Claude Montana 1947-2024 Remembrance of things past. text by Tony Glenville

Dear Shaded Viewers,

Fashion by it’s very nature changes, and what was once innovative become “vieux chapeau”. What we once adored, we subsequently laugh at, or the fresh becomes stale.

Claude Montana launched in the 1970’s at around the same time at Thierry Mugler, but although they both loved a broad shoulder they were very different. To explain to those who never saw their shows, never went to their boutiques and never felt the rush of excitement that their work engendered, it’s very difficult to explain.

Montana shows on video and Montana images fail to communicate the pacing, the extraordinary spacial awareness, of seeing a single model on a vast white curving catwalk pose and step forward, pose again and then more slowly, walk and remain motionless for seconds, before perhaps raising  an arm or simply fiercely stalking off the stage. The music was at a volume to make your insides tremble, the excitement in the tent was palpable. Even those with tickets were scared something would go wrong, and entry be denied, so being in the tent, either seated or, as I frequently was, standing, was truly an adrenaline rush.

The team around the designer was the most fearsome, the most aloof, the most frightening in the fashion world, ever. The models of the day rose to their greatest moments for the shows, relishing the drama and the tumultuous applause.

The clothes were bold, strong, linear, the moods varying from medieval Amazons in embroidered leather, to indolent pool side countesses in palazzo looks. Snowy winter whites one season, deepest Parma violet shades another or red on red on red on red another. Tiny slivers of intense shimmering beadwork, or great wraps of heavy dense wool, ethereal flying silk or weighty woollen jersey. Montana even persuaded the audience one season that gunmetal matt jersey was perfect for a long sensuous glamorous evening dress. Although he had his signatures, each season was a movement and a journey into another aspect of Montana Land.

The peak years were unforgettable, and for those of us privileged to be participants in the ritual, and worshipping, it was magic. The years at Lanvin, the launch of fragrances, the scary but divine boutiques, indeed every element, from the invitations which simply said “Montana” in black in his signature, on the heaviest board possible, to the label in a garment; we adored it all.

When things started to go wrong we stood by in disbelief. Eventually it all vanished and like an amazing dream experience Claude Montana was gone. Now, with his death all I want to remember is the great years, his contribution to French fashion, his brilliance at its pinnacle. I simply want to remember Claude Montana. Thank You, and finally, rest in peace.

Tony Glenville

Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.