Brand of the Day: How Ex-Blondie Backup Singers Made Manic Panic Into a Hair-Dye Empire

The Bellomo sisters' colorful story

Who could have known that America's first punk-rock boutique would turn into an international cosmetics company, and that its signature product—colorful hair dye with wicked names like Electric Lizard and Purple Haze—would make it a household name among millennials today? 

Bronx natives Tish and Snooky Bellomo, the founders of Manic Panic and the Martha Stewarts of punk rock, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, opened their boutique in New York's East Village in 1977 after audience members at a punk show where they were performing (they were backup singers in Blondie's original lineup, and played in other bands too) inquired about their unique look.

The store, which was located on St. Marks Place, became a hub of the New York punk scene, but in 1989 a significant rent hike forced the sisters out.

Without the boutique, they focused on the wholesale portion of the business, turning it into the international brand it is today. In fact, with the latest hair-color trend boasting bright colors, the brand's sales were up 26 percent in July over last year.

Social Media Profile (as of 11/14/14)
Facebook Likes: 134,139
Twitter Followers: 7,713
Instagram Followers: 84,825
 

 

A photo posted by MANIC PANIC (@manicpanicnyc) on

 
It seems like a no brainer that the social profile to follow is the brand's Instagram. The variety of bold hair colors—sometimes all on one head, as in the post above—are a treat. 

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The company has garnered a cult following without much help from traditional advertising (as the brand rarely has), though many celebrities known for wacky hair colors—like Katy Perry, Rhianna and Jared Leto—will hat-tip the brand, giving it credibility and exposure. 

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