On her inaugural visit to Dubai, dressmaker extraordinaire, Monique Lhuillier, talked about all this fashion and whimsical.
Design has always been in Lhuillier’s blood. From watching her mother getting ready and transforming her look in front of her eyes, to redesigning clothing in her teens to finally living her dream, attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Manufacturing (FIDM) in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until she had graduated and got engaged that things started to get serious. Never before had she imagined she would work in the bridal business, but after searching for her own fairy tale dress in 1995, she spotted a gap in the market for fashion forward designs.
Letting her creativity run free, Lhuillier’s designs quickly gained a cult following. Brides of all nationalities admire and desire the timeless elegance and modern twists that she so skillfully entwines into her designs. “When I am dealing with bridal it’s about escapism, it’s true fantasy, it’s romantic. I let my dreams run wild,” says Lhuillier. The same was said for her red carpet-worthy gowns – worn left, right and centre in Hollywood and beyond, gaining her an influential fan base that includes Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore.
Stepping into the world of ready-to-wear (RTW) was the obvious next move. In fact Lhuillier says that she’s more excited when starting an RTW collection than working on “season-less” bridal pieces. The challenge and competitive market doesn’t deter her, she explains: “I get very excited and energised, it’s more challenging for me to do [RTW] but I reach a much bigger audience.” Coming up with a cohesive story also excites her and throughout her collections you can see the tale unfold from day to eveningwear.
Throughout the collection the concept of luxury follows on from her work with gowns. Everyday basics have been stripped down and redesigned with deluxe fabrics. Silhouettes for both day and night are practical, yet modern with a flourish of glamour, so every moment regardless of the time is a statement. The colour palette – from soft pastels to bright hues – is ultra-feminine, perfect for every occasion and so delicious you can almost taste them.
Lhuillier’s key pieces are always picked straight off the runway by starlets. Take a heavily pregnant Drew Barrymore at the 2014 Golden Globes. Even while chowing down on pizza post-awards ceremony, she looked just as elegant and beautiful as the model that strutted down the catwalk in Lhuillier’s organza flower covered piece. You see, the designer knows what women want, more so than the women themselves. Yes, anyone with sight can appreciate the beauty of each piece from afar; but it isn’t until you notice the detachable collars and feel the structure, sans stiffness, that you can truly appreciate the thought and craftsmanship behind each design.
When it comes to her inspiration for her S/S14 collection, Lhuillier wanted a ‘fresh start’. Shedding the layers from her fall range, the new collection was about freshness, which was echoed in sheer organza, dripping in delicate whites, nudes and metallic tones. There is a glorious lightness about the whole collection. Sheer is, of course, sexy but kept extremely elegant. But it’s not the rising sun or budding flowers that inspire Lhuillier. “What inspires me is the strong confident women who make a difference in this world,” she says. “Whether it’s the workingwoman or philanthropist, when a woman steps up and makes a difference that’s what is inspiring to me.”
So for a lady who has garnered such success, there must have been a defining moment? Apparently not. “I do what I do because I love it and I’m a creative,” explains Lhuillier. For her it’s not about the celebrities and fame, although that is of course a plus point. It’s about doing what she loves and meeting the people that support her along the way. Fashion aside, she’s known for her philanthropic endeavours and is truly a family woman at heart – she resides in Los Angeles with her two children and husband Tom Bugbee, who joined the company as CEO and turned her vision of a couture design house into reality.
Monique LHuillier is one to watch. Standing on top of her ever-growing fashion empire and finding the perfect balance in life, the only way is up. n
Monique Lhuillier is available at Harvey Nichols (04) 4098888
Photograhpy: Vikram Gawde
Make-up and hair: Angelique Turner and Fiona Hepher
Shot on location at Kempinski Hotel & Residences, Palm Jumeirah