A laboratory programme of uniaxial, triaxial, cyclic and Brazilian tests was conducted to investigate the anisotropic mechanical behaviour of the Tournemire argillite, with different axial loading orientations with respect to the bedding planes (i.e. loading orientation angle, θ=0°, 30°, 45°, 60° and 90°). The experimental results show that both strength and deformation of the argillite are direction-dependent. Failure occurs in a brittle manner with a sudden collapse of the material strength. The failure mode exhibits localization along distinct failure planes and also depends on the loading orientation. This paper summarizes the experimental results and describes constitutive relationships that were developed in order to simulate the stress–strain behaviour of the Tournemire argillite. A microstructure tensor approach is adopted in order to take into account the anisotropic behaviour of the argillite. The identification procedure for material function and parameters is outlined, and the model is applied to simulate the set of triaxial tests performed at different levels of confining pressure and orientation of the bedding planes. It is demonstrated that the model adequately reproduces the anisotropy, the pre-peak stress–strain response and the onset of material collapse in those tests.