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Türkiye'nin İhracat Devi: Keskinoğlu
Perşembe, 06 Mayıs 2010 20:20


Faaliyetlerine 1963 yılında kurulan bir tavuk çiftliğiyle başlayan Keskinoğlu’nun bugün 2.250 çalışanı bulunmakta ayrıca 400 adet sözleşmeli üretici, gruba hizmet vermektedir. 2009’u yüzde 36 büyüme ve 500 milyon TL ciro ve 42 ülkeye ihracatla kapatan Keskinoğlu 2010’da 650 milyon TL ciroya ulaşmayı ve 55 ülkeye ihracat yapmayı hedeflemektedir. Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu’nun Yönetim Kurulu Üyesi ve Pazarlama Grup Başkanı Keskin Keskinoğlu ile söyleştik

Dünden bugüne Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu’nu anlatır mısınız? Grup markaları nelerdir?


Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu, 1963 yılında İsmail Keskinoğlu tarafından bir tavuk çiftliği olarak kuruldu ve yumurta ticaretine başladı. Hızlı bir büyüme süreci ile 1975 yılında alınan genişleme kararı sonrasında Akhisar’ın Kayalıoğlu Kasabası’nda 60 dönümlük arazide, 10 bin kapasiteli kümeslerle kafeste yumurta tavukçuluğuna geçildi. 1997 yılında 30 bin ton üretim kapasiteli Keskinoğlu Piliç İşleme ve Değerlendirme Entegre Tesisleri açıldı.

Bugün Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu bünyesindeki ünitelerde yıllık , 95 bin ton piliç eti, 30 bin ton ileri işlenmiş piliç eti ve şarküteri ürünleri, 750 milyon adet yumurta, 200 milyon adet viol (yumurta kabı), 9 milyon adet yumurta yönlü dişi civciv, 2 milyon 400 bin adet yarka, 40 milyon adet etlik civciv ve 40 bin ton organik gübre üretimi yapılıyor. Adını Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu’nun Kurucusu İsmail Keskinoğlu’nun doğduğu Yunanistan’daki Ravika Köyü’nden alan Ravika Zeytinyağı Türkiye’de yakaladığı yüzde 7’lik pazar payının yanı sıra, 2009 yılında 42 ülkeye ihracat yapıyor hem de dünyanın en özel lezzet duraklarının ilk tercihleri arasında yer alıyor. Şirket ayrıca 2007 yılında 2 milyon Euro yatırımla Sanikes markası altında tek kullanımlık kâğıt bazlı böbrek küvet, ördek ve sürgü üretimi gerçekleştiriyor.  Son olarak FEM Lojistik ile lojistik sektörüne de giren grup, 250 adetlik frigofirik kamyon ve tırdan oluşan araç filosu ile gıda sektörüne hizmet vermeye başladı. Kullandığı teknolojiyle, ürünlerinin soğuk zinciri güvenliğini her aşamada garanti eden Fem Lojistik, Türkiye’nin önde gelen gıda üreticilerinin tercihi olmaya başladı.

Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu bünyesinde 2.250 çalışan bulunmakta ayrıca 400 adet sözleşmeli üretici Keskinoğlu’na hizmet vermektedir.
  

Grup markaları; piliç eti ve yumurta faaliyetlerinde Keskinoğlu, gübre üretiminde Organica, zeytinyağı üretiminde Ravika, lojistik sektöründe Fem Lojistik, kâğıt bazlı sarf sağlık malzemelerinde ise Sanikes’tir.

Keskinoğlu’nun portfölyosunda bulunan son tüketiciye yönelik ürün çeşitleri nelerdir?

Son tüketiciye yönelik ürünler; piliç eti ürünleri, işlenmiş piliç eti ürünleri, yumurta ve zeytinyağı.

 Avrupa Birliği’ne ihracat yapabilir ön izin numarasını alan sayılı piliç eti firmalarından olan Keskinoğlu, bu güvenilirliliği nasıl kazandı?

