The late Helse Dolsey once called Claude Montana the "Leader of Paris fashion," but that could be said of many Paris designers. Another name for him has been "King of Shoulder Pads" which is a more apt title, looking to the size of the shoulders of many of his designs. He has spent a good deal of his career designing men's clothes for women.
Fashion Designer Claude Montana was born in 1949 in Paris to a German mother and Catalanian (Spanish) father. At an early age, he traveled to London (1971) and began his career by designing papier-mâché jewellery covered with rhinestones. He returned to Paris in 1970 and started working for a French leather company called McDouglas in 1972, where he learned the basic skills of pattern cutting/grading.
In 1973, he designed a ready-to-wear leather collection in collaboration with Michelle Costas.
His first fashion show took place in 1976 at Angelina’s Tea Room, In Paris. His designs were acclaimed and his rise was meteoric. Montana's own ready-to-wear company was founded in 1979, and two years he later presented his first collection for men, called Hommes Montana, in which he focused on the colour and materials of each garment rather than trivial details. He opened his first boutique in Paris in 1983, and another in 1986. The Montana Fragrances Company was created in 1984.
From 1990 to 1992, he designed haute couture collections for the House of Lanvin, but was eventually replaced by Dominique Morlotti as his designs were considered too bold. He won two Golden Thimble awards for his work at Lanvin.
Montana, who greatly admired Mme.Gres (1910-1993) as a couturiere, specializes in strong colours, monochromatic fabrics, and lots of leather and wool. His classic and structural pantsuits feature razor-sharp tailoring and strong silhouettes with dramatic proportions. In addition to his own lines, Montana currently designs men's wear for Complice, an Italian company.
In 1993 Claude Montana married his long-time girl-friend and earlier model, Wallis Francken - famous for starring in the Emanuelle films. They were married in Paris at the Mairie in the rue de Grenelle. The bride naturally wore a Montana outfit, a soft white crepe pantsuit. The designer wore a pair of beige and black Montana cowboy boots flown in especially from Mexico.
During the late 90's Montana designed swim-wear and soft flowing gowns with a bias cut. In 1996, he brought out a line of Jeans called BEST MOUNTAIN made by his concern Best Montana.
His beloved wife Wallis committed suicide in 1995. Montana faced considerable financial difficulties, and sold his house to a French concern, who are continuing the name.
Stephane Parmentier took over in 2002. He had earlier worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Givenchy and Lanvin.
Claude Montana is known for his refined, figure-hugging designs, in lightweight materials or heavy leather. He was an avid colourist and favoured blue, red, metallic, and neutral tones, in luxurious materials such as cashmere, leather and silk. During the 90's, his style gradually changed and became more simple and sophisticated. His collections announced a whole new set of styles with exquisite drapery, fluidity, movement and minimal construction. He used a much more feminine look. Gone were the bulky masculine overcoats, and in came furs of white fox, or coloured mink capes, and he began to make liberal use of fabrics such as velvet, crepe, mousseline, and leather.