Claude Montana dead at 76: Legendary French designer defined the art of power dressing in the 1980s

The renowned French designer Claude Montana inspired the likes of Alexander McQueen
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When one thinks of the 1980s when it comes to fashion, power dressing and particularly shoulder pads come to the forefront of one’s mind. One designer who defined power dressing and shoulder pads was the French designer Claude Montana, who has passed away at the age of 76. His designs were worn by the likes of Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Jones and Barbra Streisand.

Forbes reported that “By 1980, Claude Montana was known both as an enfant terrible and for his almost monastic adherence to the principles of apparel design. His fashion shows were events that people fought to get into, and the crowds who got in would be riled up into a near frenzy. But by the turn of the century, Montana became a ghost, a recluse so rarely seen in public that he came to be known as the “Phantom of the Palais.”

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Claude Montana was born Claude Montamat in Paris on June 29, 1947, his father was Catalan Spanish and his mother was German. He studied at the Lycée Condorcet and moved to London at the age of 17. He returned to Paris in 1970 and went on to design a ready-to-wear leather collection with Michelle Costas. It was in 1979 that he founded his own label, Claude Montana. 

Claude Montana didn’t accept the chance to join Dior as Creative Director but went to the fashion house Lanvin and helped revive their fortunes. However, his contract was not renewed and The Telegraph reported that “by fashion industry standards his dismissal was brutal. His employer phoned the press hours after he had shown his January collection in 1991 to announce that Montana was out. The highly sensitive designer was devastated.”

Claude Montana returned to designing ready-to-wear-fashion and won praise for his all-white collection in 1995. After breaking up with his long-time male partner, he shocked the world by marrying Wallis Franken, his androgynous catwalk muse. Only three years after their wedding, Wallis Franken committed suicide and a year after that, Claude Montana filed for bankruptcy. 

After selling his business in 1997, he started a new line Montana Blu which attracted a younger clientele. Forbes reported that in 2008, “ Montana suffered a severe beating at his home when a go-go dancer he allegedly had picked up in a nightclub attacked him. Another legal issue prolonged the incident, when his attacker accused him of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease without their knowledge.”

Fashion designer Claude Montana (L) poses on July 22, 1993 with his wife US model Wallis Franken on the steps of the City Hall in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, where they were married.Fashion designer Claude Montana (L) poses on July 22, 1993 with his wife US model Wallis Franken on the steps of the City Hall in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, where they were married.
Fashion designer Claude Montana (L) poses on July 22, 1993 with his wife US model Wallis Franken on the steps of the City Hall in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, where they were married.
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Claude Montana inspired the likes of fashion great Alexander McQueen as well as Olivier Theyskens and Riccardo Tisci.  When Claude Montana started his own label in 1979, Vogue “proclaimed his dramatic silhouette to be the “most-talked-about look in Paris – for the shape, the shoulders.”

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