Unforgettable Indeed

Since I was a child I’ve experienced eidetic memory, that is the ability to recall images in memory with extreme accuracy, and this is so much true when it comes to fashion photography. I still have in my memory some gorgeous Valentino velvet rosette dresses I first saw in a Vogue Italia issue in the 80s, as well as Versace chain-mail dresses and Roberto Capucci pleated masterpieces. I usually have no problems in recalling images or details that have caught my attention, so it is not uncommon to think about things I saw in a remote past. This can be said, for example, of “The Most Unforgettable Women in the World Wear Revlon” campaign, one of the the most beautiful and meaningful campaigns I’ve ever seen. I distinctly remind some of the pics [1] I’m going to post here, and I also remind my thoughts about them.

This campaign, shot by the master Richard Avedon from 1987 to 1991, featured the top fashion models in the world and a few lesser known ones; all the ads focused on the models’ faces and listed the country or the American city they came from. I remember the first detail that caught my attention was the origin of the models: they came from all over the world, and this demonstrated you didn’t need to be American to become a supermodel (in the 80s, a lot of supermodels – think of Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford or Stephanie Seymour – came from the U.S.). I was also fascinated to see Asian and African/Afro-American models featured, because this was a sign of the complexity of beauty; I think I realized for the first time that the combo blonde hair/blue eyes as a synonym of beauty was misleading and false.

I am still speechless when looking at this ad, published in 1987, because its composition is admirable. It features Tatjana Patitz (Germany), the gorgeous Iman (Somalia), Talisa Soto (New York) and Jerry Hall (Texas). I am still gushing over Tatjana’s silver nail polish, Iman’s big hair and Jerry’s blonde mane. The girls were wearing Douglas Ferguson’s metal mesh creations.

This was one of my favourite shots, featuring gold lame-clad models who reached their success in the 70s – Rosie Vela (Texas), Patti Hansen (New York), Rene Russo (California) and Beverly Johson (New York). I love the gold/honey curls of three of them and Beverly’s raven hair.

The pastel tones of the clothes worn by these models make the pic look subtly sexy. The models featured here are Kersti Bowser (Sweden), Christy Turlington (California), Cindy Crawford (Illinois) and Paulina Porizkova (Czechoslovakia).  It’s funny to realize that Turlington, Crawford and Porizkova soon became the faces of cosmetic brands, Maybelline, Revlon and Estee Lauder respectively. It’s also interesting to see that Paulina was one of the few models who came from East Europe. Nowadays, most of the models come from there, but in the 80s her origin was exotic for most Americans.

I’m not sure when this ad was released, because I received it from Oliver, an extremely kind reader of this blog (thanks!). I can assume it was 1987, because Christy Turlington appears again. I love this pic because it’s sexy and aggressive, thanks to the animal-printed clothes sported by the models and to their big hair. The models were Kara Young (California), Laurence Treil (France) and Christy Turlington (California).

This pic is intense and sexy, as it emphasizes the hair and the eye make-up of the models – Linda Spierings (Holland), Rebecca Ghiglieri (Oregon), Estelle Lefebure (France) and Kathryn Redding (Oklahoma). They all look gorgeous, but Linda is so intense! I wish I knew something more about her.

I’ve never seen this pic before: I’m not particularly impressed, but its composition is very much in Avedon’s style. All the models were dark blonde and they wore gold stacked bangles. They are Frederique van der Wal (Holland), Karin Lund (Sweden), Kim Alexis (Florida) and Clare Hoak (New York).

Glamour and drama totally define this beautiful pic. The models were dressed in black, with big diamond earrings, feathers and birdcage veils on their heads, all sporting a classic make-up (smokey eyes, red lips and nails). They are Michele Brooks (England), Nastasia Urbano (Spain), the ageless Linda Evangelista (Canada) and Sandra Zatezalo (New York).

Four blonde beauties grace this ad. They were all wearing halter-neck tops in bright colours (blue, green, red and yellow), they all had pin-straight hair and three of them had a fringe. I think this image is a bit flat, because the models – Cara Leigh (Kentucky), Lisa Kauffmann (Canada), Amie Morgan (Oregon) and Ashley Richardson (Massachusetts) share the same features.

