Ms. Carrtherol, 39, had trouble getting the lace for the cooler, lighter lace-front wigs that are popular. South Korea is a major player in lace manufacturing, and its production was delayed when coronavirus raged through the country earlier this year. Switzerland sold out of lace for a time.
Lace closures — typically, a horseshoe-shaped piece onto which the hair is sewn — have been hard to find. Prices have spiked accordingly; a square foot of sturdy lace can now top $120 a square foot, up about 20 percent. Hair shipments from the two vendors in Asia that Ms. Carrtherol uses slowed to a business-killing trickle.
“With one company, I put in an order in July and I’m still waiting,” she said. “It’s been really challenging to get any concrete answers or real information from the suppliers. If you can’t promise a client, what do you have?”
Arthur Ramlal, a consultant for the China International Hair Fair from the Netherlands, said that geopolitics, trade disputes and the pandemic have created a uniquely frustrating situation for hair vendors and buyers, be they corporations, small business owners or consumers.
“India had a very strict lockdown, and something like 80 percent of the hair for wigs and extensions come from India, mostly from the temples” where people donate hair, Mr. Ramlal said. Furthermore, he said, the political relationship between China and India “is not so good at this moment, with boycotts” and threats of impending trade wars.
Less hair is being donated and some workers have been afraid to process hair or go to work, rupturing the supply chain. The international hair fair that Mr. Ramlal represents was canceled in late August; annually, the expo attracts up to 30,000 visitors, with separate conference halls for Chinese and English speakers.