Today we’d like to introduce you to Lorelei Shellist.
Lorelei, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in Pacific Palisades where I ran away from home at age 14 1/2 chasing my dream to see the world. A runAway from Pacific Palisades…who does that? It was the early 70’s when I mapped out my way around the globe and modeling would be my ticket. As an emancipated minor and a spiritual soul seeker, I practiced creative visualization with optimistic determination long before it was de rigueur.
At age 16, I jetted off to New York and signed with the Eileen Ford Model Agency where I really didn’t fit in with the all American apple pie look that she was shopping at the time. So I switched to the exotic model agency called Zoli at 17, and then finally landed a paying contract at ELITE MODELS Agency by the age of 19. I begged John Casablancas to send me to Europe on a wing and prayer to follow my childhood dreams. I left NYC with a gold Halliburton suitcase for two months and stayed ten years.
By the time I was 20 years old, I was living in Milan working for designers such as Gian Franco Ferre, Cerruti, Missoni, and Giorgio Armani. I learned to speak Italian and keep the Italian playboys at bay.
Next, I moved to Paris where I was blessed to work “one on one” under contracts with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian LaCroix, and many others. I knocked on a lot of doors to get there, never giving up. When those doors finally opened up to me, I soaked up every I could in the presence of those great designers like a sponge.
At 23, I had become one of the most sought-after international runway models and muses in the fashion world. From season to season I would work nine to five – five days a week – face to face – with the grandmasters of fashion design. The French models taught me to speak their language and how to appreciate fine lingerie. I devoured every opportunity I was offered to be a part of the process of designing a collection. Eager to take part in every step, from the original fashion illustrations, all the way through the patterns, l’etoille, embroidery, belts, buttons, shoes, hats, and bows, until each garment was fit perfectly to my measurements, and for the other models who would be in the shows. It was in the early ’80s when haute couture was in its heyday, and pop/rock music played the score to our lives.
Like a bird of passage, I lived out of a suitcase following the collections from city to city traveling on trains, plane, buses, metros, and cabs to be on time for my castings, fittings and photo sessions. We didn’t have Uber, GPS or cell phones to get around in those days, so I took pride in exploring and didn’t mind getting lost! I was independent and dependable, and my runway career was in full bloom when love stopped me in my tracks.
I was asked by a friend who was a rock ‘n roll manager to look after a couple of his “band members” on their trip to Paris. At first, I felt burdened by the task. I even tried to get out of it. But when I opened my door to let them in, I was struck by a magical feeling I had never felt before.
In the next seven years, I fell deeply in love and then engaged to be married to Steve Clark. Steve was a songwriter and played lead guitar in a world-class rock ’n roll band called Def Leppard. I wasn’t a fan at the time, but he endeared me with his sweet, shy spirit and contagious smile.
The world was our oyster, and we reveled in the excitement and even the demands of our lives. We became each other’s “safe place” living amid the madness of our universe. Steve loved fashion and didn’t mind nicking clothes from my closet to wear onstage or in photo sessions. While planning for the Hysteria Tour he bought me a sewing machine, and I began creating his stage wear inspired by Steve and his hero, Jimmy Page.
I designed tight short waisted jackets with embroidered roses, flags from around the world, and Harley Davidson logo appliques.
I took him to Billy Martin’s Western Wear in NYC and bought him black suede, pointy, low cut, cowboy boots and attached a metal chain strap around the ankle, cowboy spur style and we completed the gun slinger look with black leather belts adorned with silver conches and/or studs.
While out on the road in LA I took him to NUDIES Western Wear out on Van Nuys Boulevard and bought him skinny cowboy jeans and shirts with pearl snap buttons. It was the mid 1980’s and no one else was really combing the western style with the punk rock anarchist style as yet. So we kind of set the trend.
