Paper City: This Fashionable Entrepreneur Did It Her Way For More Than 40 Years — and Still Makes a Thoughtful Impact
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Shelle Sills speaks in a crisp and calculated manner. She’s a virtuoso in fashion and retail, with more than 40 years working with The Gazebo, Neiman Marcus and Forty Five Ten — and her savvy and thoughtfulness are sure signs she knows the ins and outs of the business. Sills had me at hello.
The Dallas native attended Southern Methodist University as a theater major and received her BFA in 1973. Many young people might have been fearful of embarking on a significant entrepreneurial project shortly after graduating, but not Sills.
After working at The Gazebo, a chic women’s clothing store, for two years, she purchased the business from the owner and expanded the boutique, making it a powerhouse on the local and national retail landscapes. She recognized emerging talent and was the first to bring Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi and Richard Tyler to Dallas.
After closing The Gazebo in 1996, she worked her way up the corporate ladder at Neiman Marcus Downtown and eventually became vice president and general manager — her home for 13 years before retiring in 2012. But she wasn’t retired for long.
Soon afterward, Sills began working with Headington Companies (Forty Five Ten, Tenoversix, etc..) as a consultant on retail and project development. She retired from that role this spring. We’ll see how long it lasts.
From her years at The Gazebo and Neiman Marcus, Sills is full of fashionable memories and friendships. She discovered a young Michael Kors and brought him to Dallas many times. As a token of her affection, on trips to New York, she would bring the designer Dickeys barbecue.
“I would stow it in the overhead bin, and over the course of the flight, as the scent wafted through the cabin, I would occasionally get odd looks,” she says. “But I wanted to bring him fresh Texas barbecue.”
Another time, “I had a designer in town for a trunk show — you can’t print his name — but anyone who knows the fashion world will likely be able to make an accurate guess,” she says. “We had dinner reservations at the Mansion and at that time, the mid-1980s, there was still a dress policy for men — jacket and tie required. He came to Dallas with his waist-length hair, wearing a kilt.
“It was priceless to see the maître d’ give him a blazer — much too large and definitely not his taste — and a tie, to put over his outfit.”
Shelle and her husband, Michael Sills, have created a family somewhat akin to The Brady Bunch. Each came into the marriage with children of their own, making for a blended team of four kids that now includes four grandchildren.
For now, Shelle plans on enjoying time with her family and focusing on charity work. Two causes for which she feels true passion are The Crystal Charity Ball and The Salvation Army.
“If it resonates with your heart,” says Shelle of her philanthropic choices, “then it’s where you are meant to be.” She is underwriting chair for The Crystal Ball Charity and serves on the advisory board for The Salvation Army.
You would think that given her life in luxury retail, she would gravitate to designer collections. But, actually, the answer is no.
“I’m a Zara junkie,” Shelle says. “I can walk into Zara and do an edit in 15 minutes as to what’s great.” With that comment, my love for Shelle grew tenfold. She’s a girl who drank the fashion Kool-Aid — but never overindulged.
Approximate date of the photo?
I was five or six years old.
On my way to have my photo taken with Santa at NM Downtown.
What you were wearing?
A velvet dress with a mink poodle pin. I wore that pin for years.
What price fashion?
Who knows! The poodle pin was clearly a good investment.
Why this is a Bomb picture of you?
This may have been the beginning of my appreciation for detail and the art of accessorizing!