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Claude Montana Remembered at Paris Service

PARIS Claude Montana was remembered Wednesday as a passionate architect of clothing, and a ringleader for modernity in his native France.

Fashion designers Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Stephen Jones, Chantal Thomass and Yvan Mispelaere were among those who attended a ceremony at Protestant chapel L’Oratoire du Louvre, where a black-and-white portrait of a young Montana by Tyen was propped on an easel.

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(Béatrice Cléro-Mazire, the presiding pastor for the service, noted that the body of the deceased need not be present to be in the grace of God.)

Montana died on Feb. 23 at age 76, leaving behind a legacy of razor-sharp, strong-shouldered tailoring and skill with leather.

Like many at the service, Jones sported a blue ribbon on his arm as a symbol of mourning. “Yves Klein blue was his fetish color,” said the British milliner, who created hats for Montana for more than 15 years.

“To be in the Montana clan was truly mythical in the fashion industry,” he told the assembled guests, lauding the “beauty of his lines,” his discipline and his rigor, thanking him for “pushing me to new heights of creativity.”

Achieving perfection meant working until all hours in Montana’s black-carpeted studio. “Claude was the only designer with whom I ever lost my temper — apart from Marc Jacobs, but that’s another story,” Jones said, to a round of chuckles in the church.

Although Jones stormed out into a rainy night after that outburst, he was coaxed back and produced “the most beautiful halos I ever made” for a Montana show.

French politician Jack Lang, who served twice as minister of culture, lauded Montana’s sense of volume, dazzling imagination and a sense of color that was nonpareil.

Claude Montana Spring 1984 Ready-to-Wear
Claude Montana Spring 1984 Ready-to-Wear

L’Oratoire du Louvre has long hosted fashion shows, including one for de Castelbajac that Montana attended. During his eulogy, de Castelbajac noted he was sitting in roughly the same seat as the audacious designer.

Lauding his “bold modernity,” attention to detail and knack for mounting fashion shows with operatic levels of drama, de Castelbajac said Montana marked fashion history as Charles James, Madame Grès and Yves Saint Laurent did.

Because Montana empowered women and pushed the limits of the silhouette, he remains a reference for young designers to this day, de Castelbajac added.

Also in attendance were Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, makeup artist Olivier Echaudemaison and communications consultant Patrick Scallon, who recalled being starstruck when he spotted Montana out and about in Paris.

“He was such a monument,” Scallon said. “He not only embraced the future but helped shape it.”

In his heyday, together with Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier, Montana represented the provocative avant-garde of Paris fashion. Montana also designed Lanvin couture between 1990 and 1992.

Montana gradually faded from the scene after the house was sold twice in two years, following a turbulent period that saw it file for protection from creditors in 1997. The couturier withdrew from the public eye after staging his last Paris catwalk show in 2002, and in recent years lived as a recluse.

There were musical interludes throughout the service, which concluded with Diana Ross singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

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