Bizim de içinde olduğumuz 5 üretici firma 2002 yılında ön izin belgesi aldı ancak ihracat 2009 yılında başladı. İlk ihracatı Keskinoğlu olarak biz Almanya’ya yaptık. Ürünlerimizin ve tesislerimizin dünya standartlarındaki kalitesi ve bu kalitemizi sürdürmemiz bu süreçteki en önemli faktör oldu.

Keskinoğlu, Amerika ve Kanada pazarında 2 yıldır sürdürdüğü pazarlama çalışmalarıyla Ravika Zeytinyağı’nı milyonlarca tüketiciye ulaştırdı.  Çok beğenilen bu ürünün siparişleri 2009’a göre 5 kat arttı. Bu ürün bu noktaya nasıl ulaştı?

Ravika ile sadece Amerika ve Kanada pazarında değil, yurt dışında birçok pazarda önemli sonuçlar elde ettik. Yurt dışında Ravika için birçok tanıtım etkinliği ve Türk Haftası adını verdiğimiz buluşmalar organize ettik. Marketlerde tanıtım ve tadım çalışmaları düzenledik. Lokal pazarlama materyallerinden faydalandık. Özetle, oldukça
aktif ve süreklilik arzeden çalışmalarımızla bugün bu noktaya geldik.

Keskinoğlu’nun hazır gıda ürün grubunda neler mevcuttur?

Bizim Pratik Lezzetler olarak adlandırdığımız işlenmiş piliç eti ürün grubumuzda, nagettan köfteye, dönerden schnitzel’e kadar 100’ün üzerinde farklı ürünümüz var.
Sektörde bu alanda en geniş ürün gamına sahip firma olduğumuzu rahatlıkla söyleyebiliriz. Bu ürünlerimiz 5 dakikalık bir ısıtma işleminden sonra servise hazır hale geliyorlar.

Tamamen organik yemlerle beslenen tavuklardan elde edilen Organik Yumurta ürününüzü anlatır mısınız?


Türkiye’de organik tarıma ilişkin yönetmelik, 2005’te yayınlandı ve biz Keskinoğlu olarak tüm süreci yakından takip ettik. Üretim güvenliği için bu tesislerin yerleşim merkezi, dere yatağı gibi bölgelerden uzak olması, hayvanların özgürce dolaşabilecekleri ve gıda güvenliğini koruyacak tedbirlerin alındığı organik tarım arazilerinin oluşturulması gibi birçok kriterin gözetilmesi gerekiyor. Keskinoğlu olarak önce tüm bu planlamayı yapmayı ve tüketicimize yüzde yüz organik yumurtayı en sağlıklı haliyle sunmayı hedefledik. Yumurta üretim tesisinin yanı sıra, kümeslerimize yakın bir noktada organik yem üretim tesisi de kurduk, yem ihtiyacımızı da Keskinoğlu kontrolünde
yapılan üretimle karşılıyoruz. 3 milyon TL yatırımla sadece organik yumurta üretimine özel bir tesis kurduk ve 2009 yılında organik yumurtayı tüketicilerimize sunmaya başladık.

Keskinoğlu fabrikalarının yem ihtiyacını karşılamak için kurduğu Yem Fabrikası’nın üretim kapasitesi ne kadardır?


Yem fabrikasının yıllık üretim kapasitesi 1 milyon 250 ton’dur.

Keskinoğlu ürünlerinin üretim sürecinden bahseder misiniz?

Tesislerimizdeki tüm üretim bir otomasyon sistemiyle el değmeden yapılıyor. Tüm tesislerde dünyadaki son teknolojiler kullanılıyor. Örneğin; kullandığımız yumurta tasnif makinesi yumurtalardaki zar çatlaklarını, kırıkları ayırırken kesimhanede kullandığımız teknoloji ile ürünlerin röntgenini çekip, gramajlarını eşit bir ağırlıkta tutabiliyoruz.

Hangi dünya ülkelerine ihracat yapmaktasınız?


Almanya, Amerika, Arnavutluk, Avustralya, Azerbaycan, BAE, Bahreyn, Bosna Hersek, Bulgaristan, Çin, Danimarka, Fiji Adaları, Gine, Gürcistan, Hong Kong, Irak, İsrail, İran, İsveç, İsviçre, Japonya, Kazakistan, Katar, Kuveyt, Kanada, Kosova, Kıbrıs, Makedonya, Malezya, Mayotte Adaları, Norveç, Özbekistan, Rusya, Suudi Arabistan, Soçi, Seyşel Adaları, Tayland, Türkmenistan, Tacikistan, Ukrayna ve Yemen.

