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.
Claude Montana was born in Paris in 1937 to a Spanish mother and a German father. At the end of 60's he went to London, and began designing jewellery made of Mexican papier mache and rhinestones. He sold them in the streets and markets of London. He had a modest success and was featured in British VOGUE. He returned to Paris in 1970 and started working for a French leather company called McDouglas, where he learned the basic skills of pattern cutting/grading. He left them to start up on his own.
In 1976 Montano staged a fashion show at Angelina's Tea Room, in Paris. His designs were acclaimed and his rise was meteoric. In 1979 he set up his own company and began creating masculine styles for women. Large sharp shoulders became his trade-mark.
During the 80's he designed futuristic space-age clothes, as many other designers also did. He also continued with his heavy, broad-shouldered designs. He brought out his men's clothing line transforming the clean lines and pure forms of established men's tailoring into a more unstructured and casual alternative. He used a soft layering look, well-designed and well executed.
From 1989 to 1991, Claude Montana designed for the house of Lanvin. He designed five award winning collections. 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. His leather collection in the 80's caused a violent reaction in the American press, which saw them as neo-Nazi wear. The ""Fly-away"" jacket, a trapeze cut flared from just below the shoulder blade, was a significant new shape.
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 This French designer took over in 2002. He had earlier worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Givenchy and Lanvin.