Coloured hair is dead, but I'll never let go

ELLE's beauty editor follows her Manic Panic dreams, much to the chagrin of professional hairstylists

By Grace Wong | Published: 1 Dec 2016

Colour hair mania
ELLE beauty editor Grace Wong (Photo: Funkydali)

Like countless trends before it, I believe the ship of zany, over the top, non-natural hair colour has sailed, its ombré pastel-painted hull fading into the distance. If I squint, I can almost make out its freak flag billowing in the winds.

But Fernanda Ly, you say. I know! She's got a great look, and I'm in awe of how her hair is constantly the optimal pastel pink. But hear me out – I believe our generation's peak Manic Panic moment has already come and gone. Here's how it changed my life.

Fernanda Ly walks the Louis Vuitton SS16 runway at Paris Fashion Week (Photo:

Between 2011 to 2013, models Charlotte Free and Chloe Nørgaard were the girls to watch during fashion weeks, a tag team bringing vivid, punk hair colour to the runways. Free had her signature pink, while self-proclaimed hippie Nørgaard sported orange, red, purple, neon-yellow and all the colours between. Punk wasn't just a buzzword either. These fashion girls dyed their own hair, which they transformed from season-to-season on their own, or in collaboration with designers.

Charlotte Free in February 2015; Charlotte in Forever 21's Summer 2012 campaign (Photos: Charlotte Free; Forever 21)

The absolute pinnacle of this was Nørgaard's flame-inspired DIY-coloured hair at Rodarte AW13, which backstage hairstylist Odile Gilbert fashioned into a whimsical braid-and-rosette do.

Chloe Nørgaard's hairdo for Rodarte AW13 (Photo:

A childhood spent watching Sailor Moon on weekends and listening to early No Doubt on loop shaped my longing for vivid anime hair, but it was this precise fashion moment that pushed me over the edge. I finally ordered the clearance dye I wanted from the Manic Panic sale website. Then on my last day of work at an organic skincare shop, when I was sure I couldn't get fired, I took the plunge and showed up to work with a head of sea-green hair.

So when Ly walked Spring 2016 at Louis Vuitton, I couldn't help but notice how this hair trend has come full circle. Non-natural shades have been pushed to their limits in the last few years before being tamed and refined, from highlights to pastel, ombré, splash lights, hand-pressed hair and finally, layered colour paired with graphic cuts. The grown-up, 2016 iteration calls for frequent touch ups, specialist creams in place of regular shampoos, and all the Olaplex it takes for resilient locks.

For now, my personal hair philosophy is set firmly on the opposite end: I still stubbornly like grungy, slightly fried texture, grown out roots, and more than anything, I enjoy creating my own look. Even as articles continue to declare how "My Little Pony hair is dead", bright, non-natural hair remains a signal to do as I please, in beauty and in life.

Gwen Stefani in No Doubt's Simple Kind of Life music video in 2009

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