Sahip olduğunuz kalite belgeleri nelerdir?

Tesislerimizdeki belgeler; TSE, BRC, TÜV ISO 9001/ HACCP, ISO 22000, OHSAS 18001 ve İşçi Sağlığı ve İş Güvenliği Yönetim Sistemi.

Firmanızın Ar-Ge politikasında yaptığı çalışmaları ve iş birliğinde bulunduğu kurumları anlatır mısınız?

Yeni ürün geliştirme konusunda hareket kabiliyeti oldukça yüksek olan firmamızın, Ar-Ge departmanında çalışan 20 mühendis, her yıl 10’un üzerinde yeni ürün geliştiriyor. Türk damak tadına göre geliştirilen bu ürünlerin tadımını 700 kişilik bir grup üzerinden yapıyoruz ve aldığımız yorumlarla ürünlerin son halini veriyoruz.

1994 yılında geri dönüşümlü kâğıtlar kullanılarak yaklaşık olarak yılda 100 milyon adet yumurta kabının üretildiği viol fabrikasını kurdunuz. Bu yönde gerçekleştirmiş olduğunuz diğer geri dönüşüm projeleriniz nelerdir?


Viol üretiminin yanı sıra 2007 yılında 2 milyon Euro yatırımla Sanikes markası altında tek kullanımlık kağıt bazlı böbrek küvet, ördek ve sürgü üretimine başladık.

Gerçekleştirdiğiniz sosyal sorumluluk çalışmalarınız nelerdir?   


Keskinoğlu olarak beslenmeden eğitime kadar birçok konuda çocuklara destek olmak için çeşitli sosyal sorumluluk çalışmaları yürütüyoruz. Geçtiğimiz yıllarda Manisa Akhisar’da 11 derslikli İsmail Keskinoğlu İlköğretim Okulu ile 10 derslikli Zeliha Keskinoğlu İlköğretim Okulu’nu yaptırarak Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı’na bağışlamıştık. 2009 sonunda da Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı ile 2 yeni okul için daha protokol imzaladık. Keskinoğlu Şirketler Grubu Yönetim Kurulu Başkanı Fevzi Keskinoğlu’nun adını taşıyacak olan 18 derslikli Anadolu Lisesi ile Yönetim Kurulu Başkan Yardımcısı Mehmet Keskinoğlu’nun adını taşıyacak 24 derslikli ilköğretim okullarının yapımına başlandı.

Keskinoğlu olarak, çocuklara sağlıklı beslenme bilincini erken yaşlarda kazandırma hedefiyle 2008 yılında başlattığımız “Haydi Çocuklar Sofraya” isimli bilinçlendirme kampanyasını da ara vermeden sürdürüyoruz. İlköğretim okullarında uzmanların katılımıyla düzenlediğimiz seminerlerle bugüne kadar 4 bin 500 çocuğa ulaştık. Şu anda Ege Bölgesi’ni kapsayan bu projeyle 2009 - 2010 öğretim yılında 10.000 çocuğa ulaşmayı hedefliyoruz.

2010 yılındaki büyüme planlarınız nelerdir?

Keskinoğlu olarak 2009’u yüzde 36 büyüme ve 500 milyon TL ciro ve 42 ülkeye ihracatla kapattık. 2010 hedefimiz ise; 650 milyon TL ciroya ulaşmak ve 55 ülkeye ihracat yapmak.

2010’da beyaz et, yumurta, zeytinyağı ve lojistik pazarındaki payımızı ve üretim kapasitemizi artırmak için 40 milyon TL yatırım yapmayı ve var olan 2.250 çalışan sayımıza 250 kişi daha eklemeyi hedefliyoruz. 2 milyon adet olan yumurta üretim kapasitemizi 3,5 milyon adede, 230 bin olan piliç eti günlük kesim kapasitemizi de 2010’da 300 bin adede çıkarmayı planlıyoruz. 2008 sonunda kurduğumuz ve gıda sektöründeki 100’ün üzerinde firmanın çözüm ortağı olan FEM Lojistik’in araç filosunu da 250’den 350’ye yükselteceğiz. 

