"After a while I didn't want to be Britney Spears anymore, I wanted to be an elf!"
When you've had such an impact on the alt modeling scene as Shelly d'Inferno has had, you deserve to be called a bombshell, and not just because of the stunning physic of the Scandinavian blonde. Or red-head? Or brunette? Or neon-blue? Or bright yellow? The color might change by the minute, but one thing is sure, her skills, talents and interests are as diverse as her hair, so let's find our a bit more about how so much creativity can fit into one person.
Your biography says that you in addition to modeling and photography, you are also a make-up artist, DJ, fire performer and you design your own line of clothing. So the most obvious and pressing question is: do you even sleep at all?
Hahaha what an awesome way to start off the interview! I do actually manage to get some sleep, I never ever have time to just sit and be bored though. I'm always working with something, but the good thing is all these things I do are my jobs, is actually things that I would do on my free time as well. Which I guess makes this all possible because those 40hrs I would spend on another full-time dayjob I'm lucky enough to spend on my hobbies.
More seriously, how do you find time for all of this, and how do you prioritize your projects? Is your broad range of interests the reason you move to a multi-cultural city like London? How does this inspire or affect your work? Where are you originally from? According to your stage name, from Hell, but it can't have been that bad, or is that the real reason why you relocated to London?
Moving to London was one of the best decisions in my life! It's got a huge alternative scene and has so many possibilities to develop a business and great contacts. It was when i moved to London I started figuring out how to slowly switch career from Au Pair and sales assistant to starting my own clothing line and marketing myself as a performer, model & DJ.
My stage name came to me because of my love for words. Inferno has long been a favorite word of mine and the d' made it a bit more... interesting. So sorry to ruin your expectations... I'm not from hell, I'm just an energetic, happy and creative wild child from beautiful and peaceful Stockholm, Sweden haha!
Most people probably will recognize your face from your modeling work or shows with Pyrohex, so let's start with that before talking about your vegan clothing collection. So, how did you get into modeling, and how long have you been doing this?
I got into modeling when I was a kid and wanted to be like the popstars. Me and my friends dressed up and did photoshoots just like the popstars did haha! We had (fake) album covers and magazine cover shoots back then.. After a while I didn't want to be Britney Spears anymore, I wanted to be an elf! ...and started shooting those sort of themes instead. As I got older the shooting hobby just grew with me and by the time I moved to London I had built up a really good portfolio by just shooting with my friends and learning photography that i was more than ready to start working with strangers!
How do you prepare for a shooting?
Its very different. Sometimes I prepare and make outfits, plan everything down to detail. And sometimes I just show up and wing it! And the funny thing is that sometimes when you have to improvise you end up getting better shots!
In your years of experience, what are the most memorable projects you have worked on? Do you have any favourite memories, something particularly emotional or funny?
I really loved planning and preparing a couple of sets I was gonna shoot for Bizarre Magazine back when it was still running. I didn't know if they were gonna accept the images and I spent very long getting the right outfits, looks and studio. They did get accepted as they were just what they wanted so it was a little winning moment for me!
I also loved working on an editorial for Devolution Magazine featuring my clothing. Those images were darker and creepier and were shot by Rhian Cox which an amazing fashion photographer. Hard work feels great when you can look over the badass results!
Are there any creative collaborations or photographers you have not yet worked with that you absolutely want to work with?
It would be a total dream to work with Dave LaChapelle, he's just NUTS! His photography is so crazy, colourful and mind-blowing. I'd also love to be in a Mad Max film...Dream on..
"I'm totally gonna keep shooting when I'm a tattooed badass granny!"
You are an inspiration to countless girls in the alt-modeling world: what word of advice would you give them?
Most important of all, be happy with what you're doing. Model because it makes you happy, and only model within the styles which makes you happy and proud of yourself. Forget what gives you most followers! Social media is very important nowadays to market yourself and get work, but don't fall under pressure of gaining recognition :)
You also spend time behind the camera – did you take up photography because you felt the need to get better creative control of your work, or how did your career as a photographer start?
That'd be the same answer as how I got into modeling. I just enjoyed every side of creating an image, the preparations, the outfits, the makeup, being in front and behind the camera, the editing process!
Do you prefer spending time in front of the lens or behind?
In front at the moment, which is good because there might not be as much work out there when I get older so i can always do more work behind the lens then. However I'm totally gonna keep shooting when I'm a tattooed badass granny! Can't wait for all these body-modded people to all grow up and be badass elderly people haha!
Does your experience as a model give you a different approach to photography? And vice-versa, does your photographic work impact your modeling, if so, how?
Of course, you get a better understanding of someones work as a model and a photographer when you do both. A model might not know that it sometimes can be insulting if they re-edit a photographers image of them. Or a photographer might catch angles that a model really don't like of themselves etc.. But to be honest good photographer and models know the rules and understand each other quite well. As long as you talk and make clear what you both want to achieve.
