hair centers use a film and tape template because they have to mail them to an overseas factory. This is not a concern for us because we do all our production right here on our own premises.
NHJ: Let’s talk some more about human hair and synthetic hair. What led you to decide to work with synthetic?
EK: I told you that synthetic hair does not lose its color, but it is also very light. Our whole hair piece weighs only 3 grams, which is about 50 to 100 times lighter than a human hair piece.
NHJ: I’m going to interrupt you Ed, because I don’t cook and I don’t know how heavy 3 grams is. Give me a comparison!
EK: It’s about the weight of a business card.
NHJ: That’s light! I’m glad I asked the question!
EK: It’s so light the client does not feel anything on his head. There are no ridges, no tracks or anything like that. The base is transparent and porous so you can look right down and see the scalp.
NHJ: There’s another thing you do differently. You typically create multiple duplicate hair systems for your clients. How does this work?
EK: It began with the movies. When the studios shoot a film, a scene may be started today in one location and then continued three weeks or a month later in another. The pace of production does not allow studio stylists to work on the actor’s hair after every take, so he will probably be wearing another hair piece for the second scene; especially if they are filming action sequences! That hair piece must be identical in every respect. The camera picks up everything. In a close up scene, you could be looking at a ten-foot hair line on the theatre screen. There’s nowhere to hide! So we learned how to create identical hairpieces… initially for the movies and now for all our clients.
NHJ: Actors put a lot of trust in their makeup and styling technicians. That’s a huge responsibility isn’t it?
EK: It is. We have to be very particular, because these are the twenty million dollar movie stars who want – and need – the best! We have to be very detail oriented, but it’s worth it when we have a result that satisfies that customer… and his fans!
NHJ: What about your non-Hollywood clients; you said you create multiple hair systems for them too.
EK: If you are a public figure, you cannot look different every couple of weeks. Most of our clients do not want to look different every time they visit our studio. They want to maintain the original style we created for them. They can do this by alternating between identical hair systems. Most of our clients have multiple “switches.”
NHJ: How do you get them all the same?
EK: Our ventilators are highly trained. To create the template or map, we use approximately forty to fifty rolls per customer. Our technicians pick and record the roll or the color for each area of that map. We can make a hundred hair pieces and they will all be identical. With human hair, you would have a hard time making two hairpieces the same.
NHJ: People have always said that the best hair available to our industry is “virgin” or “remis” European hair. Now you are claiming that synthetic hair is better. What’s wrong with remis hair?
EK: In the past twenty years we’ve tried the finest European hair in the world. In fact, we still buy fine human hair, which can cost approximately $100 an ounce, but we will only use one line of it for the very front of our hair systems. It is very thin, fine hair that gives the front hairline a special softness. However, because it is human hair, we know going in that we will have to replace it every couple of months.
NHJ: Could you use human hair for the rest of the system?
EK: Human hair is going to tangle, no matter what quality you use. And it’s going to oxidize. We have clients who are ready to spend $3,000 – $3,500 on a hair piece, so it’s not about the money. It’s about natural color that lasts. Human hair, even the most expensive, will begin to turn green, red or whatever in a matter of months. When it comes to the movies, it’s a waste of my time to deal with a human hair piece that will only last a matter of weeks.
EK: If I was given the finest human hair in the world, and even if it didn’t lose its color, I still wouldn’t use it for the full hair piece.
NHJ: Why not?
EK: Because of the denier. When a client begins to lose hair, it miniaturizes and becomes finer. We have to match that fine hair when we make a hair system. You cannot do that with human hair. Its denier, or diameter, is too thick. Synthetic hair on the other hand comes in different deniers. Only by matching the different thicknesses in this way can you give the look of a natural head of hair.
NHJ: You’ve just said something very important which most hair replacement professionals don’t think about; the diameter of the hair.
EK: Many clients want the most hair they can have for their money because they are making an expensive investment. But in reality, a person who is losing their hair should have a look that appears to be just slightly thinning. A natural look, not a pompadour or hair that is inappropriate for their age. We have different designs for people as they age so everything ages together.
NHJ: What do you say to a client who comes in and says I’m paying a lot of money for my hair replacement; I want all the hair you can give me.
EK: I send them over to a place like Hair Club that will give them what they want. I can’t help all the customers that come to me. They have to take the same pride in their appearance that I do. I take a lot of pride in the clothes I wear and the way I take care of myself. It’s important to me that my clients don’t wear something that doesn’t match their personality or facial structure.