When we first met Steve he was completing the Pyromania Tour and had a sort of “mullet” hair cut. In Nashville that hair style was called a “615” it was a trend that didn’t really match up with my haute couture influences so I encouraged him to grow that out. Out on the road in our hotel rooms, I would bleach and blow-dry his hair until he had a mane of long, blonde, angel hair. Hair bands were in, and Steve took the lead. The cameras would capture him at every show making him the bands poster child. Other bands took notice too and between the glam rock bands and the Zeppelin wanna be’s Steve was right in style.
Unfortunately, the tour took its toll on him and soon I would have to survive the death of this talented, fragile, beautiful, young man who drank himself to death on the heels of the HYSTERIA tour. Hysteria had become one of the biggest selling records in the history of rock & roll charting back to back with Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, and I think Steve just couldn’t handle the success and the pressures entailed.
He had hit the glass ceiling of fame and fortune and shattered to the ground, and I was crushed. Years later, when the internet exploded, his fans reached out to me trying to understand why. Their questions fell on me after VH-1 aired a documentary on the band. “Why would someone who had it all do that to himself?” After much grief and pain, the questions I asked myself were; “Why did I give so much of myself away?
I had become the rescuer putting up with his alcohol abuse, and I got lost somewhere in the mix. Still I soldiered on, even with the French agents telling me I could “never work in Paris because I was ‘not ze type!” I watched the other girls around me take that abuse too, some self medicated with food, without food, with drugs and alcohol, some starved, some disappeared never to be seen again, and some died.
It was brutal at times and it came in many forms. I wasn’t an addict myself, even though I could party along with the rest of them, they called me the party pooper for sending them all off to bed before sunrise. I thank God because I think that and my vanity saved me! For some reason I had a will to rise above and so, I dug in and began my process of healing.
After years of 12-step meetings, soul searching, self-help books, workshops, seminars and a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology and Consciousness, Health and Healing, I finally gave myself the permission to write about those questions boldly, answering the call to tell my story, guts and all.
My book, Runway RunAway A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance & Rock ’n Roll is my coming of age story illustrating the gritty side of a glamorous life and how, while on the run, I discovered it was only me or my-“Self” I was running from. I learned that it was me who needed rescuing.
My intention in writing the book was to encourage all of us to go after our dreams with eyes wide open, ready for the unexpected–all the while making wiser choices on the incredible journey that is our lives. The book became my calling card into life coaching and style & image consulting, based on my new degrees and life experiences.
Runway RunAway became a best seller and many of my readers reached out to me offering to host author receptions in their homes and towns. During that time, I got to meet people in so many different walks of life that I had never known. I began giving experiential workshops, speaking and educating others with my skills in fashion, music, and psychology.
My workshops were designed for young designers in fashion colleges and I offered one on one life coaching services. One of the wonderful women I met on the road became my biggest cheerleader and subsequently my personal assistant. Cindy Gloeckler pointed out that “Runway RunAway” was a brand and that with my unique image, style and fashion knowledge, my next steps were to create my own fashion line.
It was after a book signing at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and teaching my workshop at the Virginia Marti Fashion Design College in Cleveland, Ohio, that I answered that call. I was so ingratiated with her belief in me that I knew I had to say” yes” if even only to repay her for her endless faith in me.
That day over burgers and beer I said, “OK Cindy, OK, we will start with ONE DRESS for all women and go from there. This will be my answer to the Wrap Dress because by now everyone has one!” Cindy handed me a little piece of notebook paper, and I literally downloaded the idea of the dress and drew it, “Spinal Tap” style, on that piece of paper naming it THE DREAM DRESS®.
I went on to create the first samples here in LA. They were ok, but they didn’t have the haute couture quality that I was accustomed to. THE DREAM DRESS® was meant to fill the void for the career gal who wanted casual, comfortable, couture. Out of nowhere on Facebook, I reconnected with old friends of mine who were couture designers I had worked for in Paris.
Designers, Lecoanet Hemant who had moved their entire brand to India and invited me to visit. Always ready for an adventure, I was on a plane nine days later. During my stay in Gurgaon, India, I toured their design studio and factory and even did a few fittings for them. I shared my dress idea with them, and when they saw my sample, they wrinkled their brows and said, “Lorelei darling, let us make you a real sample.”
