The Incredible Life of a Talented Woman

by Alexandra Banasiewicz

Photos courtesy of Lorraine Parish



The secret to a long career is having “adaptability, imagination, and devotion.”

Lorraine Parish is a woman of inexhaustible energy. She is bursting with fascinating anecdotes and mischievous schemes and is a fun, effervescent soul to be around. As a young girl she wanted to be a dancer in California, but after an injury sidelined her dancing career, Lorraine shifted her focus to fashion.

Over the next few years, she drifted from place to place. Parish owned a Vintage clothing store in Baltimore for a while and lived in Ibiza, Spain for a year designing clothes with an old treadle machine. When she returned stateside she couldn’t get a job as a waitress in New York City and without the stable fallback job she’d always relied on, Lorraine poured herself into her designs. She put together a collection of her pieces and brought them to Henri Bendel, “the most fashionable store in New York.”

landscape_floralwrapHer hard work did not go unrewarded. The store bought into her pieces and it was then that Lorraine saw her clothes being featured in the storefront windows a mere two weeks later. The year was 1976 and Lorraine was barely in her mid-twenties.

She vowed to never wait another table. Lorraine used her entrepreneurial spirit to open a series of stores and manufacturers along the East Coast. Her success was meteoric, and unrivaled. She never skipped a beat.

In 1980, Parish set her sights on conquering the island of Martha’s Vineyard. She opened a store, aptly named Lorraine Parish Clothing in Chilmark where she would eventually focus all of her energy. On a rock in the Atlantic Ocean, Parish found freedom: she had less overhead and greater control over her business. Able to pursue new clothing lines, she continued to perfect her craft designing clothes and build a very loyal client base. Lorraine was now the boss. Entirely on her own, now she ran the business as she saw fit. It was a title that allowed her to pursue many different avenues, such as creating her own marketing strategies.

landscape_blackandwhitefloralbodiceIn time, she would move her store to its current location in Vineyard Haven. Being in business for over 30 years on the Island, one might assume that Lorraine would give way to predictability. Parish has other ideas. In her own words the secret to a long career is having “adaptability, imagination, and devotion.”

The first piece of clothing sewn by Lorraine was a 7 foot long green flannel nightgown. To this day, the memory of it still makes her shudder. Back then, she thought the piece was highly practical: “By the fifth wash, it would fit perfectly!” She said with a smile. Her style has changed a lot since that ninth grade home economics class.

Today, Lorraine designs for women in their 40’s and older but still keeps the retro style she had in her twenties when living in New York City. She believes it’s important to “design things that are unique to Martha’s Vineyard and that you can’t find online.”

She creates a lot of designs for the ‘mother of the bride.’ You can try on the samples and choose from a variety of colors in her Vineyard Haven boutique. It’s here where Parish will design the perfect ensemble for you. The store is bright and welcoming- complete with her two poodles, Rudy and Pearl, who are ready to greet anyone who stops by. There is a lovely array of clothing to choose from for all different type of events- from the fanciest of galas to a nice day out on the town, one will surely walk out with a Lorraine Parish original.

wedding landscapes Dior Organza TaffetaLorraine’s latest business venture is Nurse Daisy, a clothing line for upscale spas, cosmeticians, masseuses, and other medical/cosmetic professionals. The line provides women with another choice besides the everyday, boring scrubs. Nurse Daisy allows a business the luxury of having a uniformed yet attractive look. The clothes are stylish but practical, and the entire line is machine washable. The line is “all about comfort, but you’ll look nice,” exclaims Lorraine!

…it may be better to call it a “bed and get your own damn breakfast!”

A woman of many interests, Lorraine’s ‘latest ventures’ include writing a screenplay called “Clara’s Secrets” that is already over half-way done. She writes essays for the local newspapers, manages a home goods store, a perfume business, and a bed and breakfast. Though, to clarify, Lorraine isn’t an innkeeper. In fact, it may be better to call it a “bed and get your own damn breakfast!” Jokes Parish.

landscape_bowpeepdressShe’s fun and feisty, as seen in the perfume/tick spray brand she has dubbed ‘Whore Dog.’ The story behind the brand is when she was researching natural ways to repel ticks, Lorraine stumbled across a particular type of flower that could do just that. She went to her kitchen and created Whore Dog, a spray meant to deter ticks for dogs and people. But, it can also be used in the home because it smells fabulous! Whore and John, both perfumes and available in rollerball form, was also made on the same day.

To Lorraine, the brand Whore Dog is advertising 101: the “made you look” reaction is what makes her store feel less intimidating. “Fashion is for everyone and if Whore Dog is what draws you in, all the better,” says Lorraine.

Lorraine is busy woman who’s constantly updating her approach to business and taking on new projects but her manner of style is always constant. With Parish, you’ll always get a consistently good product and have a great ‘in store’ experience.

Lorraine Parish
65 State Road, Vineyard Haven
Open 7 days a week
10am-6pm or by appointment
ph: 508-693-9044