Photography and posing creates static images, your performances in Pyrohex are quite the opposite. Can you tell us more about your involvement in this project?
I started fire performing after joining in for a show my friend Cervena had arranged at a London club. Everyone who performed that night had a really good time and we thought we should keep performing together and make a group and that's how Pyrohex was born. Today almost 3 years later we are very proud to have performer our fire shows at UK's Download festival, France's Hellfest and Germany's M'era Luna festival. We also show at tattoo convention in the UK and abroad.
Things took off rather quick and I think because we were a bunch of business minded people who had already before marketed themselves in either modeling or performing we could become quite a powerful group. I'm very proud of Pyrohex and cant wait to see what the future has in store for us.
Can you introduce the other members of your troup / group / ensemble ?
Pyrohex is a 6 member troop consisting myself, Rebecca Crow - One of the most beloved Suicide Girls today, Sununu Hernandez - Our staff spinning inventor handyman, Cervena Fox - one of the leading tattooed models in the industry, Gem Dee - Our extraordinary aerialist, acro and long-time showgirl performer and Dani Divine - THE absolute goth & metal pinup icon of today!
How would you describe a "typical" Pyrohex show, if there even is a such a thing as a “typical” show?
Well yeah there is a typical show, even though the word "typical" sounds very boring we wanna keep the same spirit for our shows. Which is just badass boys and girls, playing with dangerous things and having a bloody good time. The shows are fierce, wild and very happy. We love what we do and its important to us to show that! the venues and stages are all very different but we always bring our spirit into the shows :)
How do you prepare for your performances? Do you work out to stay fit? What's on your exercise playlist?
I'm not sure about the others but i actually haven't been to the gym for 5 years hahah! I'm one of those lucky people who doesn't need to exercise to stay fit. However we do practice and exercise with our fire equipment and get together to work on new routines. The preparations for the shows take 10 times as long as doing the shows, we have to start preparing 1-2 hours before a show and then its all over in 15 minutes! But oh so worth it!
Is windmilling in Holland your secret? We saw your video, and even without fire, it's so hypnotic. Also, you look very zen in this video, is this the secret to staying grounded and even keeled in a world filled with so many different projects?
Windmilling in Holland hahaha! That was when my friend Maja Stina was at a photoshoot and I was bored and went out for a spin. Always good to bring your equipment for random practices! But yeah i think you busted the secret there!
What are the challenges working with fire? Injuries? What are the tools of the trade you use?
My fire tricks are things like fire breathing, body burning (although your not actually burning), fire eating, double staff, poi, sai daggers, powertool grinding, fire fans and also got my most beloved fire horns which I love to perform with.
I've had many burns! One huuuge burn blister that got so big I drew a face on it and popped it on camera so i could put it up on Youtube. Its disgustingly satisfying, watch it! (we did, and you can do so too by clicking here) Sometimes the burns can be bad, but nothing too bad has happened so far. We have all burnt bits of hair, hands... butts! But it doesn't happen very often.
I think the most challenging thing is to get over the fear of fire, and then when you have gotten over the fear you must remember the danger again because otherwise you'll hurt yourself. It is a deadly thing after all.
What are your current plans with Pyrohex? What were your biggest success / achievements so far?
At the moment were pinning in what summer shows to do. We have some shows coming up that were gonna announce later. Were gonna be back at London tattoo convention this year which is always good fun! Our biggest achievements must be doing our shows at Download and Hellfest. That was so cool for us!
We're a goth clothing shop, so it's time to talk about fashion. Tell us about your clothing collection.
I started customizing clothing when I was 15, i was a skinny little girl so it started with me adjusting clothes so they would fit me. While studying fashion design in school as well I started my first brand that made rave clothing, lots of fluffy neon colours haha!
When I turned 17 / 18 I had changed style a lot and started enjoying remaking clothes instead. I'd go buy clothes from second hand stores and cut them up and put them together again into something new. That's how my current brand Heavenly Inferno started, which is all about recycling.
"I like the thought of buying off charity shops so that the money for my material can go towards a good cause too."
My brand isn't vegan as I do use leather, feather and fur sometimes, although I heavily promote the fact my brand is mostly about recycling material the world already has, so any animal products will be from charity shops, found or donated and NEVER purchased from the industry suppliers. I like the thought of buying off charity shops so that the money for my material can go towards a good cause too.
What inspires you in your designs? How does the design process take shape? You have a degree in fashion design. We know from other designers that education in this domain can often be very conservative and mainstream oriented. Did you ever feel restricted, or always been free to explore your ideas?
