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Graphics and Layout: Konstanze Winkler
Melanie Penners
Photos: "Manis & Gamila" © R. Gutzmer,
"Teamwork" © Frank Hofmann all others © M. Penners
Magic Tribal Hair's workshop of ideas
Hairy-creative, hand-made ideas from Carnival to Tribal
Interview with
Melanie Penners
by Konstanze Winkler
Beguilingly real looking hairpieces of endless, long hair, wild creations with braids decorated with cowries and feathers, colourful flowers, steampunk feather headdresses with real old clock parts, funny small cowry flower hairclips, hairpieces of yarns in beautiful colours – Magic Tribal Hair's wonderfully fanciful headdresses can be seen everywhere on the heads of tribal and fusion dancers. A conversation with the owner Melanie Penners gave us some insight-
How did you get the idea to start Magic Tribal Hair?

That can be said in quite a few words: I love doing handicrafts, being creative and I was lucky to meet the right people at the right time!  I study Northern Languages, Dutch and English at the University of Cologne and I will finally graduate in summer 2012. I have always financed my studies myself, so I have been working very much, too. I have mainly been giving additional lessons for children who do not do well at school in English, Dutch, German and French, now and then I worked for other companies at trade fairs, I did translations for a French manufacturer of porcelain and crystal glass for half a year.... Before going to university I had done an apprenticeship as industrial business management assistand and besides that I had had my own little business with extensions, which I had already started while still at school.
Some day this was not popular any more, so I stopped this business, but it always annoyed me, that there was still much high quality kanekalon hair left, which was way to expensive for just lying in  a box. Some day I finally had the brilliant idea of Magic Hair, which became Magic Tribal Hair later on; I started making hairpieces of the left artificial hair. These hairpieces sold like hot cakes at ebay for Carnival, I even had to buy new hair the same year in order to be able to continue!

So one can say that I had tasted blood then, because this creative-practical work was a lot of fun, too! The next year I developed new products: Fantasy hairpieces with tulle and laces, autumn leaves, shells, small flowers, some yarns, feathers etc.. These new models reminded me of hairstyles I had seen in movies with bad fairies, pixies, elves, mermaids and witches. The most beautiful fantasy hairpieces can still be found in the online shop under fantasy hairpieces and in the Carnival section
Manis and Gamila doing their crossover performance; both wearing a Magic Tribal Hair hairpiece of the partner's hair colour – totally crossover!
Costumes: ShaliSari
And how did you move from Carnival to tribal?

That took some time, because you do not meet your customers and talk to them that much in an all  online business. So you rarely get to know the final purpose of the hairpiece! That is why I did not know that lots of customers did not buy the hairpieces for Carnival, but for something called tribal or fusion dance and that these customers liked my hairpieces even more than the Carnival group! It took me two years to find out about that, because then some women wrote me telling me about tribal fusion and how wonderful my hairpieces matched their costumes. Two of them were so kind and took the time to inform me more precisely and I could thank them with a special creation matching their costumes.

That day really was the day of founding of Magic Tribal Hair, because then I started buying the basic material for tribal hairpieces: wool, cowries, coins and ostrich plumes and in the following I crafted some samples which I sold at ebay. They sold quickly and soon I had even sent the first items to France, Austria and Italy! Martina Von Moltke, one of my consultants who meanwhile has become a friend, recommended presenting my products not only online but also at trade fairs and shows. So I soon had my first stall at „Alles Tribal V“ (Everything Tribal V in English) in Viersen, Germany. Compared to my stalls nowadays this was a very very tiny one and I only had 40-50 hairpieces and about 20 hair clips with me. Everything was quickly surrounded by curious tribal women and I was really amazed about how much they liked my ideas!