In 1988 one of the ads featured three sequin-dressed models – Alexa Singer (New York), Sandra Zatezalo (New York) and Milla Jovovich (Soviet Union). Jovovich was only 13 when she appeared in this campaign. She was beautiful but her features still were child-like, so it’s quite creepy to see her with full make-up on her face and all glammed up.

I’ve always liked the goddess-like atmosphere of this pic and the blonde, curly hair of the models – Lauren Helm (New York), Tara D’Ambrosio, Rebecca Ghiglieri (Oregon) and Hunter Reno (Florida). Tara D’Ambrosio was 5 or 6 at the time of the shooting and this is even creepier than Milla in the ads. I don’t know anything about her, but she also appeared on the cover of German Vogue cover in 1986, portrayed by Francesco Scavullo.

The airy and light atmosphere in this pic is so refreshing! I like the make-up of the models, different from one another: Susan Miner (Massachusetts) had a very light make-up and this makes her blue eyes pop, Maki’s face (Japan) was painted like a modern geisha (red lips and heavy smokey eyes), and Janice Dickinson (Florida) was the classic dark-haired sultry beauty, even with a little make-up on. It’s nice to notice that the less made-up models wear long diamanté earrings, while Maki wears no jewels.

This pic has really let me down: it’s the only image which featured an Italian model (Monica Bellucci), but her beauty was toned down. She was portrayed with Carmen San Martin (Spain), who shared her features (dark curly hair, dark eyes, South-European origin). The models were not emphasized for their uniqueness, but they looked quite the same.

This has been the hardest-to-find picture. In my opinion, it’s beautiful because it features two of my favourite models and because I love the colourful tie-dyed clothes the girls are wearing. They are Cordula Reyer (Austria), Fabienne Terwinghe (Belgium), the stunning Michaela Bercu (Israel) and Carré Otis (California). Their make-up emphasizes lips and nails and their curlied hair is moved by a wind-machine, giving the whole picture energy.

Jerry Hall and Patti Hansen, who are famous for their relations with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, were both featured in this ad, including Rachel Williams (New York) and Estelle Lefebure (France). I like the big gold and green accessories and Estelle’s bouffant hairstyle, but the overall impression is that it lacks the wow factor.

Four blonde, lace-clad beauties are the protagonists of this shot. They are Claudia Schiffer (Germany), Rachel Hunter (New Zealand), Paula Abbott (Alabama) and Rachel Williams (New York). This is one of the rare cases in which the models were in front of a white background, as most of the pics were taken on a grey/neutral background.

Cathy Fedoruk (Canada), Tara Krahn (Washington) and Josie Borain (Magadascar) posed as a group in this picture, sent to me by Oliver. I vaguely remind the names of Cathy and Josie, but I’ve never heard of Tara; Oliver told me she was second runner-up in the 1988 Supermodel of the World contest, where she represented the United States of America. I love the Pierrot-like look of the models, since they’re wearing black and white blouses with printed ruffled collars which remind me of the melancholic character of Commedia dell’Arte. The hair of all the models is slicked back, a clean and modern touch.

Another pic from the series I have been able to find is dated 1990 and features three black beauties – Beverly Johnson (New York), Louise Vyent (Holland) and Iman (Somalia). I hate the spandex they were wearing, but I love their curly hair and the stone and metal necklaces.

I’ve never seen this picture before (thanks Oliver!): it features a gorgeous Christy Turlington and is dated 1990. I’ve never known the campaign included a picture of a single model, but it’s clear something was changing (this will be clear with the following pictures). Christy is amazing as usual, but it looks like the original idea of the campaign has completely been missed.

We can find Iman again in a picture presumably dated 1991, where she posed with Gail Elliott (Great Britain) and Cindy Crawford (Illinois; she was later destined to become one of most famous Revlon faces). You can see how this is different from the rest of the series: the names of the models and their native country is not inserted in the picture; the styling does not symbolize the over-the-top aesthetic of the 1980s, but introduces subdued atmospheres and a more refined mood. All the models wore satin shirts in pastel colours and some pieces of gold jewellery. Moreover, for the first time, the background is not neutral nor white, but presents a sort of tapestry.

