Manic Panic - an interview with Punk Legends

They are the sister duo who singlehandedly changed the punk scene into how we know it today. Tish and Snooky Bellomo started turning and transforming heads around the world since 1977 with their brand Manic Panic. From opening their first boutique with only $250 in hand, these two rock n’roll gals may be the most inspiring #girlbosses you possibly didn’t know. Known for their creativity and innovation, these ex Blondie back up singers were able to turn their passion for individual style into a multi million dollar business built on self expression. Specializing in hair colour, Manic Panic is now an internationally renowned for having the best selection of hair colour and cosmetics in every colour of the rainbow and beyond. Still based in NYC, the brand is still going from strength to strength so while FFD was in town, we caught up with the woman behind the magic to pick their brain to the secrets of success and happiness.

Hey Tish & Snooky! Manic Panic was originally started as a clothing store in the late 70's, if you were still making clothing what designer do you think would be closest to your aesthetic?

We still love the punk/glam DIY Aesthetic- shopping flea markets and Salvation Army thrift stores in search of precious finds from the past: old concert Tee shirts, ripped up denim wear, worn out leather, pointed toe shoes…. That’s one of the things we liked to do - create our own looks by decorating and restyling clothing and accessories, along with creating our own original designs using unusual fabrics and treatments. We do love designer Cindy Dunaway's glam aesthetic-she did all the stage wear for the original Alice Cooper Group, and designs stage wear for us and select others. We also love Patricia Field, Offend My Eyes, Dang from Tripp for old-school punk, Tequila from Killstar ( a more Goth aesthetic,) and have always adored Vivienne Westwood and Norma Kamali for their artistry and sophisticated edge just to name a few. And we love your look, Betty!

Wow! You are certainly woman after my own heart. Manic Panic have constantly pushed the boundaries of hair dye, how to you stay ahead of competition?

Manic Panic just won Nylon Magazine’s Beauty Hit List Award for Best Hair Color of 2016! We love what we do and we do what we love.That's the edge we have-it's been our passion for almost 40 years-it's not just a trend we're jumping on. The world is finally catching up! We have some amazing new projects in the works, but we can't give details yet!

What has been your favourite hair dye trend that’s gone mainstream?

Along with our posse we pioneered not only dozens of amazing colors but we experimented with mixing intense colors, pastelizing them, using multiple colors to create spectacular rainbows and combinations that one can only dream of! We inspired people with 9-5 conservative jobs to dye the hair underneath so it would be covered by day and visible after work when they put their hair up! Tish: My fave ever looks were my vertical striped red and black hair (a salute to my striped tabby cat) and my Ultra Violet roots with Hot Hot Pink hair! Snooky: Coloring our own hair since 1977, we always like to experiment and fearless when it comes to making a statement with our looks. I think we were one of the first to wear two or more colors in our hair . People thought we had made a mistake, but our look was intentional (LOL). Now the two tone and ombre looks are everywhere!

Oh I hear ya! What’s the process of coming up with new hair dye colours?

We love concocting new colors and are inspired by nature, our surroundings, our dreams and fashion. We love wearing several shades at once and we have discovered new colors in an organic way by mixing them and blending them and testing them out.

Your relationship with fashion all began with the punk movement, how have you managed to stay true to your roots?

Tish: I got a scholarship to fashion a design school in NYC, but dropped out when it started interfering with my night life! We'd design the outfits we wore on stage using our intuition, reworking thrift shop finds using some of the knowledge I acquired in my short time in fashion design school. We went from a DIY glam look to the DIY punk look that we will cherish forever. Snooky: We remain true to our style which has evolved over the years and become slightly more contemporary will never really change. It's who we are.

And we love you! What do you think of the current punk scene in NYC? Is punk dead?

Nothing is ever really dead, it just changes. Everything is always morphing into something new and hopefully something great! Although we miss the dawn of punk, we love that new clubs, music and culture are popping up in places nobody would ever expect like in Brooklyn and queens. Artists are pioneering the NY frontiers the same way we pioneered the east village and bowery. So many scenes have come and gone ~ and then come back. The great thing about a multi-cultural city like New York is you have so much going on at once. There are tons of people wearing punk clothing, punk makeup and hair, punk bands, punk shows…as a matter of fact our punk band from 1977 still performs regularly - with most of our original members!

That’s amazing! We’d love to see you perform! So if you need something new, where do you go shopping in NYC?

The Unique Thrift Shop in the Bronx, Trash & Vaudeville, but we mostly shop in our own closets and storage, we've kept so much, that we can find things that are so old, that they are new again. We love yard sales, thrift shops, 99 cent shops, and when we're out of town 1£ shops, 1€ shops, 100 yen shops, and of course we love our own Manic Panic Style Asylum on Melrose Avenue in L.A.-a modern version of our original store on St. Marks Pl. in NYC, circa 1977.

We NEED to check that out! Who do you think is pushing the boundaries of fashion right now?

We love our friend NYC downtown icon Tabboo’s limited edition line for Marc Jacobs! Tabboo is a fantastic painter and they are incorporating his artwork into some high end couture that is “old New York City / Goth”. This is what we live by - be true to yourself and your aesthetic and do what you love. There are no limits to where it will lead! Authenticity will always be recognized.

Best. Statement. Ever! So, what can we expect to see from Manic Panic in the future?

Everything!!! Fab new beauty products, clothing, accessories, and much, much more! Today your hair, tomorrow the world!!!

Describe Manic Panic in three words.

Wear It Loud!

Originally published on 06 Nov 16

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Sheri Scott, also known as the orange hair and glasses behind leading Scottish based fashion and lifestyle blog, Forever Yours Betty.
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