NHJ: So you counsel your clients about their total appearance and guide them towards hair that fits their lifestyle?
EK: In the twenty years I’ve been in business, I’ve never told anybody they need hair or that they should have a hair transplant. But I may suggest a “look” that is right for them. If they think hair is an important part of that aesthetic, that’s their choice. I give them the information and they make that decision.
NHJ: How important is your own appearance? Do you see yourself as a role model?
EK: I try to illustrate what I tell my clients about looking and feeling natural. First time visitors will look at me and say, “Mr. Katz, if you are wearing a hairpiece let’s go right ahead and start that head pattern.” This happens 95% of the time.
NHJ: Are your clients price sensitive? Are they shopping for the lowest price?
EK: I don’t care how rich you are, everybody wants value for money. But once they see what we do here, money is no longer the key factor; it’s style. Of course, they have to be able to afford what we do. Because of the way we work, we are not cheap. I’m very detailed conscious; everything is made under my guidance. All our thirty-five ventilators are in-house. We have fourteen people who just style, blend and maintain the synthetic hair. This quality of service comes at a price.
NHJ: That’s a large production staff.
EK: Our production methods take a lot of work. There are a hundred different things that are necessary to maintain the standards we have set ourselves. We’re not just concerned about the first time you look at someone’s hair, we want to maintain and perhaps refine that look year after year as the person ages.
NHJ: When we introduced you, we said that you were Hollywood’s “second best kept secret.” By that we meant that you have a very distinguished clientele, yet we don’t see you advertising. We don’t see you in the Yellow Pages. That means most of your business must be the result of word of mouth; one celebrity speaking to another.
EK: That’s right. It’s hard for an international celebrity, the high-end entertainer or the person who runs a major public company like IBM, Monster.Com or Hewlett Packard, to make a referral, but you’re right, a lot of business comes from personal recommendations. Then there are the hair salons in Beverly Hills, the people who are doing the makeovers. I’m talking daily with the doctors who make people look good when they do a face lift or a nose job. They want to frame their faces of these patients… and that means hair. They send them over to me to give them that final touch that balances their whole face.
NHJ: There was an article in a business publication recently about business leaders getting elocution lessons so they were better pre-pared for social and business success. Is it important for “shakers and movers” to have a good head of hair too?
EK: I recently read an article by Hilary Clinton who said she had never conceived how important hair is to a politician. For her to flag this as one of the most prominent thing a person in public office should be concerned about is quite a revelation.
NHJ: A lot of manufacturers and distributors do their production in Asia where the cost of labor is significantly less. Did you consider doing this?
EK: I don’t do this because I wouldn’t be able to inspect what’s going on. After we finish a hair piece, it still takes 6 people under my direction to fine tune it. We may remove some hair to refine the density and make everything equalized. Just because production of a hair piece is finished, it doesn’t mean it is ready to be put on a person’s head. I can’t see a hair piece when it’s China and I can’t see it in Mexico or in Indonesia. I need to see it to take make everything come out perfect.
NHJ: I imagine also that if one of your clients is on deadline shooting a film or on a television set, you don’t have the luxury of going back to the factory. You’ve got to get it right the first time.
EK: Right. This is an unforgiving business. I get one chance to get it right.
NHJ: Do the studio stylists ask for your input?
EK: We’re on the phone a lot. The fact that we’re working with synthetic hair makes things much simpler. It combs easily into place and the knot we tie, it’s called a split-knot, gives the hair piece the body of a natural head of hair. A single knot or double-knot, the only knots you can tie with human hair, would give a flatter look and make it harder to see the scalp through the hair.
NHJ: Do you use lace fronts?
EK: Laces to me are a very old fashioned concept. They give a fake looking front, even though many people think they’re wonderful. But I talk with many people, people like actor Jack Klugman. People said he looked phenomenal in Quincy and other programs, but in reality the lace was tedious, unrealistic and constantly had to be replaced.
NHJ: We know you cannot mention the names of your celebrity clients, but we’re all voyeurs and want to share some of your limelight. Are there any anecdotes you can share without betraying any confidences?
EK: Sorry. If I was Armani or a famous fashion designer, my name and the people I’m associated with would be all over the papers. But in this sensitive market my lips have to remain sealed. That’s the worst part of my business.
NHJ: Many stars talk openly about other procedures that make them look or feel better. Why is hair different?