Some new features can be noticed in this picture, too: the protagonists are Daniela Pestova (Czech Republic), Annette Roque and Elaine Irwin (Pennsylvania), who wear silver and black clothes, accented by lurex and sequins. Even in this case, the ad does not introduce their names and countries, and the styling (especially the hairstyles) is more muted if compared to the pictures from the 1980s. A super-kind reader of this blog, Kenneth, sent me these last two pictures: I thank him so much for his contribution!

Estelle Lefebure, Tatjana Patitz (with short hair) and Linda Evangelista (with platinum blonde hair) posed together for the campaign in 1991: they had all been protagonists in the past, but they had never posed together before. This picture is one of the last of the series: the names of the models and their origin are missing, and its composition is a little bit different from the pictures of the “regular” series. The models are wearing crisp white shirts and gold jewellery, such a summery and refreshing sight!

This is the very last picture of the series, another kind gift from Oliver. You can actually say a lot has changed since the beginning of the campaign, because the picture is heavily photoshopped, in the sense that they were put in the same picture but they didn’t actually pose together. I think this change of direction was a shame, because the basic concept was extremely brilliant, so I am wondering which could possibly be the reason why it wasn’t kept until the end of the campaign. Christy Turlington, Rachel and Cindy Crawford are the protagonists: there is not an apparent fil rouge connecting their pictures, if not the purple colour (see Christy’s satin blouse and the necklaces on Rachel and Cindy).

The campaign included celebrity couples such as Don Johnson and his (at the time) Melanie Griffith, Frank Sinatra and his wife Barbara, Dan Aykroyd and his wife Donna Dixon, as well as Brooke Shields, Liza Minnelli, Oprah Winfrey and Audrey Hepburn.

Griffith and Johnson were very much in love when the campaign was shot. Melanie was wearing a black lame dress and she sported her trademark blonde curly hair. She was advertising Revlon’s iconic red lipstick and nail polish.

I’ll be forever grateful to Oliver for sending me this picture and the following. I had memories of the first, portraying Frank Sinatra and Barbara (California), because I saw it in an issue of Vogue US in the late 1980s, but I couldn’t find it anywhere online. I think it’s one of the most gorgeous of the celebrity series: I just love the funny and refined mood you can get from it, as well as Barbara’s styling (her crimson satin low-cut dress and her amazing strand of pearls and earrings).

Another lovely picture is the one which has Donna Dixon and Dan Aykroyd (Ontario, Canada) as protagonists. The photo advertises the same combo seen in Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s ad (red lipstick and nail polish) – Donna is wearing both of them. She is also wearing a glamourous low-cut black dress and diamond and pearl earrings; Dan is elegant in his black suit and white shirt without bow tie. Such a funny and spontaneous mood comes from it!

Brooke Shields (New York) was portrayed in three different poses. She was wearing a black dress, which beautifully emphasized her grace.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find this ad in high quality, and it’s a pity, because Liza Minnelli (Los Angeles) looks gorgeous. She was wearing a low-cut black dress and sporting her trademark short hair. I also love her make-up, focused on smokey eyes and red lips. Like Brooke Shields, she appeared in three different poses.

Oprah Winfrey (Chicago), the most famous American television host, was another celebrity to be featured in the campaign. Kenneth sent this picture to me: in this ad, she was wearing a black spandex catsuit and a sheer blouse, patent ankle boots and a Lucite bangle. It’s quite unexpected, but I like the outfit she was sporting here, because it’s so different from her usual outfits. What I don’t like is the composition of six different poses, which make the image is little confused. I guess this was intended to give the picture a dinamic idea of movement, but it doesn’t work.

