This post is a tribute to my mother, who always inspired me to be myself. I gave her some hard times, dressing fashionably at a very young age, fashion she didn’t understand or like. But even when I walked around with three shoulder pads on top of each other (ultimate power dressing, ahum) and people were staring at me, she proudly walked next to me. Thanks mam for letting me find out who I am!
Claude Montana is a French fashion designer. His company, The House of Montana, founded in 1979, went bankrupt in 1997.
Born in Paris in 1949 to a Catalonian father and German mother, Montana began his career by designing papier-mâché jewelry covered with rhinestones. Later, he discovered leather and the complex techniques associated with it, eventually becoming a leading force in leather. His first fashion show took place in 1976. He was an avid colorist and favored blue, red, metallic, and neutral tones, in luxurious materials such as cashmere, leather and silk. He started his own company in 1979, and quickly became a darling of 1980s high fashion along with Thierry Mugler, who also favored aggressive shapes and strong colours.
In 1981, Montana designed his first collection for men, called Montana Hommes, in which he focused on the color and material of each garment rather than trivial details. From 1990 to 1992 he designed haute couture collections for the House of Lanvin, for which he received two consecutive Golden Thimble awards. Despite critical acclaim, Montana’s bold designs were financially disastrous for the house, created at a total estimated loss of $50 million, and he was ultimately replaced by Dominique Morlotti. In 1999, he designed an affordable line of clothing for women, Montana BLU. It was inspired by his favorite themes but modified to fit the style of sportswear and citywear.
Claude Montana for Lanvin, ph. Paolo Roversi
Montana’s fashion shows excelled in styling as well as in presentation. Because of their vibrations, modelling for Montana became prestigious and invitations to his shows the hottest tickets in town. With fashion’s return to harder lines in 2007 Montana has become an inspiration for many designers. Alexander McQueen praised and honored Montana many times in his collections. Both designers shared a love for construction and high quality.
On July 21, 1993, Montana married model Wallis Franken. It was a marriage of convenience and friendship, as Montana was openly homosexual. They were the same age, had been friends for 18 years, and she had served as his muse for many of his fashion innovations. Wallis already had two daughters and a granddaughter by a previous marriage. In June 1996, Wallis died after falling three stories from their Paris apartment. The death was ruled a suicide.
In October 2010 it was announced that Claude Montana and Marielle Cro have been working on a coffee-table book documenting Montana’s career. The book includes photos and interviews with insiders who witnessed Montana’s career firsthand.
Currently, Montana lives in Spain.
Death of Wallis Franken
In the three years since she had married the hard-partying and openly gay Montana in a wedding that stunned even the normally blasé fashion world, Wallis Franken had endured terrible physical and emotional abuse from her complicated and unconventional husband. Friends had begged her to leave him, but she told them that she was “obsessed” with Montana. She had been his muse and his ally since he started out in the mid-70s, and she thought of him not only as a genius but also as her alter ego.
“He’s was sort of like her fate, her dark angel,” says Wallis’s friend Maxime de la Falaise. “She’d been in love with Claude for years.” Yet after decades of putting up with all the men and the nocturnal comings and goings in Montana’s life—not to mention his jealousy and possessiveness of her—the addition of the young fitting model, at a time when Wallis told friends Montana was ridiculing her as “old and ugly,” seemed particularly rattling. “Isn’t that weird?” she asked her friend Carolyn Schultz about the photographer’s request a few days before she returned to Paris from New York last May. But nobody, not even her family, seemed to have the slightest inkling of the depth of her despair. As usual, Wallis managed to fool everybody.
With her Louise Brooks bob, her lithe, androgynous body, and her raucous laugh, Wallis Franken was celebrated for her taste and style, but even more for her sparkling, care-free nature. To the sophisticates of Paris’s couture world, who knew her so well, she was never in a bad mood, but always warm, full of ideas, and ready for a good time. “She did not have the personality of a model but of a woman,” says designer Hervé Léger. “We do not find what she had in girls now. She became a real Parisienne. Even though we all know she didn’t have an easy time, I never saw her anxious or depressed. Wallis projected crème fraîche.
”Her heyday on the runway was in the 70s, before the era of the supermodel, when lucrative product-endorsement contracts were rare. But at 48 she remained a fixture on the fashion scene, still able to wow them last March at Montana’s show at the Institute of the Arab World on the Left Bank. “You could see her person—there was a vulnerability in those eyes. How many models actually reveal that?” says Mark Van Amringe of Details magazine’s Paris office. “Wallis was the first mannequin to give the impression that the image belonged to her, not to the couturier,” says Christian Lacroix’s business partner, Jean-Jacques Picart. “She became an international figure.”
