— January 26, 2011—
"Claude Montana is a name that conjures up one thing: shoulder-pads. Geometric, uncompromising, coffee-table sized shoulders, jutting authoritatively above a handspan waist — probably in glossy leather, possibly studded. It summons up images of Wagnerian Valkyries, marching phalanxes of models with noses jutting into the air, store-buyers weeping and clamouring to stock assertive, powerful clothing. The name Claude Montana revives the eighties in their entirety, and with the on-off eighties redux fashion has been experiencing for over a decade showing no signs of abating, well continue to hear and see a great many more references to the man and his work.
Until now, however, for all the power-dressing pastiche on the catwalks paying homage to Montana — check the strapped-and-wrapped leathers at Altuzarra, the boulder-shoulder Balmain jacket and Maison Martin Margielas hyper-intellectualising of the hangers-in silhouette — there has been no definitive tome on the man or his label. Fret ye not — for a book of about the same proportions as one of those shoulder-pads has just been published, featuring a cover in a particularly virulent shade of lilac scrawled with the iconic, graphic Montana signature. Not only that, but Montanas name features alongside the author, Marielle Cro, as this particular treatise has been created with the full co-operation of the designer and his eponymous houses extensive archive.
Ultimately, that Montana back-catalogue is a better argument for his continuing relevance than any text. The power of his fetishised, trussed-up women — part victim, part warrior — is still potent. The selection of images, spanning twenty years of design, even provide some strong ripostes to the Montana versus Misogyny debate that has raged since he first opened his doors in 1975. The Paolo Roversi images that punctuate the book are a startling re-imagining of the Montana lexicon, the softness of Roversis work offsetting the harsh lines of clothing created at the height of Montanas career (you guessed it, 1986 or thereabouts) and lending them a romanticism, and even a seduction, often lost in the unyielding surfaces of leather and double-face wool. And who could have imagined drawing a parallel between the clothes of Montana and Alber Elbaz? Few but fashion buffs recall Montanas work at Lanvin in the early nineties, but his satin trenches, blouson cashmere coats and heavy embroideries find contemporary parallels in Elbazs work. Granted, it looks as if Montanas stiffened and bombasted shapes were accidentally left on a boil-wash, but the geometry of form and Scheherazade of decoration are still there.
In the polymorphous, multi-faceted world of twenty-first century fashion, it seems curious to realise that in the eighties, every designer was measured against Montana — either a shoulder-padded co-conspirator in his revolution of womans silhouette, or a reaction against that inverted triangle that came to characterise the decade. This was arguably the last hurrah of the designer as fashion dictator, of a designer being able to impose a shape across the board and transform fashion with a single compass-sharp stroke. The power of his vision is such that we still associate the eighties with Montana — which, in a sense, was both his strength and his weakness.
The advent of the nineties demanded a softer, more fluid style which Montana never really got to grips with; neither did he make the switch from couturier to showman that fellow boldface designer Thierry Mugler so astutely managed, shored up with enormous perfume sales and a tongue firmly in cheek. The trouble with Montana was that he remained true to himself, fashion-speak for the fact that he never managed to move on. No matter: this book shows his glorious heyday to perfection and, if nothing else, should make his vintage sales on eBay leap up a notch.
Claude Montana, Fashion Radical by Claude Montana and Marielle Cro is published by Thames & Hudson
Text by Alex Fury
Alex Fury is a London based fashion writer and Fashion Director of SHOWstudio.com
Right-click and copy the link address
Claude Montana Fashion Radical