I left India with an exquisite sample of what my dress should look and feel like. Back in Los Angeles, I continued to look for quality manufacturers but found them to be either under par or too expensive. I wanted a quality dress a career gal could afford! I kept searching.
Finally, I was introduced to another talented woman who could help source and manufacture my dresses in North America. Cydney Mar and I hit it off right from the first phone call. We had so much in common, especially the fact that we were both heart-centered, soul-driven businesswomen. We spoke the same spiritual language, she understood couture, and how to translate that into ready to wear, this combination of knowledge meant everything to me.
In the meantime, I registered, trademarked, and designed, the entire Runway RunAway Collection® “For the woman on the run who thrives in her skin!” THE DREAM DRESS® is the signature item, and the collection will include designs for Global Gals, Urban Gals, and Glamour Gals! All items are machine washable, comfortable, affordable, classy, and appropriate for any occasion. Skirts, tops, dresses, blouses, jackets, leggings, jeggings, camis and slips, made from fabrics that feel like a second skin….
When I am not working on my collection, I serve as an Image and Style Consultant, Life Coach, Speaker, Host, and my “Fashion Icon Archetypes®” Personality Programs. I am a host at the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival, the largest gathering of fashion filmmakers in the world, now in its’ 10th year. I have written, directed and produced my own fashion film called SKIN ON SKIN nominated for multiple awards.
Most important to me is the time I spend as social services volunteer. Volunteering to be of service to others is a huge part of my life. I have spent over ten years as a facilitating counselor with the Freedom to Choose Foundation Prison Project. A 501(c)(3), working with inmates at California Institute for Women in Chino California Central Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison. This work fills me up in ways you would have to experience yourself to understand.
I also launched my own nonprofit organization, I AM Dreams With Wings, that teaches critical life skills to At-Risk and Runaway Teens. Go figure. And last but not least, because it is my intention to encourage people to follow their dreams, so I created an endowment at Mesa College in San Diego that offers two scholarships. One is in Fashion Design, and the other is in Music. These are in memory of my parents who were both musicians Bernie & Rita Shellist, and of course Steve Clark, whose memorable music contributed joy so much to so many.
“Don’t let YOUR dreams RunAway from you!”
Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Ha, not always. I began pounding the pavement at a very young age. As a teenager, I worked three jobs while trying to finish high school and put my modeling portfolio together. When I got to New York to model for Eileen Ford who had promised me a contract pretended not to remember me and tried to send me packing. I told her with tears in my eyes that I had given up my apartment, sold everything I owned, and driven across the country based on her promise to represent me. I think she took me on simply because I had the nerve to challenge her and to speak up for myself.
By the time I got to Paris, the competition was tougher. The French expect the best, so I really had to expand and step up to the task in order to be a part of the couture class. Talk about rejection, at one point I was the only model in Paris who couldn’t get an agent because, well let’s just say… I wouldn’t do “favors.” I had been a model for nine years by the time I was “discovered” by Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and deemed as an overnight success. I nearly gave up trying to get booked by YSL the King of Fashion after being turned away so many times. I turn out – the runway saved me.
Then, of course, the road got rockier as I watched Steve’s demise. All of my dreams to marry and have children were shattered when he died because somehow, I always believed he’d get sober and come home. In the process of manufacturing the Runway RunAway Collection® and the Dream Dress®, I have received samples that were not right, losing time and money, having to wait and wait for quality production. I will not put my name on something that isn’t complete quality and class. Thankfully we’ve finally got them right!
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Runway RunAway Collection by Style & Image Icon Expert – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My mission is to add to the sum of love and beauty in the world. I try to embody and role model appropriate dressing for every occasion. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to design my own line. The Runway Runaway Collection® and THE DREAM DRESS® takes the guessing out of dressing. I don’t think women should have to work too hard at looking good.
What do you do?