 

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Godly Locks: Inside L.A.'s Bizarre Human Hair Business Wig-making may be the only industry that relies on religious devotion, Hollywood glamor, and raw materials harvested from human heads. Left: Indian devotees at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple pose with freshly shorn scalps (IndiaDivine.org); right: Paris Hilton wears a wig at a fashion show (Reuters). Spend any time in the San Fernando Valley and you'll come upon a house like this: ceiling pocked with acoustic spray that could easily contain asbestos; gold-flecked wallpaper and beveled mirrored tiles; bulbs that sear Stasi-watt light onto a mute carpet; bedrooms with doors ajar just enough to know you don't want to enter. It was in such a house on an evening in the mid-1990s that I found myself drifting past guests chattering in Continental tongues into the kitchen where my host, Isaac Bracha, was chopping mint. We had met a week earlier at some chic gathering in Los Feliz. He had mentioned what he did for a living, but I suppose I had thought he was joking. pre bonded hairNow, standing amid stacks of cookbooks, I happened to look down. On the worn linoleum floor next to the stove lay a blue plastic vat. Inside it, floating in a dark liquid, was a thick coil of human hair. Shiny, silky, medium brown. "Come see my office," Bracha rumbled, and tossed aside the towel he'd been using as an apron. He opened a door off the living room and descended into the darkness of the basement. Fluorescent lights buzzed alive and I blinked. A disembodied lock of hair recalls Freud's essay on the uncanny: the familiar that is oddly frightening. It might have been a hydroponic marijuana farm. It might have been a crystal meth lab. Double wrong. For starters, there were the plastic vats, just like the one in the kitchen, but rows of them arrayed here on metal shelves. The silent mounds within these vats were further evidence that the sodden clump nestled by the stove upstairs had been just a tease. Once I surveyed the contents of the basement, it became clear that I beheld the fledgling business of a human hair merchant.

Human hair. When we cut it, the cut is painless, bloodless -- and often devastating. En masse and gleaming, it can be alluring. But a disembodied curl lying in a vat calls to mind Freud's essay on the uncanny: the familiar that is oddly frightening. Even while lying reassuringly on the head, hair is charged with paradox: by the time it is visible, it is already dead. "Come hither," it teases. "I am a sexy omen of your very mortality. I am death in life's trappings." At this point, a little taxonomy might be useful. Item number 0501 on the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule pinpoints the product, raw human hair, as that which is "unworked, whether or not washed or scoured" -- hair, in other words, that has been freshly razed. As a commercial item, human hair is insignificant when compared with, say, bananas. In 2011, the U.S. brought in over $1.8 billion worth of fresh bananas. During the same 12 months, around $1.3 million of raw human hair entered this country. Still, it is a noteworthy import, given that it is harvested not from banana plants but from human heads. remy hair extensionsIn the past year, thieves have stolen from U.S. beauty salons as much as $230,000 worth of human hair, overlooking flat-screen TVs and full cash registers in their quest. During one of these heists, a salon owner was killed. No question, in its own way, human hair is a booming commodity on the world market. As such, it faces a grim future. In 2011, two-thirds of the raw human hair brought into the U.S. came from India. Mainly the source is benign: itinerant peddlers pay village women a few coins for their shed hair. Occasionally, the means are more coercive: gangs hunt down women for their hair; husbands force their wives to shave their heads. There is a third source. In the state of Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India is a cluster of seven hills. Perched atop one is Tirumala Venkateswara. Dating back nearly two thousand years, it is the most visited religious site in the world. With attendance three times that of the Vatican, Tirumala hosts nearly 20 million pilgrims a year. About half are women participating in a ceremony they hope will bring good luck. Perhaps they still haven't found a husband. Perhaps their child is sick. For their luck to change, they believe, a special action is required. So, after waiting in a queue that is miles long, 25,000 women each day mount the steps of a special building. Inside sit some six hundred barbers. The women bend over and, with a few deft strokes of a straight razor, the barbers shave off their hair. The hair used to be thrown away. These days, if it is virgin -- that is, never colored, never processed, never cut, having cascaded from her head two or three feet or more -- it will have a significance that is not merely spiritual. It is auctioned to licensed peddlers; this past year Tirumala held several online auctions, in one day reaping $27 million. Peddlers sell the hair to exporters, who sell it to manufacturers, who process it and sell it to distributors, who sell it to salons, who attach it to the heads of millions of Western women. Removing the hair had been a means of ego eradication; adding it serves now as an ego boost.