EK: Hair replacement does not have a legacy of high quality and sophistication. We’re not even in agreement among ourselves about basic products and procedures. In Japan and Europe they use mostly synthetic hair; in America it’s 99.9% human hair. Who’s right? There are no product norms or technical standards. So the public has developed a bad image of hair pieces and no one wants to talk about them or admit they are wearing one specially the movie stars. It’s a little different for women. Women can have all sorts of procedures done, they can wear wigs, have breast implants, facelifts, you name it, and everyone will say they look fantastic. But just mention a hairpiece and everybody hushes up.
NHJ: As readers of this paper know, the media doesn’t exactly help either.
EK: Many magazines are simply looking for scandal to embarrass public figures. A few personalities have actually talked about hair replacement, but it’s very infrequent because of the situation with gossip shows and magazines like the Enquirer, the Globe and those things. They just want to make fun of people and take pictures of people without their hairpieces on. Fortunately, our hair is designed to be worn 24 hours a day and cannot be taken off, except by us. This gives our clients the confidence that they have hair all day, every day. It’s not something that is put on with some glue and then taken off after filming.
NHJ: Looking around your office, we see photos and letters from well-known stars, maybe 50 or 70 of them on the wall. We cannot photograph them, but these are obviously satisfied clients and friends.
EK: Yes, that’s something of a bonus. Not only do we take care of people, we also become friends with them. We socialize with them, have fun with them and go to their parties.
NHJ: Got any parties coming up?
EK: Well, we’ve got some parties coming up for the Alzheimer’s Association. My wife, Ann Marie and I are very involved with this charity. Just as an aside, when we attend public events like this, we have to stay away from people who are wearing our hairpieces because this could tip off the paparazzi.
NHJ: What about the Academy awards time when everybody wants to look their best? Do you have to plan ahead to be sure you are free?
EK: Absolutely. That Sunday is a day when we have just about everybody in our employment in here. A lot of clients could do it on their own, but they feel more secure with our input. Same thing with the Emmys. We’ve got a lot of clients with Emmy and Academy Awards – it’s something we’re very proud of.
NHJ: Has a member of the public ever told you something like “I want to look like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible?”
EK: Actually, one of our most successful clients, a comedian, did call up one day and tell my wife, “I want to look like Robert Redford”. I remember her reply, “We’re not magicians, nor are we plastic surgeons. But can give you his hair!”
NHJ: I’m looking around your office and right in the middle is a massive purple pool table. Not something you see every day in a hair replacement business. You’ve put a lot of yourself into your surroundings. Why did you do this?
EK: Over the years we’ve made a lot of money. We’ve taken that money and put it back into the business. We now have a multimillion dollar facility. We want our clients to be able to stay after their service visit and play pool or have a drink. Hair replacement is not just putting hair pieces on a person’s head; it’s all the psychological things too. Unfortunately our media, even though we take care of a lot of newscasters, doesn’t want to talk about this subject.
NHJ: Ed, you’re sitting here your dressed all in black- I don’t know if this is your signature look. And you’re wearing a solid gold Rolex, so clearly things are going well. You also appear to be wearing Ostrich-skin boots? What do your clothes tell me about you?
EK: My clothes tell you that my wife and I like to shop! Most men don’t like to shop. I find it difficult to get my own clientele to buy a new suit or get a more stylish wardrobe. This is especially important if they are seen by a TV audience. I like Brioni clothes. If you dress for success, you’ll look the part and you stand a better chance of getting ahead.
NHJ: Let’s do a quick spin around the room.
Tell me about some of the personal mementos and what they mean to you.
EK: The pictures you see of celebrities and friends make me feel good. We’re not trying to tell people whom we take care of, we just enjoy having these reminders of happy moments together.
NHJ: Tell me about the black marble “power desk.”
EK: The power desk is something that’s just pretty. I want people to feel comfortable. I try to make everything special, the desk, the pool table, the view over the city. We also try to make clients feel this is their home. When they come in here they’re extremely nervous. They’re no longer the high-powered corporate executive, but a regular person. It’s a one on one. And with their hair off they become even less powerful. So I have to give them that strength back. It’s a psychological portion of hair replacement that a lot of people don’t understand.
NHJ: Are the cameras and security devices we see in your suite set up to protect the privacy of your clients?
EK: We want to keep a low profile. We have palm trees all around our facility. We are located in a regular business area to keep the paparazzi and other people away who want to take pictures. Our real exclusivity is inside, in the office itself.
NHJ: Any final comments?
EK: I hope everyone in the hair business, surgical and non surgical will learn to work together as equals. This is important if we are to grow.
We are all equals striving for one point – to make people look their very best and feel comfortable within themselves.