Growing up, Ariel the mermaid was my favourite Disney princess. It was not her ability to live and breathe under water that caught my attention, but it was her bright red hair.
In 2012, when Katy Perry's 'Wide Awake' was released, people went crazy for the singer's electric blue hair in the music video. The hype was amplified by Avril Lavigne's hit music videos, where she showed the world that lime green and barbie pink could also be great hair colours.
The colours available to dye one's hair was limited back in the day; we could only dye shades of blond and red. Funky colours like blue, green or pink were fantasies.
Fast forward ten years, the scene has completely changed. We have salons specialised in vivid colouring techniques. Bold women are dyeing their hair with their dream colours, and it feels empowering.
Established in 2020, 'Barberette' is one of the pioneering names that began offering eclectic hair colours.
Starting from the scratch
Barberette is the passion project of Farzana Tasnim Rehman, currently an undergraduate student of Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB). Her fascination with striking colours dates back to her childhood. A rebel at heart, she refused to learn conventional art techniques in school.
"I was a messy artist. I was not particularly eager to draw fruits, birds or shapes. Instead, I used to dig my hands into colours and make beautiful colour gradients," she recalled.
In 2010, when she was only a sixth grader, she went to a salon with her mother and got a pink tinsel. It was then when she first began obsessing over hair colours.
Four years later, Farzana bought some cheap bleach from New Market and hair dye from her favourite brand, 'Manic Panic,' with saved lunch money. She dyed her entire hair blue!
Farzana has never stopped learning about hair-colour science ever since.
In 2015, she enrolled in an online seminar on hair colour, arranged by Manic Panic. In 2017, she participated in a workshop by Kamrul Kazi, the owner of Ban Thai, and got certified by him.
Later in 2019, she did another workshop arranged by 'Behind The Chair', the world's largest community for salon professionals.
"Playing around with hair became my favourite hobby. I used to save all my pocket money to buy dyes and later applied them on my friends' hair. I received quite a huge backlash for dyeing my grandmother's hair. I mean, she had beautiful white hair, and I could not stop adding colours to it," she said with a giggle.
In 2020, with the support of her family and friends, Farzana created her page, Barberette, where she would post pictures of her works. To her surprise, some posts went viral, and Barberette received overwhelming appreciation from many.
Girls who came across her page often made requests for appointments to colour their hair. After a few months, she took the leap and welcomed her first customers.
"I had no resources or anything. My father bought me a wash bed and a chair and set them in my bedroom. I started taking appointments once a month. I didn't even have a proper mirror where clients could see the work in progress."
Regardless, Farzana's business thrived! Everyone loved her work, and her super reasonable pricing made her services extremely popular. She and her father dreamt of renting out a commercial space to start a proper salon.
However, everything came to a halt when her father suddenly passed away at the end of 2020.
Later in 2021, Farzana hired a semi-commercial space at Dhanmondi and started operating her business there. Recently, they moved to a bigger space at Dhanmondi 27 where she can accommodate up to eight people at a time.
'Hair colour is like mathematics'
To date, Farzana has dyed the hair of more than 500 women. She even had a 75-year-old client. Girls from different districts came to Dhaka only to avail her services.
Barberette not only offers funky, vivid hair dyes, they also have options for global colours like Mahogany, Cinnamon, Honey, Chestnut, Brown, etc.
Farzana and her team are well-trained with modern techniques for bleaching hair, techniques which cause the least amount of damage. The products they use are all imported from Europe.
"In mathematics, if you are out of practice, you forget the formulas and mechanisms. Dying hair is very similar. It is a dynamic procedure, and there are countless formulae and techniques we need to experiment with," said Farzana.
"I mix and match different colour pallets to create trending fantasy hair, such as opalescent, holographic, unicorn, mermaid, or galaxy hair. Whether you want an all-over purple hair colour or a rose gold balayage, we are open to exploring all possibilities."
Many women in our country do not have proper knowledge of hair colour. Some customers have prejudice against certain shades, while others come traumatised from previous experiences. They find it very hard to trust experts. But Farzana is winning people over through her diligence.
Farzana is fascinated by the sky, and her work is often inspired by it. Farzana says that the hair colour inspired by the 'Aurora of the north pole' is her proudest work. She has also mastered sunset, beach, rainbow, galaxy, and peacock-inspired hair colours.
Over the years, Barberette has earned goodwill for its consultancy and after-service.
"All hair is different and unique. They all need careful observation and consultancy. I am always happy to advise my clients to the best of my knowledge. Moreover, I always provide them with an after-colour hair routine."
Price range: Tk 800 (For single hair strand colour) to Tk 17,000 (All-over balayage)
Address: 27 Shaptak Square, P:02 (380 old), Road:16 (27), Dhanmondi, Dhaka.