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Farfetch Ltd. today is launching a Claude Montana capsule collection reissued by Byronesque.com with Gareth Pugh serving as creative consultant. The 11 hero styles pay tribute to the French designer, who was known for sculpted and sharply tailored looks that ushered in a period of power dressing in the Eighties.

The reissues come as Montana, along with Paris compatriots Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier, are having a moment. A Mugler retrospective is set to open at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on March 2, while Gaultier’s “Fashion Freak Show” at the Folies Bergère in Paris — an all-singing, all-dancing review of the designer’s life — has been playing to packed audiences and has been extended until April.

Called the “king of shoulder pads” for his broad-shouldered jackets, Montana launched his fashion house in 1979. The business went bankrupt in 1997, and Montana withdrew from the public eye after staging his final runway show in 2002.

There’s always been an aura of mystery surrounding Montana, which interested Byronesque.com’s cofounder and editor in chief Gill Linton, who said the e-commerce and editorial site was created to “tell stories and sell clothes from the vintage margins and the misfits who alienated and inspired.” 

“We’re celebrating one of the most important fashion designers in history. It’s a moment,” Linton said. “If you look at the runways, you see his influence everywhere. Montana hasn’t been given the credit he deserves. The clothes are significant and relevant and important today. The capsule is an homage and love letter to Claude.”

Not one to wallow in fashion’s past, Linton said, “It wasn’t [Byronesque.com’s] idea to bring clothes back to indulge in nostalgia, and it wasn’t our intention to be a retailer of vintage clothes. We had loftier ambitions than that. We wanted to be the dominant contemporary vintage brand.

“We didn’t quite know if it would happen, but it started before we knew it,” Linton said, referring to Byronesque.com reviving designers’ key looks, as it did with a 15-piece Helmut Lang capsule. For that project, Lang asked Linton to reissue from his archives select pieces as part of a campaign dubbed “Helmut Lang as seen by Byronesque.”

There was no such request from Montana. Nor was there an archive of the designer’s work to plumb or clients willing to lend items. “Montana samples are very hard to come by,” said Pugh. “It’s hard to get people to part with their pieces. If they have something good, they hold onto it for dear life.

“One of Byronesque.com’s fortes is doing a huge amount of research,” Pugh said. “That was all given to me. Then came the job of translating those images into physical garments. The [cache] of Montana physical garments is quite limited. Gill found a couple of examples of a black leather sleeveless dress with an eagle on the front. It was in a bit of a sorry state, but it was a really amazing reference with very specific embroidery.”

The leather dress, black leather jumpsuit, black leather and suede bomber jacket, and leather pants were made by the company that originally worked with Montana, while the eagle embroidery was done on one of only two remaining machines of its kind with the aid of craftswomen who had worked with Montana.
Also among the designs are a broad-shouldered blue blouse, shown in a teaser ad with an absurdly large green leather bow, blue puffer jacket with pintucked hood, and wrap dress cinched with a gold belt. “The puffer jacket had more than 90 pieces of patternmaking,” Pugh said. “The black leather dress had over 100 hours of embroidery.”
Between 10 and 50 pieces of each style were produced, with prices ranging from $1,100 to $4,208. “It’s very limited inventory and very special,” Linton said. “This is the first time in two decades that these collections are available. We don’t want to flood the market with clothes. Gareth is an incredible technical craftsman. There was nobody better to make sure the pieces are exact replicas. He can bring new energy to the collection.”

“Visually, you really can’t tell the difference between original Montanas and Byronesque.com versions,” Pugh said. “We tried to be respectful and honor the original designs, down to the toggles on a jacket. We produced something on a catwalk level that feels very refined and was a labor of love.

At Sunday’s Grammy Awards broadcast, the music industry make a public case for Eighties’ style. Cardi B’s dramatic 1995 Thierry Mugler design with a mermaid skirt and pale pink panels that enveloped the rapper in what looked like flower petals or a clam shell, and Janelle Monae wearing a white and black dress Gaultier dress, led the charge. No matter that the latter’s was from Gaultier’s spring 2019 couture collection, its massive pointed shoulders screamed Eighties. Other data points include Lady Gaga’s penchant for vintage Versace and Olivier Rousteing’s recent Balmain couture line featuring overblown asymmetric looks.

“Montana is a little bit of a sleeping giant,” Pugh said. “A lot of his peers fetishized women, including Thierry Mugler. Montana approached things in a much more sensitive way. The blue blouse is a very strong piece. It’s very conservative, but it’s also a bit louche.”

Giorgio Belloli, chief commercial and sustainability officer at Farfetch, said Byronesque “has worked tirelessly to bring back to life for our global audience a unique, curated edit with such a rich heritage.”

Byronesque, in partnership with Farfetch, produced a short documentary about Montana’s impact on fashion. Three generations of designers who were influenced by Montana are represented by Pugh, Olivier Theyskens and Marc Jacobs. Other talking heads include Stephen Jones, who created  controversial hats for Montana’s runway shows; models Suzanne Von Aichinger and Yasmin Le Bon, and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, who gives context to the cult of Montana.

Asked whether future reissue capsules are in the offing, Pugh said, “For us right now, it’s just this. If it’s successful, I’m sure there might be progress. For now, we’re just concentrating on making this. I have a lot of projects that I’m working on in my studio. I feel like there’s a lot of connective tissue between what Montana did and what we’re doing.”

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