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Fashion Archive: Claude Montana

We show an extended run of archive imagery that represents the best of Montana's high-octane glamour.

During the 80s, Claude Montana’s passion for leather earned him a central position on the international fashion radar, and his knack for employing vivid colours, luxury materials and aggressive shapes put him at the forefront of high fashion. His creations matched the consumer mood of the time – budget wan’t an issue, and the more couture and high-energy his ready-to-wear looked and felt, the better.

Montana founded his label in 1979, having spent most of that decade flitting between London (where he made a name for himself creating papier-mâché jewellery covered in rhinestones) and Paris, his home, where he worked as an assistant at leather goods design-house Mac Douglas. His debut collection from the House of Montana was met with the kind of praise young designers’ dreams are made of, and won him an immediate fanbase of wealthy socialite women with a lust for complex construction and couture-like quality.

Montana’s design strengths were bold, shoulder-heavy shapes (he was often referred to as “the king of the shoulder pad”), and his audacious aesthetic turned his brand into a fashion powerhouse. In 1981, he launched Montana Hommes, a menswear label that carried similar traits to his womenswear – except here, it was the colour and fabric that did the talking, not the directional shape and cut. Fragrances, for both women and men, were soon to follow – a brand staple that helped to keep Montana in high demand.

The high-octane glamour of the 80s soon shifted into the more minimal aesthetic of the 90s, and, consequently, Montana began to fall out of favour. In response, the designer launched Montana BLU, a stripped-down, more commercial diffusion line that he hoped would strike a chord with the new tribes of ready-to-wear consumers. Sadly, this gambit proved to be disastrous and the House of Montana went into bankruptcy. Not that the 90s was all bad for Montana. In 1990, he began a stint designing haute couture for Lanvin. Although he was replaced in 1992 (Lanvin preferred a more toned-down approach), it was here that Claude proved he was a designer capable of both exceptional ready-to-wear and haute couture, and he bagged the house a handful of design awards during his time. Now, with strong lines, eccentric taste and luxury returning to the fashion game, Claude Montana is bouncing back as a crucial reference point for the savvy.