If you're someone who is really into the '80s fashion scene, and you're someone who hasn't come across this rare little gem before, the movie Portfolio will be something of a revelation to you.
Portfolio is a 1983 docudrama that follows Julie Wolfe as she begins her modelling career with Elite Agency. By docudrama I mean that it is loosely scripted... very loosely.
Joining Julie Wolfe are several high profile models from the early '80s like Carol Alt, Paulina Porizkova, Kelly Emberg, Carrie Nygren & Patty Owen. They take fresh-faced Julie under their well dressed wings as she adjusts to life as an international model. She's too adorable for words.
The film also features an exclusive look at how some of the worlds top fashion photographers work, including Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel, Francesco Scavullo & Francois Lamy.
Steven Meisel's shoot with Kelly Emberg, Paulina Porizkova, Patty Owen, Carrie Nygren, and two other models who weren't deemed super enough to be mentioned, ham it up as pink punk rockers. I love the dark, metallic makeup in this shoot, it wasn't your typical '80s rouge explosion on the cheeks affair. And that Meisel guy is a bit out there, isn't he? Great pictures though!
My favourite fashion shoot featured in Portfolio is definitely that of Carol Alt & Paulina Porizkova by photographer Francois Lamy. Lamy takes his personal style inspiration from Bruce Springsteen, and declares that he is sick of strobe and that is why he assaults his models retinas with strong lighting. The poor girls are blinded within seconds of the first shot, but hey!... the pictures are good, so what of it? And Carol Alt in a wedding veil-esque head piece & a smokey eye? A-ma-zing!
I've always been a bit disappointed by the Francesco Scavullo segment of Portfolio. He's known as one of THE top fashion photographers on the era, but his shoot here is a bit on the meh side. The Kelly Emberg shots are fine - although nothing much more than what you would expect from a classic '80s shoot, but how the hell he managed to make Paulina Porizkova look so blurgh I'll never know. The Stylist, Hair & Makeup Artists should probably shoulder a bit of the blame here, but again... it's Paulina mother-flipping Porizkova! It's quite an achievement to make someone that flawless look so - I'm searching for the right word here - so blurgh (I'm sorry, but that's still all I've got).
Alex Chatelain's shoot of Patty Owen, Carrie Nygren & Paulina Porizkova in the tackiest lingerie you've ever seen is a crackup. The 'clients' are being right douche canoes, which isn't helped by Alex putting his foot in it - mentioning that the storyboards are hideous. For the record Alex, the idea of the 'ugly umbrellas' came from the lady standing next to you. Ooops. 'Well you just have to be flexible Alex' ~ said in that 'I've never farted in my life daaarlling' voice. Hilarious!
But the movie really is all about how our little Julie Wolfe is going. She gets sent out on a job with Paulina Porizkova, and it ends up marking a big change for her - one that she wasn't expecting or wanting. After Patrick Demarchelier has finished shooting Paulina in the pool, he & the clients all take a lazy stroll over to within earshot of Julie and start discussing 'what's wrong with her' like she's a used car. And this is where it all gets a bit effed up. Puncey Arsehole Hair Guy tells them all they should chop all her hair off.
'Just chop it all off!', he says. 'Yes!', they chorus together... 'let's go all the way! ALL THE WAY!' And it's all Julie can do to just sink down into her chair as far as she can & try to hold the tears back. No one has bothered to see how she feels about 'going all the way'. Not once.
Puncey Arsehole Hair Guy sidles up to her to make a start (was he EVER going to ask her permission?!), only to find she's in tears. Shock! Horror! You'll just have to watch it yourself, because it makes me angry just thinking about it. She never gets a choice in the matter. 'How much are you taking off?', she pleads. 'Oh not much darling. We'll just stop when it looks good, ok?', says Puncey Arsehole Hair Guy. I hope one day he reads this. If you are reading this, Puncey Arsehole Hair Guy... you are an A-grade Puncey Arsehole, and I do not like the cut of your jib. Not even a little bit. And your shirt is shit too. AND her hair looked better before you hacked at it. So you're a Puncey Arsehole Hair Guy AND a Shit Hairdresser. #TeamJulie
There's a little bit of runway coverage in Portfolio. Most of it comes when they track Carol Alt doing a Valentino show. The dresses she wears are STUNNING, and I just wish the quality of the video was much better so I could pour over pictures of them. But alas, 1983 wasn't hip to digital yet. Sidenote: doesn't that sound like a great name for a retro band? Hip To The Digital. Do we like it? I like it. But not as much as I like these Valentino dresses! Because I like them a lot. Especially the one with the diamante collar. And the full-bodied fringes?... perfection with a hair comb!
We also get to go inside famed '80s illustrator Antonio Lopez' studio, which has been randomly taken over by a crew of hip hop street-dancers. They're totally oblivious to the fact that Andy Warhol has casually dropped by to check it all out. Maybe an Andy Warhol visit aint no big thang in 1983 New York?
Warhols' reaction to the hip hop dancers appears to be a strange combination of bored and bewildered. 'Tis quite funny to watch, if only briefly.
So we really need to talk about soundtracks now! This is possibly the BEST soundtrack to a movie I've ever come across. If there was ever a soundtrack that was going to give it a run for its money, it would be Dirty Dancing. Or possibly Top Gun. So, this Top 3 soundtrack has '80s grooves dripping from its every pore. It starts with Baby Jane by Rod Stewart, and just keeps serving up the hits one after the other from there. Eurythmics, Missing Persons, Alan Parsons Project (sounds kooky I know, but trust me... it works!), Kraftwerk, Steppenwolf & Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five are just a few of the gems these girls sashay around Paris & Rome to. Karla DeVitos' Cool World has been on my 'current jam' playlist for about 3 years now. It's still current to me; it will always be current to me.
One last check-in with our girl Julie. She seemed to brave the hair chopping ordeal like a true professional (unlike some puncey hairdressers we know) & is having a whale of a time getting all prettied up & having a camera shoved in her face every other day. As we would say down here in Oz... good onya Jules!
Julie Wolfe went on to have a pretty successful modelling career. I often see her adorabubble face pop up on vintage fashion forums - some of the outfits they had to wear back then were so hilarious. I've always wondered if they secretly hated the clothes they were forced to promote. I guess it doesn't really matter so long as someone is paying you the wigwams!
Have I enticed you enough to take a look at this little slice of '80s fashion history? Until recently it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I had it on VHS back in the day. It was my weekend go-to movie along with The Karen Carpenter Story (another rare but great movie), and the holy grail of ALL MOVIES... Grease 2! Laaaaahh!!! <--- that's the sound of a thousand angels singing in praise of Stephanie & Michael's motorcycle-bound love. But I digress... so Portfolio turned up on the interwebs a couple of years ago, and we also have it here for your enjoyment in full 1983 sub-standard definition. Enjoy!
STOP THE PRESS!...
... we almost forgot the PSA!
Just be aware that there's an assault on your ears about half way through. Kelly Emberg has decided to try her hand at music. When it comes to her singing, well... let's just say she's an awesome model and leave it at that! Bless her little Azzedine Alaïa socks.