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Gareth Pugh talks taking on the 80s archive of Montana

The designer has breathed new life into the defunct-80s brand for a new project with Farfetch

There a few moments in history where fashion so closely reflected the times as the 1980s, when the unbridled decadence of the Reagan boom met its match in a new guard of French designers radically reinventing how the modern woman dressed. Looking back across all of those power suits, eye-popping colours and bouffant hairdos, however, there’s one name that often falls by the wayside: Claude Montana. While his peers Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier built brands that have stood the test of time thanks to franchise deals and a willingness to innovate, Montana’s infamously difficult personality and uncompromising approach saw his business falter, eventually closing shop in 1997 and disappearing from the public eye ever since.

Today, the designer no longer owns the rights to his name, but over the past year or so, the Montana aesthetic has experienced a palpable resurgence: take the oversized bows, thick wools and boxy shoulders of Marc Jacobs’ AW18 collection, or the revival of Mugler under Casey Cadwallader, which has seen many of the era’s signatures reinvented for today’s woman. Now, for those seeking an original design from one of Montana’s show-stopping runway extravaganzas, there’s a rare opportunity to do just that: available from Farfetch today is a limited edition capsule collection developed by the vintage e-commerce gurus at Byronesque, reissuing some of Montana’s most iconic pieces for a new generation of fans.

Also on board is Gareth Pugh, who Byronesque invited to help refresh Montana’s designs for today’s customer. “There’s a strong sense of discipline in Montana’s work,” says Pugh. “He was a renowned perfectionist, and I’m a Virgo, so I’m a bit of a perfectionist myself.” It’s this attention to detail that marks the collection out as something extraordinary: Montana’s love of leather, inspired by his visits to gay S&M clubs, has been honoured by sourcing the material from his original suppliers, while the embroidery was recreated with one of only two remaining machines of its kind. “Getting the details right for this collection was really important to us and every element was scrutinised,” Pugh adds. “As a reissue collection I was acutely aware of the responsibility I had to deliver something that was true to the original.”

It isn’t just technical rigour and exaggerated silhouettes linking Montana to Pugh, but also a shared love of powerful silhouettes – and runway spectacle. Montana’s shows were infamous for their theatricality, with crowds gathering to bang down the doors and front-row editors regularly brought to tears, while Pugh’s shows have taken attendees from underground bunkers to a recreation of a vogue ball complete with dancing models. “I’m naturally drawn to fashion that serves as a counterpoint to reality, something that is aspirational or offers fantasy and escape,” explains Pugh. "It’s something I think we all need a little of in today’s world, the power of dreaming.”

“I’m naturally drawn to fashion that serves as a counterpoint to reality, something that is aspirational or offers fantasy and escape” – Gareth Pugh

And if Montana’s wildly outré aesthetic is difficult to summarise, it’s united by the designer’s ability to transport the wearer into the realm of dreams – or, occasionally, nightmares. “With this collection, even though it’s relatively small, we wanted it to be fully representative of the essence of Montana,” Pugh adds. “Which is lucky, as aiming for a middle ground is not my forte.” It’s a match made in (leather-clad) heaven.

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