for l.a. cult colorist alaina manibog, pastel is the future

Colorist Alaina Manibog explains how her palette — from cry baby blue to mellow yellow — is both subtle and strong.

Jun 20 2017, 3:45pm

i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture and the times we live in.

Humorist and critic Fran Lebowitz once said, "Violet will be a good color for hair at just the same time brunette becomes a good color for flowers." That time must be now: The pastel palette of colorist Alaina Manibog, which includes subtle hues of peach, pink and blue, is better than good — it's dreamy.

Alaina, a native of Los Angeles, started doing hair as a teenager, using bleach and hair dye from the local 99-cent store. Her mother's daily routine, of hot roller sets and backcombing, was a particular inspiration. "She hand-painted her own highlights and never left the house without her hair and makeup properly done," remembers Alaina, who is now based at the Benjamin salon in West Hollywood. "It signified what was beautiful and appropriate." Her oldest brother's multicolored Mohawk provided her with a different perspective. "It taught me at a young age that hair was not just something you wore," she says, "it was telling others who you were."

Alaina pulls references from "almost everywhere" — including from music, furniture and religion — but attributes the soft tones of her work to her great-grandmother Velma and her twin sister Thelma, who were performers in the Ziegfeld follies in the 1930s and 40s. "Most of the photos I have of them are black-and-white, but the ones I have in color are these beautiful, muted colors that make them look so angelic and untouchable," Alaina says. "This taught me that you don't have to be loud to be strong."In keeping with that reasoning, Alaina prefers subdued colors, especially when paired with more intense hairstyles. "Many of my clients have strong haircuts such as blunt cuts, bobs or a straight fringe," she explains, "and it's nice to give that shape a color that is beautiful and present without screaming at you." For example, for a recent shoot, Alaina colored models' tresses frosty shades of pink, green and blue, which were then styled into flipped bobs. The result was both nostalgic and fashion forward, like Valley of the Dolls meets Fernanda Ly.

This month, Alaina will release Moody Girls, a product range from Benjamin, which includes DIY hair masks in five limited-edition pastels — lovey dovey, cry baby, mellow, peppy and peachy keen. So is pastel the hair trend of the future? Alaina isn't sure. "I'm just going to do whatever I like in that moment in time," she says.


Text Zio Baritaux
Photography courtesy Alaina Manibog