-While on a family trip to Kenya in 2014, Grace Eleyae’s mom advised her to wear a scarf over her head to protect her hair from the arid climate.
“But I was like, ‘I’m on vacation,'” Eleyae recalls. “‘I want to look cute.'” Ignoring her mom’s advice, Eleyae embarked on an eight-hour car ride from Nairobi to the coast. The dry air combined with the friction of the headrest and Eleyae’s (unprotected) hair, which was both chemically and heat-straightened at the time, left a two-inch-wide hole of breakage on the back of her head.
“It was devastating,” Eleyae says. “But it started the wheels turning [to find] something that’s cute enough but protective of my hair.” Later that year, Eleyae started her company, Grace Eleyae, creating stylish headgear lined with silk and satin. Unlike cotton, which is more porous and can pull oil and moisture out of your hair, silk and satin protect it from damage. The materials also have more slip to help avoid breakage caused by friction.
Grace Eleyae launched with its hero product, The Slap (a sleek bonnet with an elastic band to keep it from sliding off your head), but has since expanded its collection to include turbans, beanies, baseball caps, fedoras, and more.
And that range, plus their gender-neutral styles, is what caught my attention. I stumbled across Grace Eleyae a few months ago during a rare moment of a YouTube pre-roll ad actually showing me something of interest.
I’d always heard of the benefits of silk and satin, but, to be honest, the classic bonnet silhouette just isn’t really my style. I wear a lot of regular beanies and caps on days when I can’t be bothered to style my hair. But I knew they were also contributing to the tumbleweed situation atop my head. So I bought two of Grace Eleyae’s Slaps to try out: one to wear in public and another to wear when I sleep.
“This product can really impact everyone. But what took us some time to realize was that it’s very expensive to market to everyone,” Eleyae says. “So we started with Black women. But it was always supposed to be something that was available for all people who just want to protect their hair.”
To that end, Eleyae says the company will introduce new sizes and flat-billed caps this year, to further appeal to a broader spectrum of customers. The company is also planning to launch a line of haircare products and further expand its retail presence by partnering with Sephora, in addition to Ulta and JCPenney.
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