When you start researching human hair, you end up noticing the stuff on people's heads. On Isaac Bracha's head it is black, flecked with grey, cut very short. His face is long and his eyes convey unmistakable humor. Five centuries ago, Bracha's Jewish ancestors were expelled from Spain. They resettled in Bulgaria, survived the war, and in 1948, immigrated to the new state of Israel. Bracha was trained as a medic in the Israeli Defense Forces, but in 1988, he came to America, seeking his fortune in textiles. In Los Angeles, he met a quiet, self-possessed woman named Elizabeth Dirks, an Aleut transplant from a tiny island in the Alaskan archipelago. Together, they sold hand-made garments to Macy's and Bloomingdale's; one year, Quincy Jones attended the Oscars wearing a vest they had designed. Then Macy's went bankrupt and Bracha lost over $50,000. He was heading back to Israel when a family member asked him to help sell men's toupees. Bracha learned his craft, then sensed an opportunity in a larger market: human hair. But where best to operate? It's a quiet thicket of female heads: pigtails and braids, blond and brunette. If they turned around, they'd have faces. It was the early 1990s. Post-Soviet Russia had a population that was the sixth largest in the world, but its people were impoverished. Bracha reckoned there might be women willing to swap hair for cash; he headed to Moscow and set up shop. His intuition was impeccable. His business thrived and predictably the Russian Mafia wanted in. Armed with a duffel bag, a bottle of vodka, and a shotgun, they threatened Bracha's manager who promptly demanded from him a 20 percent cut of the business. It was time to move on. But where? perruques cheveux naturelsAgain he turned east, this time, to India. Once Bracha started importing hair from there, he realized that the local operator was not screening hair at a high-enough standard. Eventually, he opened his own factory near Chennai but much time passed before it functioned properly. Still, problems continue. "Can you see this?" Dirks is doing inventory. It is several years since I stumbled on the vat in Bracha's kitchen; I am visiting his 3,500-square-foot office in the heart of Van Nuys, another drab San Fernando Valley community not far from his home. I nod at Dirks, but I'm hard-pressed to spot the nuance. She goes to the window and holds the sample of hair in the sunlight. Despite her usual reserve, I can tell she is annoyed at the dye job. "Even if there were a slight difference," she says, "they might have gotten away with it, but that's too noticeable." She will send the hair back to Chennai to be fixed; in the process, it will lose valuable length. Bracha appears and tells me I'm in luck. While most of his hair comes from India, he still imports raw hair from Ukraine, and a shipment has just arrived. In the middle of the workroom sits a large cardboard box. "This is how the Russian hair comes to us," he says, opening its flaps. "Exactly as it comes off the girl." We peer inside. It's a quiet thicket of female heads: pigtails and braids, blond and brunette. If they turned around, they'd have faces. On impulse, I pick one up. It weighs nothing. Soon, the red ribbon binding it will be removed and, with it, the last trace of the former owner. Next: The woman who puts hair on the heads of Paris Hilton and Samuel L. Jackson Nastya22/Shutterstock "There's probably 10 top wigmakers," Victoria Wood tells me. "That covers Italy, Germany, England, France, the U.S., and Japan. I would like to think that I'm in the top 10 or 15." We are in Wood's modest home in Long Beach, California. Outside sits a Toyota Avalon whose license plate reads, WIGMAKR. Wood made the wigs for Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in Blades of Glory, Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, and Barbra Streisand in Meet the Fockers. Angelina Jolie wore her wigs in Girl Interrupted; Dakota Fanning wore them in The Secret Life of Bees. She recently did the wigs for the remake of Total Recall. Wood has a fine-boned face and dark blond hair. In her mid-50s, she has a teenaged son and a husband -- her fourth -- whom she met at church. "I wanted to be a make-up artist in film. I didn't know God had wigmaking," she says. Once she learned God did have wigmaking, she never looked back: she has been ventilating -- the industry term -- for 32 years, mostly for film and Broadway shows. Since then, Wood has bought most of her hair from Bracha and Dirks. Nearly all of their hair is virgin, she says, and of extremely good quality. Wood leads me to a small workshop in the back. The room is cluttered with cabinets, headshots, wigs on wig blocks bound in white canvas. I note a book called, simply, Dreads. If you know your hair will grow back -- or be covered with someone else's beautiful hair -- are you truly giving up everything? Wood shows me a needle with a tiny barb like a fishhook at one end. "You're not a wigmaker if you can't tie a knot. People say, 'I want to work with you.' I say, 'Make a clean knot and a fast knot, or you're of no value to me.'" She pokes the barbed needle through a piece of net, snags the single strand of hair, loops it, pulls it back through the net, twists it, captures the strand, again pulls it back through the net, and secures the knot. Or something like that: she tries to slow it down but can't. At speed, she'll make a knot in half a second. If a Broadway show succeeds, a wig must endure multiple wearings; over time, single knots can loosen, so Wood double-knots each strand. She charges a minimum of $3,000 per theatrical wig and twice that amount for film wigs, but film is a business that's used to paying for maximum flexibility. "They want to be able to say, 'We had this very expensive virgin blond hair' -- my God, this happened! -- 'but we think she would look better with dark hair.' So they dye the hair dark." Wood slows her speech for emphasis. "Twelve hundred dollars worth of virgin blond hair, as opposed to five hundred dollars worth of dark brown hair that you could have gotten virgin anyway?" She lets me savor the calamity, then points to her waist, "Or, hair down to here that was so expensive and so hard to find? 'Oh, we just decided it looked a little bit unruly.' And they get done and it's up here" -- hand by her ear -- "because it 'looked nicer.'" Another tough customer was Paris Hilton. The heiress kept missing appointments but when the wig was done, according to her assistant, she loved it and nicknamed it Precious. Yet she lost it within a year. The first time out, Wood had charged $6,000; the second time, she upped her quote to $10,000. "Additional suffering fees," she explains. Press her for celebrities who wear her creations offscreen and Wood hesitates. Men, as a group, don't want people to know they are losing their hair. Exceptions include clients Samuel L. Jackson and Ving Rhames. They could let their hair fall out; instead, they shave what lingers. When they need hair, they call her. It's easier to make a hairline look real if you are not concealing anything beneath, she says. Wood, in fact, specializes in wigs for actors of African descent. In the workshop, I finger samples of "Zigzag Weave for Weaving" and "Nappy Kinky for Afros." Comedian Chris Rock's 2009 documentary, Good Hair, explored the enormous demand by the African-American market for auxiliary human hair. Even simple maintenance can eat up a large portion of one's monthly expenses, yet role models for such excess abound: when Wood's former client Tyra Banks required a weave flowing out from beneath a wig, only vast amounts of hair could achieve this double-decker look. Cornrow wigs present another challenge, Wood tells me, starting to work on one. Since the scalp is a prominent feature, the net must be dyed extra carefully; it can take three women five or six days to complete it. She is simultaneously preparing a dreadlock wig. Frequent client Will Smith is slated to wear them both in the film Hancock. As often happens, the production budgeted for these two contingencies, but in the end opted for yet another: they used Smith's own hair, a decision that sent Wood rushing to make a third wig for Smith's stunt double who happened to be bald.