I try to add to the sum of beauty, love and joy to the world. As in independent contractor – or entrepreneur, I share my life experiences and the knowledge I have gathered though writing, speaking, hosting events, and influencing others in a positive way. I use my skills as an image consultant, a fashion designer, a model and a volunteer. As an Image and Style Expert, I help people to feel good in their skin, and our clothes are our second skins. Confidence is the sexiest thing you can wear. Confidence starts with feeling good inside your big “S” Self.
I always say, “When you feel good, you look good.” I don’t believe in following trends. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it looks good on everyone! I teach conscious dressing from your inner stylist’s point of view.
You see, there’s an invisible world – those voices inside your head that tell you what to buy and wear. Whose voices are those? What Carl Jung referred to as, “the collective unconscious.” That’s what my “Fashion Icon Archetypes®” Personality Programs are about.
What do you specialize in?
Fashion, Style, Beauty, and Confidence comes from owning your own personal style!
What are you known for?
I am known for my fashion expertise and for being inspirational. My book Runway RunAway had a certain healing impact on people who don’t normally reach out for self-help books. Many people who follow me on social media follow me because I make them feel good.
I use my skills to help others show up in their worlds with confidence and joy helping clients in the political, business, acting and social spheres transform their image to create a brand which transmits the appropriate image for screen, stage and gala. My clients are classical musicians, actors, media and marketing executives and models.
My intention is to be positive, kind, uplifting and optimistic. You will never see me bad mouth anyone. I try not to judge anyone – not even the president.
What are you most proud of as a company?
We give back, and we try to encourage others to do the same. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. It’s not only the chemicals and dyes spilling into our rivers and oceans, but the excess waste caused by dumping our unwanted clothing. Even third world countries don’t want our garbage! And don’t get me started with the carbon footprint issues with people ordering and returning things all the time.
I came up with one solution called SHARE & CARE on the Runway Runaway Collection® Dream Dress® This concept encourages others to share what they don’t wear and/or donate to charities like Working Wardrobes who help Vets and formerly incarcerated people get back into the workforce. They don’t just give them an outfit – they give them a wardrobe, cosmetics, kit bags, guidance, counseling, referrals and so forth.
And if you buy a Dream Dress® and decide it doesn’t work for you – we ask you to pay it forward to another woman in your life who may just need a great dress. Your daughter, your friend, your sister, your cleaning lady, or someone else who may be less fortunate than you. Plus, a percentage of our sales go toward the Mesa College San Diego Music and Fashion Design Scholarships, The Freedom to Choose Prison Projects, and the I AM Dreams With Wings workshops for At-Risk teens.
What sets you apart from others?
Many fashion designers today become brands through their TV or media celebrity but they have no real hands-on experience in what it takes to produce a fashion line. When the consumer receives the product, it may not live up to the buzz. As a former fashion model and muse, I learned fashion design from soup to nuts. I was in the room. When I design my creations, my heart and soul are in every stitch.
As an Image Consultant, I love to help people access that place of love and beauty that exists inside themselves because I have studied the invisible nature of our being-ness from top to bottom. My gift is to educate them – to help them draw from within to recognize their own talents, potential, and gifts where confidence is found.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What do you like best about our city?
I love LA. I was born and raised here, so I know the back streets, back alleys and back rooms. I love bodysurfing in the ocean and running in the soft sand. Date nights my boyfriend and I frequent the old classic haunts like Dan Tana’s and Musso & Franks in Hollywood for “chicky parm” and good martini’s. Our other favorites are Caffe Pinguini where the Italian servers seem like they are right out of Central Casting and Cantalini’s Salerno Beach which after over 50 years there is like an institution down in Playa Del Rey. These places are our touchstones and are as popular today as they were when we were teens.
Other than that, LA is a melting pot for spiritual people. You’d be surprised! Many people think Hollywood is full of narcissists, true or not – we actually have a huge community of people who are open and willing to work on themselves while learning, growing, loving, and giving back.
What do you like least about our city?
Traffic and dis-courteous drivers who think they own the roads. The scooters and Birds that are littering the sidewalks – Where do they come from? Grown kids who never had to put away their own Razors!
Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.