Name: Stacey Vest
Age: “Old enough to know better and too young to give a rat’s buttocks.”
Title: Costume and wig engineer at Sweet Hayseed’s Wearable Wonders
Why we love her: She’s the perfect balance of zany, sugary sweet and artistic genius; her wigs are both a drag queen’s dream and some of the most couture headpieces ever to come out of the Queen City.
Born just three minutes before Valentine’s Day, Stacey Vest was destined to make our Love List. Though she was born in Northern Kentucky, Vest considers Cincinnati her true hometown and likes to get lost wandering the city in search of inspiration.
Convinced she was in show business in a past life — “Maybe theater, maybe vaudeville,” she says — Vest found her calling as a creative after earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
“As for the wig business, I am self-taught,” she says. “I’ve always loved Halloween and being someone else for a day. The wigs came into play when I decided to dress as a cuckoo clock and someone said, ‘You should sell that.’ And so it goes.”
Her handcrafted creations are made from an array of materials, ranging from human hair and papier-mâché to buckram, and are shipped all over the world by way of Etsy. She’s wigged musicals in Australia, caused hair envy on a global level each Halloween and is sought after by photographers, stylists and Mardi Gras crews.
Even with the international success, she’s equally proud of her hometown clientele. Vest’s wigs have graced window displays all over town, and she’s collaborated with Dana Hamblen of vintage shop Chicken Lays an Egg on eccentric fashion shows for almost two decades. Local artist and educator Pam Kravetz has been seen about town in Vest’s creations at Dîner en Blanc, High Art and during her recent CAC TV performance. And Vest, “master sculptor of fantasies in hair,” is currently collaborating with Kravetz for The Carnegie’s upcoming Art of Food exhibit.
Because she creates wigs for such a variety of occasions, Vest lets her creativity run wild. There’s a wig for every event in her shop, whether you need a bright pink “Galaxy Geisha Wig” with dangling fiber optics, neon cocktail umbrellas and pompoms; a blue and white Rococo-style “Unda Aestus Art Wig” in the vein of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, complete with a miniature multi-masted ship on top; or a free-form “Amalthea Art Wig,” a wild baby-blue blow out with a Rio Carnival-inspired green and floral headpiece.
“My clientele usually calls for over-the-top unworldly looks,” she says. Her most memorable wigs also happen to be her most challenging. “My favorites are ones where I have complete creative control. I really enjoy making creations with functionality or a challenge. I’ve made wigs that open up to fit a can of whipped cream, for example. My favorites are the kind that transform in some way or incorporate an element that’s unexpected, like lights.”
What aspects do you love about your job?
Art for your head is fundamental. I’m lucky to make money doing what I love: creating; transforming a seemingly average material into the unrecognizable. Since I was able to pick up a comb and use a pair of sharp scissors, friends and family have come to me for help with hairstyles, wardrobe and ideas. This is a great act of trust, and for that I am grateful.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about showing my daughter, who is the wee age of 3, the beauty and colors that surround us, and teaching her how to challenge ourselves and find love within. Passion derives from challenge. Whether it’s love, work or health, conquering something seemingly impossible is an unbelievable feeling.
It’s Friday night after a long week. Where would you love to be?
I’d be conceptualizing how to turn fantasies into realities and dreaming of travel with friends. Really, I’d be anywhere that has nothing to do with cleaning up glitter. There’s a chance you’d find me tap dancing, playing ukulele and yodeling all at once at a German festival. Look for the girl in the dirndl.
What do you love about Cincinnati?
Its opportunities are endless, even though I’ve been here all my life.
What’s the best lesson life has taught you about love?
If you’re too serious, no one will take you seriously. Take risks. Love is a battlefield. ©