Claude Montana, the leading designer of the 80s

On Friday 23 February 2024, the fashion world lost one of its most famous designers of the 80s and 90s. A look back at the rich and tumultuous career of Claude Montana, who died at the age of 76.


He is part of the Palace generation, of those who have had as many successes as failures. And of those who gave birth to the extravagantly structured fashions that exaggerate women’s shapes. Claude Montana stands out for his characterful looks, where leather and raw, supple lines reign supreme.



Although the designer dressed fashionable celebrities in the 80s under his own label and joined Lanvin in the early 90s, his reputation gradually waned at the end of the century. He gradually withdrew from the world of fashion, but not without a hint of nostalgia. Let’s take a look back at the highlights of a career that deserves to be hailed.


An artistic vision built up over time


Born in Paris in 1947 to a Spanish father and a German mother, Claude Montana was quick to covet the world of costumes and wandered into the Opéra Garnier with his sister, despite his parents’ misgivings.


At the age of 20, the budding artist left for England where he began to really create. Not clothes, but jewellery. On his return to Paris, Claude Montana began selling fashion designs to various magazines, before joining the Mac Douglas brand. This was an important period in the designer’s life, which gave him a real appreciation of leatherwork and cut.



In 1975, after working in several fashion houses, he presented his first show in Paris. It featured XXL square shoulders and wasp-waisted silhouettes. The legs were long and slender, highlighted by sculpted hips. Leather was king, in shades of yellow and red. The success was immediate: fashion editors spotted the designer and magazines picked up on his looks.


Fashion in Paris


Four years later, Claude Montana officially founded his own ready-to-wear fashion house, characterised by conquering looks. Ultra-strong women who, through their imposing, architectural clothes, defined their own vision of power and independence.



For several years, Claude Montana was synonymous with the splendour of the 80s, when Parisian euphoria set the pace for the fashion world. Anchored in this colourful, exuberant world of soft coats, baggy trousers, prints and bold cuts, the designer’s collections contrasted with those of his peers Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. Claude Montana transgressed codes in the manner of Thierry Mugler. His outfits shaped the fashion of the 80s.


His fashion shows were organised in the style of real spectacles, great theatrical shows such as are still rare today. These stylistic displays went hand in hand with the opulent parties of the period. Like many members of the artistic community at the time, Claude Montana was not to be outdone when it came to having fun and flirting with excess. Between drugs and alcohol, the fashion designer was a regular at the Palace, the trendy club par excellence at the end of the twentieth century.


In 1990, Claude Montana’s career took a new turn. After turning down an offer from Dior, the designer joined Lanvin. Claude Montana won two Dés d’or, a prestigious fashion award, for the autumn-winter 1990-1991 and spring-summer 1991 collections. But hit by criticism from professionals, he left the brand in 1992, where he was replaced by Dominique Morlotti.


© Lanvin


The beginning of the end…


In 1996, Claude Montana was faced with the suicide of his wife, Wallis Franken, whom he had married three years earlier despite being openly gay. A year after this tragedy, he declared his eponymous brand bankrupt. It was bought out in 2000 and changed its name to Montana Création.


The designer gradually withdrew from the world of fashion. In the years that followed, Claude Montana wrote a book about his career, exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris with Lanvin, created three silhouettes for the Eric Tibusch label, and was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.



In a number of interviews, the melancholy and passionate Claude Montana has made no secret of his nostalgia for, and lack of involvement in, the fashion world. But he can be proud of having influenced Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten, Olivier Theyskens and Riccardo Tisci, and of having fully embodied the fashion of the 80s.


© Jason Kibbler


Claude Montana died on Friday 23 February at Bretonneau Hospital in Paris at the age of 76.



Featured photo: © Press

Grâce à une veille accrue et à une excellente connaissance de ces secteurs, la rédaction de Luxus Magazin décrypte pour ses lecteurs les principaux enjeux économiques et technologiques de la mode, l’horlogerie, la joaillerie, la gastronomie, les parfums et cosmétiques, l’hôtellerie, et l’immobilier de prestige.


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