Not Just A Label – Claude Montana

“I am not at all interested in being good, what counts is being the very best.”

Claude Montana was born in 1949 in Paris, to a German mother and a Spanish father. At a young age he moved to London, in search of the colourful opportunities that the city had to offer. He started his career there, designing and making papier-mâché jewellery, decorated with semi-precious stones. At the age of 21, in 1970, he returned to Paris and had secured himself a job at the French leather company McDouglas, two years later, here he learnt the basic skills required for pattern cutting and tailoring. He collaborated with Michelle Costas in 1973, producing a ready to wear line. Montana designed four collections for Michelle Costas, plus a small series with the label Idéal Cuir. Montana’s first ready-to-wear line for Idéal-Cuir, Paris was 1973 to 1974, these pieces are the most collected and some of the most expensive Montana’s in today’s market.

His first fashion show came three years later, in Angelina’s Tea Room in Paris; here he gained critical acclaim and recognition from the fashion elite. Montana’s own ready to wear line was founded in 1979 and two years later he released a men’s line, Homme Montana. He opened boutiques in Paris with his own label in the early 80s and established a fragrance company in 1984. His designs focused on colour and material, rather than detailing, this gave him a unique and identifiable style. In 1990 he began designing haute couture for the house of Lanvin, where he won two consecutive Gold Thimble Awards. However his bold designs were considered too statement for the traditional Lanvin customer and he was replaced by Dominique Morlotti only 2 years later. Montana has not designed haute couture since, so the pieces from his time at Lanvin became incredibly collectable. During the late 90s, following financial difficulties and the suicide of his beloved wife, Wallis, he sold his fashion house to a French concern.

Montana is characterised for his sharp, skilful tailoring, dramatic proportions, strong silhouettes and his heavy use of leather and wool. He was an avid colourist, favouring monochrome, blues, red and metallics. During the 90s his style developed to incorporate more feminine and luxurious designs, however he remains recognised for his menswear inspired pieces for women, for the shoulder pads and silhouettes, for his dare devil approach to fashion and for his integrity of vision and refusal to compromise when it came to creativity.

There is a fascinating article in Vanity Fair this month (September 2013) about Montana. He has basically been a recluse for years and this piece is extremely enlightening. Definitely worth a read for info on his work, his life and what he is up to now.

Shop Montana in our collection, Late 70s/Early 80s Claude Montana Leather Bomber Jacket