In my fashion design school we of course had to learn all the mainstream stuff. We had to sew tailored shirt & jackets & skirt etc... which weren't what i wanted to do at all but it did give me great practice and a strong basic knowledge for me on how sewing works! After we had finished to do the standard jacket, shirt & skirt etc, we always got to make another one which was completely up to us on how it wanted to look. I really miss my school! It was a great time!
You use salvaged ans recycled materials – can you tell us more about this?
Like I mentioned before it was just a lot of fun for me to see a garment transform from something unwanted into something totally badass! I liked the process of not having a finished image of how something was gonna look but to start with a few different material and step by step see what you'll be able to do next to make the garment look complete & finished in my eyes. I buy some things new like studs, eyelets, thread, rivets and decorational stuff like that which i use a lot and isn't so easy to just find in a charity shop. But most of my material is just collected through the years.
I never throw things away before stripping them off material I could maybe use for a new creation. If your throwing away a pair of jeans: Cut off the pockets (you might wanna put them on another pair of trousers), cut off the zips so you can reuse them, save the denim material as you might wanna turn this into something else. If you're throwing away a pair of shoes: Take the strings and use for lace up detail on something else, cut any belt buckles and straps off it as its a great detail to put on jackets for example.
What materials do you use? How do you find them?
What do i use? anything I can find! I have a huge collection of different material. But my favorite material is denim. Its sturdy and it looks great distressed and frayed. I find my material in charity shops, in the streets or it is donated to me. Of course always washed very well and made sure it doesn't stink of...corpse? haha!
What are the challenges of working with recycled materials?
The only challenge is if I would run out of an animal material IF i would be using it, because I dont ever buy from a supplier, and its impossible to just go to a charity and expect to find exactly what i need. But then I just figure out something else to do with the garment. After all that is what I love about this way of making. There some awesome quote and saying that goes something like: true happiness is not having the best of everything but making the best of what you got.
You put emphasis on avoiding animal materials – we think that's a very laudable attitude, but why is it important to you? Is it safe to assume you are vegan yourself? Are you actively involved in animal protection projects / causes?
Heavenly Inferno rarely use animal material but it does happen. I believe in recycling and think its okay to use animal material if you heavily promote you're an upcycling brand who does not support suppliers of new leather, feather & fur. If there is any use of something that was gonna go in the bin, recycle it! However there are many things and views to bring up in this subject because people can pull arguments like "yeah but when cows are slaughtered for meat or killed because they don't give as much milk, they get leather..otherwise it would've gone to waste so that is recycling too.
I wouldn't support this kind of "recycling", the only reason I'm okay with buying from charity shops is because the leather has lost its origin and the money paid from my pocket for it will only go towards a good cause. The money paid from the leather suppliers to buy the dead cow to make new leather, goes to the industry.
Charity shops work from donations and do not decide what people are gonna want to throw away. I think if everyone who likes to wear leather started only buying second hand leather from charity shops the demand for second hand leather would raise the price and more money would go towards a good cause. Eventually there would be no more second hand leather because the demand for new leather would be 0 which means less money for the meat industry.
"Finding a dead animal in the forest and taking its skin and bones to make something out of is a great thing."
A lot of taxidermy artists makes art from dead animals and a lot of them promotes that their animal have died of natural causes, which i think is fine. Finding a dead animal in the forest and taking its skin and bones to make something out of is a great thing. I totally understand some people think its disgusting and would never wear animal products, everyone has different limits, like I don't understand how someone could eat meat.
I think for me I'm just against the industry and that's why I eat vegan, if I lived in the wild and some chickens laid some eggs and walked away from them, I don't see the problem in eating them. If I had a tame cow that didn't have problem with me milking it while its calf wasn't feeding, fair enough. If someone had a pet dog that died of sickness or old age and and they wanted to eat it, go ahead.. Just don't cause pain or torture a living creature.
God I could talk about this forever, there's arguments I can understand and some I don't about these subjects.
A laudable and inspiring attitude, setting an example without acting judgmental. As much as we'd enjoy talking forever with Shelly, we're going to save that up for another time, maybe a special featurette on the topic? Meanwhile, for the last question, where can our readers find your creations?
Phew, that was a lot of typing! (note: should your fingers bleed, Shelly, we now know that you know how to handle blisters creatively!)
Your readers can come discuss with me or view my creations over at www.heavenlyinfernoshop.etsy.com
Thanks for having me!
(photos by David Mattos, Aimeji Mecchi, Isobel de Liste)
Shelly's infernal picks
We asked Shelly d'Inferno to browse our online shop and pick some the coolest clothing and accessories for you, which she happily obliged. As much as we'd love to give you guys a 666% discount, we're going to settle for the next best thing, which is to give everyone who uses SHELLYROCKS during checkout a 15% discount on those items. (valid 2016)
Check out the items that she picked below!