On Melrose Avenue is a hole-in-the-wall hair salon run by Mathi Avidor, Israeli-born and in her 50s. While her clientele includes cancer survivors and alopecia sufferers, Avidor mainly works with women from Los Angeles' Orthodox Jewish community. "It's an issue of modesty," says Chavy, a brunette woman who has brought in her daughter for a trim. What she says next astonishes me: "And the point is, 'Why are you wearing this beautiful human hair wig?'" It is what I was thinking, of course: the absurdity of covering beautiful hair with -- beautiful hair. "A lot of us ask the same question," she twinkles. "Because you're not supposed to look ugly," Avidor interjects, while tending to a young woman with an energetic toddler. Contemplating this tableau, mother and child, I reflect that modesty may be important, but looking attractive ensures that the species survives. Avidor finishes fixing the woman's own hair -- straight and blond and shoulder-length -- and reaches for a wig -- straight and blond and shoulder-length -- which she secures on the woman's head. She steps back, regards her work and beams. The woman does not. perruques cheveuxI wonder aloud: If the wig is made of human hair nearly identical to your own, what's the point? "There's a difference," Chavy insists. She means that no matter how beautiful a wig makes a woman, the hair doesn't actually spring from her own head. Thus it is deemed a lesser beauty and the original mandate -- modesty -- is preserved. "I don't go out anymore," the young mother says, picking up her headscarf. "I wear this all the time. My mother screams at me." I ask why. "Because it's ugly. She's going, 'Wear your wig! You used to take care of yourself, what's with the jean skirt?' I'm like, 'Aaarrghh!'" Her son starts banging the floor with a hairbrush. Perhaps the young mother is too frazzled to worry about her appearance, but her mother is not. And despite the stated ideals of modesty, one retains the freedom to choose which wig to buy. Are these choices truly in keeping with ego-surrender? Might a wig-covered head -- or, for that matter, the shaved scalp of a Hindu devotee -- in fact call attention to the self? I think of a woman I met named Meena, a native of southern India who lives in Los Angeles yet journeys often to Tirumala with her husband and children. She has as yet refrained from having her head shaved. To do so would be "to give up everything, not to think about yourself," she says, her dark hair rippling down her back. "It's done only when you get past your selfishness." I consider this and wonder: if you know your hair will grow again -- or be covered with someone else's beautiful hair -- are you truly giving up everything? This is what I'm thinking; what I say to the group in the salon is that it all seems pretty complicated.

