Behind the wild
FRIENDS FROM A PAST LIFE
Wildform’s co-founders, César DeLeön Ramirêz and Caroline De Sousa, have been friends for over 20 years. In other words, they take it back to the cassette-tape era.
It’s impossible to really tell Wildform’s story without hearing from the two of them directly. Since Caroline and César are truly the kind of BFFs who finish each other’s sentences, we sat them down for a Q+A to hear Wildform’s origin story firsthand (spoiler: it was basically written in the stars) and see their friendship in action.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU TWO KNOWN EACH OTHER?
César: We’ve been best friends for over 20 years. We met in cosmetology class in high school.
Caroline: My twin sister Sabrina had a crush on him, even though I told her she was crushing on a player for the wrong team. Cesar goes beyond a brother for me.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
Caroline: We partied a lot!
César: We used to go into the city and go to all the clubs—Limelight, Tunnel, Twilo.
Caroline: And raves in Queens and Brooklyn and Philly. It was kind of hardcore.
César: We were mystics back then, too; we went to palm readers and psychics.
Caroline: We’re Brazilian and Puerto Rican. That’s just what you do.
César: I took Caroline to see a Puerto Rican santera who told Caroline her whole life. Basically, it all came true.
Caroline: When César came to visit my family in Brazil I took him to see these Gypsy channelers, ciganas.
César: A shaman told us once that we’re part of each other’s soul tribes. It’s pretty clear we’ve known each other for many lives.
Caroline: We always knew we would work together, we just weren’t sure when.
César: We used to sit in her kitchen and plan our lives. We were going to move into the city, share an apartment, and get cool fashion jobs.
Caroline: Which we did!
César and Caroline rocking the oughts in, clockwise from top, 2002, 2008, 2004. Digital cameras only.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?
César: It sounds like a cliché, but we literally had to eat ramen every night so we could afford the rent.
Caroline: We didn’t have air conditioning so sometimes we would sit in the window of our apartment in Brooklyn in our underwear and eat ice cream.
César: And crochet! We were always making stuff.
Caroline: I forgot about that! Yes, crocheting in the window and working a lot.
César: I worked seven days a week between assisting in salons and building my editorial portfolio. Caroline was working nights at these iconic spots, like the Box and PM and The Coffee Shop, all while working as a fashion stylist and running the desk at salons.
Caroline: Eventually César’s career took off. He started working with celebrities and getting a lot of attention. I was working as a fashion stylist but couldn’t part ways with the beauty scene. By the time I moved to LA I was married and two kids deep, overseeing Toni&Guy’s California salons and running their marketing department.
Clockwise from top left: Building super adobes at the CalEarth Institute outside LA; César putting the finishing touches on Caroline’s hair on her wedding day; presenting an award at the TONI&GUY Photographic Awards
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR WILDFORM COME FROM?
César: Honestly, it came from a place of frustration. I was venting to Caroline about the quality of the wigs and hair pieces I was using on my clients and how I had to manipulate every single one before I was happy with how it looked.
Caroline: He told me he was considering making his own wig line, and I had this total lightbulb moment. I thought, I can market this.
César: I wanted a quality product that didn’t cost thousands of dollars.
Caroline: But before we made anything official we met with an astrologist to make sure our career star charts were aligned. Luckily we passed that test!
César: We knew Wildform had to have a spiritual aspect. Our goal was to bring ritual and intention back to beauty.
Caroline: We both recognized that the way the beauty industry markets and targets is very gender based. We saw an opportunity to diminish some stigmas and blur gender lines. We had an opportunity to make it for everyone.
César: We’ve worked with a lot of light workers to make sure Wildform is staying aligned. We want to stay true to our original purpose and never steer away from that.
Caroline: Hairdressers are pretty spiritual, even if they don’t know it. They’re a quirky bunch of creatives who throw down Tarot cards in the break room and have a satchel of crystals in their pockets. We wanted to elevate the industry in a way that felt more real and connected to that spiritual, almost clairvoyant element of hair and hairstyling.
César: Essentially hair stylists work with energy because hair carries all of a person’s energy.
Caroline: That’s an understatement! There were a lot of challenges right away. Everything was being outsourced from China and we didn’t feel good about that.
César: Sustainability is a big part of our ethos, so we went back to the drawing board to find ways we could source locally. We decided to recycle dead-stock fabric from the garment district in LA for our wig bags, and we found an American paper mill and box manufacturer for our packaging.
Caroline: Our original plan was to launch in fall 2018 with a full line of wigs, but it took us a long time to find the right manufacturer. The hair samples we got back were never done the right way.
César: The quality just wasn’t what we wanted. We had to start from scratch with production.
Caroline: The setbacks were challenging but all the pivoting made us realize we wanted to go beyond wigs. That’s when we started to focus on ritual tools and hair care products. Our vision for Wildform has really grown.
César: Wigs are a great way to protect your natural hair and give it a break from processing and styling, so it made sense to have a repair and maintenance product line that supports that, while still having wigs that will allow people to experiment and explore a different version of themselves.
Caroline: It has not been lost on us that we had to do a lot of shapeshifting in order to launch this brand that’s all about shapeshifting.
César: Yeah, I believe the universe gives you what you ask for and we asked for a major global brand so now we have to show up for it. I also believe that everything happens when it’s supposed to.