Melrose Avenue is home to the west coast headquarters of the internationally-revered Manic Panic. Since 1977, Manic Panic has been adding color and personality to the heads of the bold and the famous, and supporting the creative and fanciful on Melrose since 2012.
Tish and Snooky are two sisters who, in the mid-1970s, were living the rock ‘n’ roll dream. In addition to being part of the OG NY punk scene as backup singers for the original Blondie lineup, they were developing a branded style and making their own clothing. From their mom, they borrowed $500 and the term she used to describe their business by day-party by night lifestyle (“manic panic”) to open America’s first punk boutique on NYC’s infamous St. Mark’s Place. Catering to an alternative crowd, particularly in the rock and punk scenes, the shop gained popularity and media attention across the world. Cher was one of the first mainstream artists to regularly rock Manic Panic with the bright palette of the ‘80s with artists like Gwen Stefani, Flea, Jared Leto, Katy Perry, and Rihanna joining the fold over the years.
Startling hair color was the main product, making it easy to enter your bathroom a brunette and leave with green locks. The little jars of rainbow hues were quite the commodity and the sisters soon expanded the line to include lipstick, gloss, eye color, and nail polish. Colors found in nature and those born in pure imagination allow for incredible looks that today are as common on the runway as they are in the mall.
Tish and Snooky love Venice Beach, and opened a SoCal store on the boardwalk in 2006. While the counter-culture certainly made sense for the brand, the ladies wanted to be in a shopping destination. Melrose Avenue’s deep and rich history of alternative lifestyle shopping made the best sense for a thriving west coast showroom. Manic Panic Style Asylum opened on Melrose in 2012.
West coast manager Trina Mann said, “Melrose is completely different from
Venice. We’re centrally located here, and this is where the trends happen. It’s both L.A.-based people and tourists.” With all the foot traffic on the avenue, being easy to find as well as being easy to discover has been an advantage. Tapping into the legacy of the area has also been a good thing. “There must have been a store that sold similar punk rock and rock ‘n’ roll stuff that was either in this exact location or nearby because people say we remind them of it.”
The showroom is dense with colors, glitter, textures, and cool imagery. “We carry every single product Manic Panic makes – the full cosmetics line, wigs, and clothing. We also carry other clothing like Kill Star (UK) and Straight to Hell (Chicago) leather jackets,” explained Trina. The selection is quite deliberate. “We want people to find stuff here they can’t find anywhere else.”
But people will always come primarily for the hair dye (there is a Frequent Dyers club). The formula semi-permanent, safe, and the formula 100% vegan. Manic Panic is award-winning, the newest commendation being for the Pastel-izer that immediately lightens the color to a delicate hue for the trendy watercolor looks. “The mermaid look is popular. Grey is also hot now, and green and yellow for the vibrant colors,” notes Trina.
Tish and Snooky continue to innovate and collaborate. They do trade shows with their friends across the street, Kreepville666 (“it’s a neighborhoody kind of feel here”). Los Angeles is lucky to have one of the three Manic Panic salons (in Highland Park). They recently launched a 4-color special edition line in conjunction with Hasbro’s JEM movie.
Expression is progression, and Manic Panic remains a driving force in alternative beauty after forty years. This flagship store is meshing both NY and LA histories with the evolving, super-creative Melrose clientele. Trina is excited for the developments on the avenue, and gives an open invitation: “We’re open every day. If you like dying your hair, like rock ‘n’ roll, we’re always here, having a good time and listening to music. Come and see us!”
Shop Phone: 323.951.1513
Monday – Friday 11a – 7p
Saturday noon – 8p
Sunday noon – 7p
By Deborah Brosseau