Passionate, opinionated and sharply funny, wigmaker Raffaele Mollica – or ‘Ralf’ as he is affectionately known by his long-term clients – has a distinctly no-nonsense approach to his craft. On the day of our visit, he was highly animated, pacing around his 84th Street studio, pausing here and there to show us a half-finished wig or share an amusing anecdote. Considered by many to be the best custom wigmaker in New York City, Mollica’s creations are frequently featured on the stage, on television and in publications including Vogue and The New York Times. Specialising in high-end handmade wigs crafted from human hair, every wig is painstakingly constructed, strand-by-strand, by his small and dedicated team.
Born in Sicily, Mollica’s family emigrated to New York in 1956. His first foray into hair was a job at his uncle’s Madison Avenue salon. In his role as a hairdresser, Mollica struggled with what he saw as a façade he had to play along with in order to get work, “I’d have to say – ‘I’ll cut it short’ or ‘I’m going to give you highlights’, because if not, where’s my fee? So if I’m a hairdresser and I want to make a fee, I have to invent bullshit. As soon as I realised that’s what I’d have to do, I wanted to quit. So I started to go nuts with the wigs instead.”