INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- It's one of the most luxurious accessories many women can't leave home without: their hair extensions. The craze for long, luxurious locks has exploded in recent years. What used to be a hair secret has transformed into a whole new world of proud extension wearers paying top dollar for extra volume and length.
"People love to talk about it. People love to share ideas. I know a lot of the older people in my family are like I can't believe you tell people you wear extensions I'm just like, 'I don't care, it's fun,'" extension wearer Christina Lockett said.
Newcomers are loving the trend that allows so much versatility in their looks.
"No one knows I have extensions. They're always like your hair looks so pretty I want your hair and I'm like yeah, I pay a lot of money for my hair to look like this," Sarah Colby said.
Hair extension sales have grown into a billion-dollar industry. One Indianapolis business got in on the fad five years ago and sales have soared.
"We started off with $700 a piece," Hope Hall said.
Hope Hall and her business partner Antonio Lisenbee are the owners of Diamond Virgin Hair Company.
In five short years, their Indianapolis-based hair company has had orders coming from all over the world.
"It's become a multi-million dollar company. We started getting orders from Israel, the UK, Africa," said Hall.
The company is poised to make the list as one of america's fastest growing private companies by INC 5000. From Brazilian to Peruvian hair, curly or straight, Diamond Virgin Hair Co. has the look you're going for. This hair can be dyed multiple times and lasts up to a year, proving it's worth at more than $100 a bundle.
Beauty educator Ebony Stroder says it boils down to a matter of convenience of the consumer.
"All ethnicities. White women and black women we just don't have the time to put into our hair and appearance so it's a convenience factor it's just being able to get up and to without a lot of work to do," Stroder said.
The most popular method for installing hair extensions is the sew in. A woman's natural hair is braided underneath and the extensions are weaved onto the braids with a needle and thread, giving the appearance the hair is growing from the scalp. It's also a protective style for many who don't want to apply heat to their own hair but to the extensions instead.
And although the hair comes from another nationality, Ebony says its not a reflection of wanting to look like someone else, but the versatility is fun for women who like to switch it up.
" I have a lot of women that are natural and embrace the natural and they wear the curlier natural texture virgin hair to have a natural look. So more of a Afro kinky curly look versus the European straight look," Stroder said.
The business has seen the dark side of success, too. Hall and Lisenbee were the victims of a brazen hair heist back in February. Thieves stormed their business in the middle of the night and made off with tens of thousands of dollars worth of hair.
Their story is unfortunately becoming all too common with high-dollar hair being targeted by thieves throughout the country.
"The police called us and then so he pulled up the cameras and he said oh my god the hair is gone and we saw the drawers hanging out and some of the hair on the floor and we saw the door open on the camera and we kind of blacked out from there," Hall said.
With other hair heist in other parts of the country the burglars swipe the extensions and make a mad dash. The hair is typically resold online and social media. Hall and Lisenbee believe their burglars had the same idea in mind-- a first of it's kind crime for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).
"It really is shocking. In having a conversation with the owner, I mean, it's really sad because it's her livelihood. So while it may be hair to the criminal it certainly had a significant impact on her bottom line," IMPD officer Kendale Adams said.
The bottom line is the high-dollar hair business will continue to grow even as new styles are created and as people are willing to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars to enhance their beauty.
Police warn people about buying hair off the street because it could be stolen. Instead, they want people to help local businesses by reporting the unusual crime that's gaining traction.
Diamond Virgin Hair Co. also operates a hair salon where the owners have increases security measures, including having an armed guard on the property.