By James Field
When Layla Koopal, 66, does a good job you won’t have any idea. In fact Layla’s work has been so good at going unnoticed that she has an award from the King to prove it.
Layla points to the walls of cupboards in her shop ‘Frans Koopal’ in Groningen, “60,000 wigs” she says proudly, and thats just one wall.
A 3rd generation wig maker, inheriting the profession from her grandparents who made wig’s for the theatre, for the last 51 years she’s perfected the art of making the extraordinary seem ordinary.
Her customers are as numerous and varied as her store cupboards, that take up three rooms and two floors of her river front store. From a badly burnt man looking for a chest-hair wig for beach season, to thirty St Nicolas’ in search of beards to fool eagle eyed kids.
She recounts a particularly memorable day when one of her best customers, a transgender woman, came in after an important operation. So excited was she to show her favourite wig maker her new self, right there in the store she lifted up her skirt revealing the fruits of her operation. The life of a wig maker is never boring.
Sat in her office, surrounded by hair of all shapes and colours, Layla leans in close and gestures to her forehead. Almost imperceptible unless pointed out, she is in fact one of her own customers.
Layla, the unsung hero of Dutch wig making, received her medal from the king for her work with seven hospitals around the Netherlands. Burn victims, Alopetcia sufferers and Cancer patients around the country sport Layla’s hand-made hair. Something she does free of charge, as her greatest joy comes from what she simply calls “helping people have a good day”.