Monique Lhuillier may be a household name these days thanks to a booming wedding dress business, red carpet fans like Nicki Minaj and Eva Longoria and boutiques around the world, but that wasn't always the case. We chatted with the designer about life in Los Angeles, that gorgeous New York store and that acid-yellow dress that both Nicki and Julie Bowen wore on the red carpet.
Monique Lhuillier started her design career when she found a void in the market when she was looking for her own wedding dress. As a young fiancée, she had a hard time finding a stylish gown. So, she started her own business in 1996. Her husband (whom she met on a blind date) was from L.A., and she attended fashion school there, so it only made sense that they'd set up camp there. 16 years later, Lhuillier helms a company whose headquarters span 32,000 square feet and she counts 175 artisans as her employees. But it wasn't until 2006 (four years after she started dressing celebrities), when she heard people start to pronounce her name correctly, that she knew she had arrived.
We asked the designer and mother of two a few questions at the recent fete to celebrate the opening of her New York flagship store:
As a bridal expert, what is your advice for plus-size brides?
We dress a lot of women who aren't sample size. The dress needs to have wonderful structure, and it needs to create an hourglass waist. I would also suggest more fabric on the shoulders as a contrast to the contoured waist. The silhouette should be flattering, whether you're a two or a 12.
What's your style advice for someone getting hitched for the second, third or sixth time?
I suggest a more organic dress -- something more fluid, less structured. It's about romance, taking more risks. Go for a high slit, and avoid the traditional silhouette. White is fine, but I prefer blush-colored dresses. The pale pink hue is flattering on all skin tones.
How would you dress Angelina for her upcoming nuptials, if you were designing her dress?
I would put her in a lace sheath that drapes her body, with a high slit to show off her legs. I'd go for an ethereal feel where the fabrics are light and flowy; no hard lines.
What about Miley Cyrus, especially with her new edgier style?
I'd push the envelope with her: A trumpet-style dress with a higher neckline in lace, so you could still see the silhouette. The gown would flare out a little after the knees. She loves the drama, so I'd cut out the back. It's all about the "wow" factor for her.
Any thoughts on Anne Hathaway's much talked-about headpiece in her recent wedding?
I thought the dress was beautiful. The tulle was ethereal, and the volume of the veil was beautiful. But the headpiece was overwhelming, and it distracted from her beauty. I think she wanted to be different and push the envelope.
What was your reaction to the recent dress snafu, where Nicki Minaj showed up at the AMAs wearing a dress that Julie Bowen had worn on the red carpet at the Emmys only a few months prior?
I was surprised, too! I wasn't watching the show. My phone was blowing up with friends calling and texting me. I turned on the TV and I saw her and my jaw dropped. When Julie wore it (to the 2012 Emmys, where she won the best comedy actress award) the collection was brand new, so no one had access to it. Now, the dress is in stores and that's what happened: Her team purchased the dress off the rack without collaborating with my team.
I am just happy that people want to wear my product. What they do with the dress, and how they accessorize it is how they make it their own. Not everything comes from my team, it's their interpretation.
What made you choose L.A. over New York for your design headquarters?
I live in L.A. because I can breathe. It feels a little detached from the hectic fashion industry. The biggest difference in terms of style is that it's more relaxed and individual. New York is more put-together and little more sleek.
We are so thrilled to have opened the new store in New York. It's been something that we wanted to do for a long time and we put a ton of work into the space (including a glass staircase through three levels of an old townhouse!).
Check out some of our favorite celebrities wearing Monique Lhuillier in the slideshow below and vote on your favorite look.
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