The Glory Days of Modeling in Winnipeg / From Rags to Richlu

Alf Kollinger & Adriana O’Neil’s The Glory Days of Modeling in Winnipeg
Beth Azore’s From Rags to Richlu
Friday, March 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Introduced by Alf Kollinger and Adriana O’Neil

The Glory Days of Modeling in Winnipeg looks at a time when the local modelling industry was thriving in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and Winnipeg models were seen as local celebrities. Winnipeg directors Alf Kollinger and Adriana O’Neil have tracked down archival pictures and advertisements, and interviewed many fashion photographers, ad writers and stylists to tell an intriguing story of the local modeling industry. Models from the film will be present on opening night.

From Rags to Richlu is a charming homage to the resourcefulness, personal determination and courageous spirit of the immigrant founders who built a small but influential apparel empire in Winnipeg.


From Uptown Magazine March 17, 2011

Winnipeg was a fashion hub — once upon a timeTwo former models recall The Glory Days of Modeling in Winnipeg in new MTS Videon on demand

Two Winnipeg documentarians (and former models) remember the days when people really dressed up to go out.

“That’s all gone in Winnipeg,” says Alf Kollinger who, along with Adriana O’Neil, co-directed the new MTS Video on Demand doc The Glory Days of Modeling in Winnipeg. What happened, O’Neil explains, is what happened with fashion in most cities: people became more casual, Winnipeggers perhaps even more so.

“It’s not a loss so much as a change,” says O’Neil, who modeled part-time herself at the time. “People aren’t as fashion-conscious anymore. They don’t even dress up for church as much,” she laughs. (That being said, O’Neil confesses to finding “casual Fridays” in for example a bank very off-putting, personally.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t still many fashion-conscious Winnipeggers. A more concrete loss the documentary addresses, however, is the loss of a booming local fashion industry. During the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was no shortage of local fashion shows, and related work for photographers and advertising specialists. And it was possible for many women to model full-time.

“Winnipeg used to be a hub of fashion,” Kollinger says. “It was part of the landscape.”

We learn, for instance, that local fashion shows were a staple of every season, with both attendees and models running from shows at Eaton’s to shows (and shoots) at The Bay. Models might work up to seven to eight times a day, hauling their bags full of shoes and lingerie with them; photographers might see five to six on a consistent daily basis.

And those models’ faces were everywhere. People would think that the women in displays around town were photographed somewhere else, some of the former models reminisce. Many had no idea they were looking at hometown girls. One former model discovered while folding underwear in a store.

“The models in Winnipeg were on par with any across the country,” Kollinger says. “Both in looks and professionalism.” As one interview subject who recalls the scene enthuses: “They were just goddesses!” (Those who were in the greatest demand are dubbed the “supermodels.”)

Mostly, the work was found through word of mouth: models that were out of sight were out of mind. And they were tight: one former model says it was a “sisterhood.” Together with photographers and other colleagues, they formed a gang that partied hard around town, and was always on the VIP list.
Then it all fell apart. “It was primarily economic,” Kollinger says. “There were just larger powers at work.” A lot of companies centralized, whereas previously there used to be a lot of attention paid just to sub-markets in Winnipeg itself. The advertising side left Winnipeg, and fashion shows are now practically nonexistent.

The models moved on, however — sometimes becoming professionals, or finding second careers. And they kept themselves well: it’s astonishing to learn one former model interviewed is 66 years old. She looks like a still-vivacious 50.

Some have also kept up the local industry. “It’s not dead by any means,” says award-winning Winnipeg photographer Tony Nardella, who got his start during the heyday of 30 years ago. “There are still many dedicated people in the city.” Kollinger cites designers such as Julie Pedersen and Pearlene Clunis, just off the top of his head. And there are new, exciting photographers on the scene such as Rebecca Sandulak.

But it’s still not what it used to be. “Putting on a show, for instance, would be way too expensive for smaller operations,” Kollinger says. Most shows today, O’Niel points out, are done as fundraisers, such as the annual Guardian Angel Benefit for CancerCare Manitoba.

Furthermore — despite the exciting work some are doing today, Kollinger says the former scene was reflective of a perhaps more happening, cosmopolitan Winnipeg.

“Winnipeg’s maybe lost some style,” he observes. Nardella likewise enthuses about the present scene, but admits: some excitement went away.

“It was a time when Winnipeg was more excited about its own celebrities, and action,” Kollinger says. “It shows that we’re not an inherently second-tier city.

“Not if we don’t want to be.”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on March 9, 2011.

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