Last but absolutely not least, here is the most beautiful ad of the whole series. Audrey Hepburn (Switzerland), the elegant, refined and talented actress/style icon posed for Richard Avedon wearing a dramatic taffeta ruffle dress and sporting a flawless make-up. I don’t know when the pic was taken, but I’m sure Audrey was in her sixties and she looked more gorgeous than ever. Her charm came from within and this made her so special and unique. Her presence in the campaign has surely added a touch of old-school glamour and has given an important message: no matter what your age, country or ethnicity, you all can be unforgettable (please note: unforgettable, which is much more than beautiful, because it goes beyond the physical aspect).

[1] It’s been extremely hard to find these pics online. The Net is an amazing photo archive, but treasures are sometimes well hidden in its recesses.

Source, source and source.

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49 comments

  1. Io mi ricordo perfettamente della 12ma foto, del 1989, credo di avere ancora la copia della rivista a casa dei miei al mare…ero “innamorata” di Estelle Lefebure e quella pubblicità mi affascinava particolarmente!

    1. Estelle era effettivamente molto bella (mi pare fosse presente nel video ‘Too Funky’ di George Michael, vero?), anche se rendeva decisamente più in foto che non sulle passerelle.
      Per quanto mi riguarda, in questi anni non ho dimenticato la prima e la seconda immagine, bellissime!

  2. Wow! I think, as copywriter, that the concept expressed through the headline in this campaign is very strong and therefore memorable. I would have liked to write it.

  3. I understand why you say you’d like to have written the headline of the campaign. I think this sentence is very simple yet memorable. I love the focus on the adjective ‘unforgettable’, which – as I have written in the post – has a deeper meaning than ‘beautiful’.

  4. Your “vintage” posts are amazing. :)

    I like more the first campaigns than the ones where the models are “triplicated”… what’s the point?

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you appreciate what I write :)
      I honestly don’t know why they decided to put different poses in the same ad. My guess is that this ‘special effect’ was intended to give more movement and complexity to the image. I agree with you: the ‘plain’ ads are the best…but Audrey Hepburn’s remains my favourite.

  5. Brava!
    Ti leggevo sempre l’anno scorso quando il tuo blog era in italiano (mering-o-rama…spassosissimo)….

    Ti consigliai di buttarti nella moda come professionista, come redattrice intendo…e spero tu ci sia riuscita.

    Daresti dei punti a molte…

    Sei veramente molto brava…e complimenti per l’inglese!

    Ciao…

    Luisa

    1. Ciao Luisa!
      Grazie mille per i complimenti. Sono contenta che anche questo blog abbia riscosso il tuo interesse. Io faccio ancora l’insegnante di inglese (e spero di farlo per molto altro tempo), non mi sono buttata nel giornalismo di moda, un po’ perchè farlo seguendo delle direttive che non siano mie non mi interessa, un po’ perchè lavorare in quell’ambito non è facile come sembra. Grazie comunque per l’incoraggiamento :)

  6. Thank you so much for posting these. When I was a young girl I had these on my wall – I collected all of them. I am still a huge fashion and photography fan now.

    1. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this post. I had a hard time in finding these pics online, but it was all worth: I think this is one of the best advertising campaigns ever made.

      Which is your favourite pic?

  7. Thank YOU for this collection of Richard Avedon ad for Revlon to share with us. I used to look forward every and each month in the ’80s of this spread in US Vogue, great and amazing job of the late Richard Avedon’s which never make it to his books (including the new one Avedon: Fashion 1944-2000) may be because they belong to Revlon’s.

    1. I agree with you: I think these pictures belong to Revlon, and so this is the reason why they haven’t been included in any of Avedon’s books, which is a pity :( It would be amazing to have the complete series in one book.

  8. a note to my earlier post…I do think this is one of the most successful campaigns ever. I looked forward to seeing which photo was going to come out next. Truly remakable. Shows up how average a lot of current campaigns actually are.

    1. If you compare this Revlon campaign and the current campaigns, you fully realize the ground-breaking quality of Revlon’s. Current campaigns look – more or less – all the same and it is very hard to see something standing out.

  9. these revlon images are truly beautiful, i’ve always loved these ads. i have one more image that i can send you, another one with christy turlington. just email me if you want me to send it to you.

