Claude Montana poses adjacent to Lanvin’s “Mother/ Daughter” emblem
20 years ago, well before Shaw-Lan Wang and Alber Elbaz got their hands on Paris’ oldest operating fashion house, Lanvin felt the effects of stagnation and had the keen idea to follow Chanel’s lead and hire a star name. In 1990 they appointed maverick designer and the toast of Paris Claude Montana to jazz up their Haute Couture. Despite critical acclaim, the endeavor set the company back 50 million and Montana was released in 1992…
two looks showcasing Mugler’s graphic drama while still retaining Jeanne Lanvin’s whimsy.
The NYT’s review by Bernadine Morris, July 25th, 1990:
PARIS, July 24— Everybody loves a hero, especially one who has fallen and redeemed himself. So Claude Montana received wave after wave of applause as he walked down the runway this afternoon at the Palais de Chaillot after showing his second couture collection for the House of Lanvin. His first show for the house, in January, was a disaster.
He had been hired by Orsofi, an investment company, to revive the fortunes of Lanvin, as Karl Lagerfeld restored Chanel, and he failed. But he has turned in last season’s counterculture hippie look for a clean-cut modern approach that brings couture into the modern era. He clearly rules as king for the day.
He had plenty of competition: his show was flanked by Emanuel Ungaro’s on one side and Chanel’s on the other. Earlier today, Philippe Venet presented one of his best collections of lively if traditional clothes. Monday afternoon, Gianfranco Ferre made definite strides in the right direction in his collection for Christian Dior.
Most of the designers relied heavily on the elaborate embroideries and ornate decorative effects that are part of the couture tradition. Mr. Montana swept all this away. Though his clothes were stark, they looked rich because of the elegance of the fabrics. He did not avoid beading, but it was used to give simple fabrics an interesting surface.
There were variations, but his basic shape was nipped in at the waist and flared sharply over the hips. This appeared in suit jackets and in coats as well as in the skirts and tunics worn under them. It gave a perky, young look to the clothes, which were never pretentious.
A key element was the skirt length, about mid-thigh level. This is clearly the look of today. Narrow pants, striped in sequins at night, were an acceptable alternative. For day, the pants took the place of opaque tights with fitted and flared jackets. Colors were restful and there were no prints. It was a stylish collection.
Mr. Ferre seems headed in a similar direction, though he has not reached his destination. Starting his second year at Dior, he has stayed with the clean, slender, sophisticated shapes he perfected in his own collection in Italy.
But when it comes to decoration he doesn’t mind whooping it up a bit. So, taffeta coats billow over severe black dresses. Alternating layers of sable and lace manage to cut the austerity of pants suits, and feathers mingling with Mongolian lamb tend to drown the practicality of a trench coat.
So there is plenty of opulence flying around, masking the elegance of his precision-tailored tapered trousers and slender skirts and dresses. Urban chic was transmuted into evening grandeur. Gold metallic brocade was a favored fabric for bouffant evening dresses, while navy crepe prevailed in narrow styles. Mr. Ferre is blending gracefully into the Paris scene.
Mr. Lagerfeld remains the touchstone by which current couture is measured. He has made Chanel totally contemporary yet still identifiably Chanel. His shows can seem more like those for avant-garde ready-to-wear than for couture. Today’s presentation at the site of the old Lido cabaret before establishment figures like Claude Pompidou, Ivana Trump, Cecile de Rothschild, Carroll Petrie and Susan Gutfreund had the ambiance of a rock show.
The designer has played around with the boxy long-lived Chanel jacket so much it’s amazing that it is still recognizable as Chanel. There are two main versions, one long and sleek, fitting smoothly over the hips, the other cropped just under the bust. Both are accompanied by short tight skirts and over-the-knee boots, ”because Mademoiselle did not like to show knees,” the designer said slyly. The accessories are fun: animal pins made of colored tiles, bright booties in addition to the tall boots, and neon-colored earrings in classsic shapes.
Except for evening, the miniskirt reigns. ”I did some long ones, but I cut them off,” the designer said. ”Length isn’t the point.”
The remaining calf-length skirts are bouffant and in thin fabrics like lace so you can see the tall boots underneath. Despite the drapes and swags, the big dresses do not much evoke the 18th century.
Chanel has long been a synonym for suits, but the designer is trying to focus on dresses. Some in black jersey are shirred like Venetian lampshades and paired with black leather jackets. Those with short jackets are seamed under the bosom for a new Empire line. Coral and bright green satin dresses have matching jackets. Mr. Lagerfeld is ready for a change from the prevailing skirt-and-blouse syndrome.
For evening, he includes big hoop skirts and regal dresses that open in the front over miniskirts. Instead of ending his show with a wedding dress, he offers three, worn by his star models, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. The skirts were cut too high for a disco, let alone a church, but the idea was amusing and so was the show.
Emanuel Ungaro is in the process of changing his style. He has banished the tightly draped, restrictive line that carried him to prominence in the 1980’s. His clothes are more relaxed, though many end in a bit of a pouf. He has eased up his fit so some dresses are loose and some jackets vaguely suggest a man’s sack suit.
But don’t believe for a minute that sobriety has taken over: it’s Marie Antoinette in miniskirts. Even sack suits are gilded, embroidered, appliqued and otherwise embellished so no one would think they came from Brooks Brothers. Hats shaped like cabbage roses perched on the front of the head have a frivolous look even when they are in tweed to match the suits. Plain high-heel black pumps have a frill around the top.
Every outfit is equipped with a flower-printed or metal-threaded piece, including the shiny embroidered velvet vest added to a cyclamen wool suit with an orange satin blouse. Even when something as, well, functional as tweed shorts appeared, the mood was still sumptuous. The shorts were shown with flowered brocade vests and blouses, sometimes both. Mr. Ungaro is no minimalist. His simplest styles were long black crepe dresses. They were accompanied by brocade coats or reimbroidered lace jackets.
Philippe Venet’s favorite style in his collection is a double-faced pink cashmere jacket with three jeweled buttons and a wine velvet skirt. He thinks it would be a nice outfit to wear for dinner. For day he suggests simple blouses, or tunics and skirts, or pants and, perhaps, a cape for dash. There are no histrionics here, just well-cut clothes.
”I buy a coat or a suit from him every year,” said Anne Johnson, whose husband, Deane, was along to help her make a selection. After the hoopla and distractions of some of the larger shows, it’s comforting to focus on the clothes.