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The thing that i dont understand is, if i'm going use opaque walls and light it head on - isnt it going to kill the shadows?
No, you'll still have some shadows, but not too much. You want to show texture, but probably don't need a "film noir style" lighting scheme. (Your example looks front-lit to me. If you look at the one with the model in the blue dress holding the purse you can see that the shadow of the purse is mostly below the purse, and the shadow of the model on the back wall is only slightly offset. I'd say the light was just above head level and only a foot or so to camera right.)
...Alternatively, if i use a shoot-thru material, i could light only a single side, which *theoretically* should give me contrasy look?
With only a 2.2 metre (7 foot) wide shooting space, I don't see how you could get even coverage from top to bottom using a shoot-through from the side. The Lastolite Hi-Lite could work, but they aren't cheap.