Exclusive: Fine Featherheads' Emery Hills Murray Talks Feather Hair Extensions, From The Craze To The Controversy
June 8, 2011
Emery Hills Murray and some of Fine Featherheads’ feather bundles
Though hair feathers have factored famously in pop culture lately (read: everyone from Ke$ha to Jennifer Love Hewitt to Steven Tyler has been seen wearing feather hair extensions), they haven’t been controversial until recently, when the Associated Press published a story about how their popularity is causing a major shortage in the fishing industry, where the rooster feathers—which are called “hackles” in the fishing world—are used prominently as bait.
We caught up with Emery Hills Murray, sister of Fine Featherheads founder Dakota Hills, to talk about the origination of this boho-chic trend, and why the supply of these feather hair extensions can barely meet the overwhelming demand. Murray has helped her sister open dozens of accounts throughout Florida, and travels with her to awards shows like last week’s MTV Movie Awards to adorn a number of different celebrities with the feather hair extensions. See the full transcript of our interview below:
SHEfinds: How did your sister first get the idea for starting Fine Featherheads?
Emery Hills Murray: She was going to a lot of festivals at the Red Rock Amphitheater out in Colorado, and she was doing the feather extensions at the festivals to make a little extra money. She was in college at the time and doing it as a little side thing. Eventually she just became known as the ‘feather girl’ and started getting hundreds of calls a day. So she had to put college on hold because she was getting such high demand for the business. Now she’s trademarked and on her way to patenting her seven feather bundle. Now, a little over a year later, she has 50 employees working for the company.
SF: And how are you involved in the business?
EHM: I run an acupuncture and wellness center and I do skincare as an aesthetician in Tampa Bay, Florida. My sister told me about her idea to do feather hair extensions and I was like you’re crazy! But as soon as I saw one in her hair I said I wanted one immediately. Shortly after, she said you have to offer it as an add-on for your clients at the wellness center, and I said “yeah I’ll try it,” not thinking that I had enough of a bohemian culture to accept this kind of style, but the next thing you know it had blown up—I’ve helped her grow the business by opening up accounts for various salons throughout the state.
SF: That’s fantastic! So are you wearing feather hair extensions now?
EHM: Yes! I have five bundles in my hair right now. This month I’m doing the natural [colored] bundles, but I change it up every three to four weeks, just because I have access to all these fun colors.
SF: So what were you up to this weekend?
EHM: This past weekend I was at the MTV Movie Awards with my sister, at the celebrity gifting lounge. And then two months ago we were invited to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards—both went over really well, at Kid’s Choice we feathered Paris Jackson, Michael Jackson’s daughter, she went for the purple feathers. This time around [at MTV] we feathered Spencer Grammar, Alexis Bellino of the Real Housewives of Orange County, and WNBA player Lisa Leslie.
SF: Cool! What makes a good occasion to get feathered?
EHM: I’ve had a couple of bridesmaids parties come through, a lot of women like to get feathered together. It’s fun for a bridal event, it’s fun for a bachelorette party, graduation—girls are doing it in middle school and high school graduations because then their schools won’t make them remove them.
SF: Oh, has that been a problem? Are schools banning feather hair extensions among their students?
EHM: Some schools [in Florida] don’t let their students wear feathers, but I’ve actually been surprised how many private schools [here] let their students wear feathers. In one private Catholic school, the teachers got the feathers and then all their students came in and got feathered too. So there it was the teachers starting the trend, which was hilarious because usually kids want nothing to do with what their teachers are wearing!
SF: So where do you think this trend all started from: the youth impacting their elders or vice versa?
EHM: I think it definitely all started with women in their 20’s and 30’s at music festivals. But now, we’ve feathered everyone from two years old, to 90 years old. There’s really no age limit for who can enjoy a good feathering!
SF: I checked out your website, finefeatherheads.com, and I noticed that every item was sold out!
EHM: What’s happening now is we’re having an epidemic where there are more people in the world who want feathers than there are birds in existence. My sister has an exclusive contract with the best and biggest farm that has the secret genetic code for their DNA, so these are one of-a-kind birds that produce that high quality level of feathers. But what she does is she puts colors back in stock every day at noon, and then every day, within about 15 minutes, she sells out. It’s just amazing. She told me one salon somewhere across the country had feathers delivered to their front door, and the package was stolen from a competing salon!
SF: So what do you see for the future of feather hair extensions?
EHM: Well, she just launched Pet Plumes, which are shorter feathers for dogs, or for any pet really. And then next week she’ll be introducing a line called “Shorties” for people with bangs and shorter hair. She’s just working as hard as she can now because she knows the trend is just not going to last, but we’re sure that even if it isn’t as fanatical as it is right now, there still will be a demand for feathers—to some degree—for years to come.
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