Carnival hairpieces: "Mermaid" (above),
"Fairy of the Woods" (below left) and "Pirate's Bride" (below right)
I was impressed about this response to my products at the next events, too. Some women were really thankful for me making hair jewelry for them to create an illusion of full long hair or a fanciful headdress. I predominantly sold at some smaller events like Apsara Habiba's summer party here in Cologne. So the ideas had had their baptism of fire and Magic Tribal Hair had become out of Magic Hair. In the summer of 2009 the shop finally went online.
That means that the tribal scene actually has found you and then inspired you? Does this mean that you yourself do not dance at all?
One could definitely say that the scene has found me, yes. I myself did not know anything about tribal or fusion up to that day! Of course I knew Oriental dance, but I have to admit that I am not crazy about that, because OD has always been too tawdry and turgid in my point of view, concerning both music and costumes. Whereby I have to mention that some performances can be very fascinating even if one does not like Oriental dance that much, thinking of Shamadan bellydance for example. Basically I like tribal fusion best of all dance styles I have seen up to now. I have the feeling that dancers can be most creative in tribal fusion concerning everything, costumes, music and movements. In my point of view does tribal fusion go really well with our western culture and lifestyle, way more than Oriental dance. I am aware of the fact that fusion has its roots also in Oriental dance and thus would not exist without it. And to answer you question if I also dance myself; no, I don't. I am interested in learning it, but I am afraid I do not have the time at the moment.
But there is one important thing to say: It is due to some nice and helpful people that Magic Tribal Hair exists! Besides my „consultants“ via ebay it was Apsara Habiba who has supported me a lot.
Apsara Habiba presents a 100 cm long hairpiece of kanekalon hair
Heidrun Spellerberg  (Shaila) has sent my flyers with her parcels and even taken them to events I could not be present at. She has also put a link to my site in her own shop, which has been worth very much as well, because our products really complement each other. Meanwhile I can also support her a little with advertisement, which feels good, because I like giving something back. „ShaliSari“ and I have also been cooperating since this summer; she presents some of my products with her costumes, where she has some wonderful accessories as well!Asmahan El Zein, the organizer of the World of Orient and the International Tribalfestival in Hanover did not only give me some tips for marketing but put me into one room with Shaila at the Tribal-
Festival and also found a selling- possibility for me at the WoO fair. The Niedrich family offered me the opportunity to inform about my products in their Orient Magazin in the course of the styling series and Manis from „tanzhaus nrw“ (which is a huge professional dancing school with permanent performances in Düsseldorf) has even convinced me of coming to her event Orientale, which  later turned out to be my second most successful selling-event in 2010.

I just could not imagine that people in the Rhineland can think of something else than Carnival in the Carnival season (the Orientale always takes place in the Carnival season).

Leyla Jouvana was so kind to offer me a selling opportunity at her own stand, which made it possible for me to sell at her 17th Oriental Dance Festival of Europe. But this year, which means next weekend, I will have my own stall of great 16 m2, I have never had such a big stall before and I am curious myself to see what this will look like. Iskanda from Krefeld, who organizes the Orientalhane Festival together with Zadiel, had the marvelous idea to build my stall as a u upside down, so I can hang lots of hairpieces at the sides of the tables. And last but not least there is my friend Frank Müller to whom I owe my online shop. Luckily I can do most technical things myself now, but I never would have made it to set up all of this alone! I would really like to take the opportunity to thank all of these kind people I have just mentioned!

"Magic Tribal Hair" at the "Orientale", February 2010
You mentioned a cooperation with ShaliSari. How does this proceed in practise?

We inform each other about our ideas in order to make costumes and accessories match even better. There is no use for the dancers in us being creative each on her own with greats results but which unfortunately do not complement each other. And Uli (Ulrike Huber, the owner of ShaliSari) is a great and inspiring person, I am really curious to find out about the future results of our cooperation. I also have the sure feeling that both of us „suffer from“ the same problem: Too many ideas and too little time to realise all of them!
Teamwork: Costume "ShaliSari", headpiece "Magic Tribal Hair"
She put my stall in the programme of her summer party, distributes my flyers in every workshop she gives and recently even models for my products. This is always a lot of fun, because we are on very good terms with each other. She will be the cover girl on my new flyers and she already smiles to my customers in the online shop.
translation by Melanie Penners