In late April and early May, Wallis spent a wonderful two weeks in New York, tending to her aging mother, seeing old friends, buying gifts for Montana, and visiting a Chinese herbalist, to whom she recited a litany of menopausal symptoms. She told him, for example, that unstoppable tears would sometimes flow from her eyes, but she never mentioned the possibility of depression. She said she was excited that her daughter, Rhea, 26, who had two small daughters, was about to give birth to a grandson. “She left in very high spirits,” says Sanchez. Wallis made a date to meet Sanchez three weeks later at his house in Marrakech. Then she flew home, arriving on Monday morning, May 6.Claude Montana & Wallis Franken fitting for the wedding, 1993
She spent Tuesday at Montana’s boutique on Avenue Marceau, playing host to a German TV crew, choosing outfits for the young fitting model to pose in, treating the visitors to jokes and champagne. Her younger daughter, Celia, 24, who worked at the boutique, was also on hand to help out. “She smiled a lot and talked to everybody,” says the TV producer, Alexandra von Schledorn. She and Montana were polite and careful with each other.
Nobody saw her on Wednesday, yet it was not unusual for her to take to her bed for 24 hours at a time. Neighbors who had previously complained to the police of loud music and rows emanating from Montana’s apartment on the Rue de Lille in the chic Seventh Arrondissement didn’t bother to look out to the back courtyard in the early morning hours when they heard a kind of thump. It wasn’t until seven hours later, on Thursday, May 9, that Wallis Franken’s bloodied body was discovered splattered on the cobblestones. She was wearing black leggings, socks, and a white shirt that was torn—a detail reportedly of interest to the Paris police.
The concierge could not even tell who she was. She had apparently taken a swan dive out the second-story kitchen window, a drop of 25 feet. The police, who woke Montana to make the identification, questioned him for hours. They found her jewelry lined up neatly on the kitchen table. Montana apparently told the police as well as Wallis’s family that he had felt a draft during the night and had closed the kitchen window, but had not looked outside. He said the last time he saw Wallis alive was in the wee hours of Wednesday, May 8, when she fell asleep on the living-room sofa. By the time he left for work that day, she had moved to her own room, or so he assumed. He did not check. Nor did he bother to look in on her Wednesday night when he returned.
The body was not removed from the courtyard until midafternoon. After an autopsy, which showed no marks or signs of self-defense on her body but which did show that she had ingested alcohol and cocaine, the French authorities have officially ruled Wallis Franken’s death a suicide by defenestration. Her family accepts that verdict. Nevertheless, her older brother Randy, who lives in Germany, and her mother, who lives in New York, both gave statements to the French police. They also engaged a lawyer who, according to Randy Franken, “made clear to authorities that there was a history of abuse.”
What convinced Randy that his sister took her own life, however, was the height of the kitchen window. “I’m six foot three, and the sill hits me at my chest. If you wanted to push someone out, it would be a real job.” But these facts have not stopped the distraught and incredulous friends of Wallis Franken from blaming the diminutive Claude Montana for contributing to her death. (He, in turn, has made no public statement of any kind about his wife or her death. Neither has his press office. He declined to speak to Vanity Fair.)
‘I feel that no matter what Claude did, whether his hands were on her or not, the lifestyle he gave her, the way he abused her mentally, emotionally, physically, pushed her over the edge,” says Wallis’s closest friend, former model turned painter Tracey Weed. “I have no doubt that he was a contributing factor to my sister’s demise, perhaps a major contributing factor,” says Randy Franken. “We all have the same idea,” echoes painter Vincent Scali, Wallis’s witness at her marriage to Montana. “Everybody knew that his part in her death was enormous.” How did Montana contribute? “By treating her like shit, saying, ‘You’re no one, you’re nobody, you’re a weight on my life.’ … He knew Wallis was weak.… We did everything in our power to keep her away from him, and she went back. She was a masochist.”
Displays and revels in the rich inventiveness of a designer who played a key role in the fashions of the 1980s and 1990s, and who has become an inspiration for many contemporary designers.
The Montana woman embodied an extraordinary new image: razor- sharp tailoring and strong silhouettes with dramatic proportions and masculine lines, enlivened by an astonishing mix of detail and bold hues. Materials, colors, and cut were all vehicles for Claude Montana’s effervescent genius, and it was the Lanvin period in the early 1990s that marked the absolute high point of his creativity.
This book looks at the principles and practices that underpin Montana’s work. It records numerous conversations with Montana himself that help us to understand the essential forces that have shaped his work, while scores of catwalk images and reproductions of his sketches reveal the energy and singularity of his vision. It is a journey punctuated with intimate comments and observations by those who have accompanied the designer at different points along the way—among others, the photographers Dominique Issermann, Tyen, and Paolo Roversi; the embroiderer François Lesage; the designer Alain Mikli; and the makeup artist Olivier Echaudemaison. Their moving testimonies are scattered throughout these pages. 124 color and 22 black-and-white illustrations.
Info: Wikipedia, http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1996/09/montana199609