Over a decade has passed since Isaac Bracha's party. Once again, I am dining in his home. I mention my latest meeting with Dirks. She had shown me some Russian hair, saying, "There's something wrong with this. It's sick. I don't know how else to describe it. It's grainy. It's crinkled." She'd had to reject all of it. lace front wigsBracha nods. There has lately been a dramatic drop in quality with an inversely dramatic rise in prices, some "300 or 400 percent." Skyrocketing demand for Russian hair has caused traders to accept inferior hair. The hair that looked sick, he says, probably came from older women who at one time would have been turned down. Moreover, it seems that Indian women are finally selling their hair for real money. Young women have started to cut their hair regularly, as Western women do. Some are even buying extensions. According to Bracha, it is this cultural shift that is the biggest threat to the human hair business. What will he do if Indian women stop growing their hair three feet long? Will he start over in yet another country? He says he is indeed exploring new business opportunities, but the world has changed. Rather than benefit from cultural difference, he will be taking advantage of globalization, of the world's increasing homogeneity. In August 2011, Bracha's Van Nuys office was robbed at gunpoint. The thieves were caught, but soon afterward, he stopped importing the prized Russian hair. Apparently, hair-filled bunkers under armed guard are now the norm in Ukraine.

I have been sitting with Vikki Wood one afternoon when suddenly it hits me. "How are your eyes?" cosplay wigsShe responds instantly, the subject clearly on her mind. "My eyes are getting older, and I do need to get them checked every year." She has another eight or ten years before she retires, she figures, and, failing sight and carpal tunnel syndrome aside, she's also not sure that the hair supply will last. "That could disappear before anything else happens. The film industry isn't going to be happy with synthetic. Then again, maybe it'll all be computer-generated hair." Wood likens human hair to an endangered species. "The only way to get more hair is to have people that will grow their hair long and leave it alone. And the only way to get more hair to be grown is, you know, God has to create the people to have the hair grow. But you can't breed more hair like you can breed 10,000 sheep and you've got ten thousand more heads of wool. You can't just breed people because you want their hair. You know what I mean?"