Despite her infamously press shy stance, publicist Michèle Montagne’s thirty-year career has seen her become synonymous with Paris Fashion Week and the more daring, iconoclastic designers showing during it. Montagne’s clients have included Helmut Lang , Rick Owens , Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackermann .
Montagne summed up her role for The Wall Street Journal as "really an exchange — helping designers achieve what they want to express.” In real terms, this translates to Montagne assisting and supporting her clients in any form she and they believe beneficial, be it design direction, styling, public relations and business advice. "Nothing is beneath her," Haider Ackermann told The Wall Street Journal, remembering back to his first show, when models late from a previous show prompted Montagne to get on her knees and shoehorn them their boots.
Montagne expects the best from her clients, and is rigorous in her approach to achieving that goal. Ann Demeulemeester told The Wall Street Journal, "Her special talent is that she can always pull the best out of me. She will ask me questions, I'm obliged to explain better and formulate my ideas better, and then she will push me further. She is a master of getting that message out there for others to understand it. I can't imagine life without her. She is my friend—that's the most important thing. "
Ackermann echoes Demeulemeester’s sentiment, "What I really like about Michèle is that she was not seduced immediately. She had to know more. About my background, about the music I liked, trying to get as much out of me, trying to understand and know me, and I was intrigued by that. Nothing like that had happened to me before—so much questioning. She said, 'If you agree, you are part of the family.' And it is family. With all the pros and the cons you can have with a family."
Born in the early 1950s in the Marne, Montagne moved to Paris in 1972, to take up a role in the office of lobbyist Jacques Bloch-Morange. "He had a huge influence in politics and industry. Everything important in France passed through that office. Yet the average citizen never heard about him. For me it was evident that the power was actually in the hands of those in the background, and that made an impression on me," Montagne told The Wall Street Journal.
Having gone freelance and begun her fashion career, by representing Martine Sitbon who would go on to design for Chloé, Montagne met an Austrian designer named Helmut Lang in 1987. "We pushed each other to go further, like a game. I think he needed to be pushed to do what he really desired. It was an absolutely magical moment and everything changed. Fashion became the way to express something; before, it was not like that."
Montagne’s unique, unrelenting and unreserved approach has ensured that her legacy, and those of her clients, will be as unyielding as her work style.