This Brand Creates Clean Braiding Hair From Banana Fibers
When Ciara Imani May created the Instagram handle for Rebundle in 2019, her only intention was to own the name. What she ended up doing was building a community of Black women who wanted more options when it came to braiding hair — especially those who experienced irritation from synthetic fibers.
"The sharing, the messages, the comments, just all of that helped us to build," May shares with InStyle.
While there are a plethora of brands that sell traditional and pre-stretched kanekalon hair, Rebundle offers an all-natural solution, with hairs made from banana fibers rather than plastic — the first of its kind in the U.S. The company also has a recycling program for customers where they can send in synthetic bundles after they take their protective style down, and Rebundle ensures it's properly processed.
When the brand officially launched their first product, Braid Better hair, in Jan. 2021, the pre-order inventory sold out within a month, with over 14% of sales coming directly from Instagram. The page also grew from 1,000 followers to now nearly 8,000.
Here, we speak with May about the creation of the brand, why Black women deserve more clean options, and the importance of taking a holistic approach to sustainability.
What made you want to create Rebundle?
I've been wearing braids for most of my life. I don't remember when I first started getting hair added, but I do remember it feeling uncomfortable, or heavy, or itchy. It was just not the greatest experience. I think what excited me about the idea was that it just made sense. I knew that there was this connection to other women who wear braids because there was just this common experience we all had which was being uncomfortable or in pain. I didn't know it would be plant-based in the beginning, but I just knew that our products deserved attention and deserved a solution that was both healthy and sustainable.
Tell me more about the ingredients and materials used to create the hair. How does it compare to traditional synthetic or human braiding hair?
We use naturally extracted banana fiber, which is sourced internationally. There's a difference in texture, for sure. It does not feel as silky as a plastic, but the way it looks is the same. You'll be able to cut it, dye it, and manipulate it the same way you would any other hair because the fiber is actually really, really strong.
Can you also use heat on it?
Yeah! You can use a flat iron and dip the ends [in boiling water].
You guys not only sell your own hair, but you also offer a recycling program for synthetic hair. How does that work?
The point of that was to address the waste that was already happening in the industry, so we separate the two arms of the company. People can send in the hair and we separate it by the types of plastic used and make sure it gets recycled properly.
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Your pre-orders sold out almost instantly — people we're really ready for this hair. Did you anticipate this reaction?
No, I think in hindsight I went into it naively. I knew that we were building something great, and I wanted other people to be able to share in that, but I couldn't have expected that reaction from everyone. The scariest part for me is how positive it's been and figure how do we move forward with this momentum.
What are some of the challenges you faced with the immediate high demand?
There's a lot of growing pains that we experienced and I even had personal challenges just trying to keep up with it. Things have gone wrong that you wouldn't even expect. You continue to push forward, but it's still very scary.
What are your hopes for the future of the brand?
There is a lane that we're building for ourselves and we can go in any direction that we want. I think that having a plant-based alternative, we would want to make more options available. We would want to create more colors and more textures. And it will continue to change the narrative around who this market serves and how we're being served. We want to push the narrative that we can wear our braids while being comfortable and being eco-conscious.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space.
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