  10. thanks superqueen for adding the ad i sent with christy turlington & kara young in it, isn’t it amazing? for me that has got to be one of christy’s most beautiful shot!

    1. I thank YOU because you’ve been so kind to send me this gorgeous pic.
      I totally agree with you: Christy looked amazing!

  11. Hi, the oprah campaign for Revlons most unforgettable women is indeed on the internet, I saved a sizable image to my computer if you would like it please email me. and it hit Elle Magazines in 1988.

    thank you so much love this post you did, i bookmarked it and showed it to many of my friends. I just wanted to help you complete your series

  12. Thank you for the shou out this is an amazing achive of a imfamous cosmetic campaign that they just dont do anymore (and they should) matter fact if Revlon did indeed bring back the most unforgettable women who would they have? I need 15 to 20 name……..let’s go first campaign, I need four ladies group photo, & theme

  13. Hi Superqueen, thank you so much for posting the Revlon ads I sent you, I’m so glad you liked them especially the celebrity ads and the solo ad of Christy Turlington who happens to be my all time favorite model… don’t you just love her serene eyes, high ckeekbones & luscious lips? A real goddess… Thanks again Superqueen!

  14. Wow, I just came across this and it brings back lots of memories! I used to love these ads! The model Annette, from Holland, in the ad with Daniela Pestova and Elaine Irwin (now Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp) is Annette Roque. She has been married to Matt Lauer (of the Today show) for years.

  15. Hi—love revisiting the Revlon Unforgettable ads. Thanks for sharing.

    FYI: Annette’s last name (frm the 1991 ad) was Roque but her married name is now Lauer. (She’s married to TV personality Matt Lauer.) Of note: she also used to go by “Jade”.

  16. I thought to see how these gorgeous women have aged–Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Iman, are still gorgeous. . .I wish Paulina Porizkova would wear her hair longer today, like she did when she was younger. Wonderful pics!!

    1. Paulina Porizkova was gorgeous with long hair when she was young, but I don’t think long hair would suit her today…

  17. Of all the pictures, the only one I remembered is the Frank and Barbara Sinatra one. I vividly remember seeing it in a magazine, which one I don’t remember, but I remember thinking at the time that it was such a beautiful, loving picture of them. I’ve thought about it from time to time, and for some reason I thought she was wearing blue because I remember thinking how much it complimented his eyes, but when I was approaching the celebrity pictures and you listed the Sinatras, I actually got excited because I knew I would get to see that beautiful spread again and there it was. Maybe there was another photo shoot I saw of them and Mrs. Sinatra was wearing blue, but I don’t know. I also love the Dan Akroyd and Donna Dixon, Liza Minnelli and, especially, the Audrey Heburn pictures… truly unforgettable.

  18. You brought me back, thank you very much! If memory serves me right, I think I also read Sharon Stone posed for the campaign when she was a young model, but I have never been able to see it if it was true or not.

    1. You’re welcome.
      I don’t remember if Sharon Stone actually was part of this campaign. I haven’t found any pictures of her as a Revlon testimonial on Internet, sorry.

  19. OH my goodness! I LOVED this campaign (& agree it was sad when the photoshop became obvious). I had ALL these ads hanging on my closet walls & I studied the haircuts, etc. So gorgeous. What a wonderful post you did. I am going to print it & save. If Revlon would release these in a book I would purchase it in a heartbeat. So many memories of my “youth”.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you appreciated it.

      I’d love if Revlon published a book with the whole campaign. I still believe the concept was brilliant and – you’re right – so suggestive: everything was special, haircuts and accessories included. It gave us a completely new perspective of what being beautiful meant.

  20. I am presuming that smile of Donna Dixon’s wasn’t merely for the cameras. Out of all the couples in the campaigns for Revlon, I think they have been we’d the longest. Donna would put a smile on anyone’s face, especially in that dress.

  21. there was an unforgettable ad featuring grace jones but it seems to have vanished because of some trumped up drug arrest in jamaica that she was later acquitted of…does anyone else remember this?

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