Monique Lhuillier on creating a gown fit for a princess

Lara Mansour   |   05 - 05 - 2017

No one dresses as many A-list actresses and Grammy Award winners, whether it’s on the red carpet or walking down the aisle, as Monique Lhuillier.

Known for flattering each and every body shape, with an attention to fit, and a large sprinkling of femininity, Lhuillier is an expert when it comes to choosing the perfect wedding gown.

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When Monique Lhuillier launched her first collection of bridal dresses in 1996, it was out of necessity rather than fulfilling a lifelong ambition. Born in the Philippines, Lhuillier moved to Los Angeles to study fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Manufacturing, but after getting engaged she soon realised there was a huge hole in the market, and promptly filled it with the most gorgeous confections. The designer’s creations quickly gained a cult following, and now after over 20 years in the industry, she’s branched out into everything, including shoes, handbags and fine jewellery, as well as evening gowns. From Michelle Obama to Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift to Cameron Diaz, women of all ages love her sumptuous, romantic designs.

Made of clouds of tulle, luxurious Chantilly lace, and floaty floral organza, Lhuillier’s bridal wear is wedding-dress heaven, and here we have had the opportunity to exclusively chat to the Los Angeles designer straight after her Spring Summer 2018 show, about her big day dos and don’ts, and why it’s always important to stay true to your style.

How did your journey in fashion begin?

Fashion has always been a part of my life, beginning with my glamorous mother. She loved to dress and entertain, and I grew up with a sense of her style. I knew I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer, so it was a natural choice when I graduated to choose to attend the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

What made you decide to concentrate on bridalwear?

When I was searching for my own wedding gown I was surprised that I couldn’t find what I wanted, there weren’t enough options for brides and I saw a gap in the market. It was also when I fell in love with Bridal. I designed the looks for my entire bridal party except for myself, and a year after I was married I designed my first bridal collection. I am proud that from this beginning point, I have gone on to expand into ready-to-wear, accessories, home, tableware and more.

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What do you find the most challenging part of having your own fashion line?

The most challenging part of having my own fashion line was that when my husband and I set out to create our company, we started from scratch. Neither one of us worked in fashion so we learned from our mistakes. We spent all our time laying that strong foundation to build our vision, which has now allowed us to expand into a true lifestyle brand. Now the challenge lies in maintaining the balance between work, and family life, considering all of the collections we put out a year.

Can you share with us a milestone moment in your career?

Opening my first store in LA was such a significant moment for me. Being able to offer customers the opportunity to experience my world in a controlled environment, that truly reflects my design aesthetic was an important goal. We now have a flagship store on Melrose Place, and a boutique on Madison Avenue in New York, and are rapidly growing our international business. Global expansion is a big focus for the company now, and we’ll be aligning with the Haute Couture fashion calendar to show the Spring Summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection in Paris this July.

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What is your creative process like?

When it comes to designing my bridal collections, my focus is on a woman’s desire to feel confident, strong, and beautiful. I start with the inspiration and design the collection around it. I am always inspired by my travels and by art & architecture, which influences my selection of fabrics, prints and colour palette. My design aesthetic of elegance, glamour and luxury runs through all the categories of, ready-to-wear, shoes, and jewellery, as I want the collection to be cohesive. The key is to be constantly inspired and surrounded by an amazing team that understands your vision.

Do you have a signature fabric to create wedding dresses in?

In designing my bridal collections, I like to use signature elements like lace, delicate embroidery, and crystal detailing, because they are timeless and delicate, exquisite fabrics.

Can you tell us about your most recent Spring Summer 2018 collection?

My current collection is focused on a grand, traditional, timeless, bride.

What was different about this collection and seasons past?

This season I wanted to return to classic silhouettes and less sheer gowns. The Spring 2018 collection features traditional shapes, such as grand ballgowns with chandelier and tulle capelets to add extra glamour to the bride’s look.

Were there certain things that inspired you when you envisioned this collection?

I wanted to create an unforgettable collection that is both classic and regal.

Who are the most memorable brides that you have dressed?

Every bride’s style is very personal, so each woman’s look is always unique and special. For Reese Witherspoon, I designed a blush A-line Chantilly lace gown for her country-chic wedding at her Ojai, California ranch. I love that she chose to take a risk and she looked stunning in pink! I also loved designing for Carrie Underwood. Her dress was a drop waist, custom ball gown, complete with a corseted bodice made of Chantilly lace and covered in silk flowers and crystals. We cinched the dress with a blush pink sash and topped it off with a chapel-length circular veil encrusted with clear and pink crystals. I’ve also designed some truly over the top, intricate dresses that exude grandeur and fantasy for private couture clients.

Who would be your dream bride to dress?

I love having the opportunity to dress strong, confident women, especially on their wedding days. It is always special for me when a bride chooses to wear my design on an important day in her life.

How do you want women to feel when they put on one of your beautiful creations?

It’s most important for a bride to choose a style she is comfortable in, and that allows her to feel like herself. For me, my bridal gowns must emanate romance and fantasy. I want the bride to feel like she is floating down the aisle.

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Can you share with us your recipe for instant glamour?

I find that a bright red lip is an instant mood changer. I always feel extra glamorous when I have it on.

What are your tips for ensuring a wedding dress reflects the wearers personality?

A bride should feel confident and beautiful on her wedding day, so she must be comfortable in her dress. I always tell brides to follow their instinct throughout the wedding dress experience, but I also encourage them to keep an open mind. If a bride’s timeline is flexible it is very helpful to begin shopping six to nine months before the wedding. Many brides do not realise that it takes about four months to produce a dress and another two months to complete the alterations.

Should you follow trends when buying a wedding dress or go for timeless styles?

It is not about the trend or silhouette of a dress, but all about how the bride feels in the dress. My bride is modern, chic, and elegant. She is looking for romance and fantasy, along with luxurious construction and attention to detail.

What are your favourite wedding dress styles?

I believe a wedding gown should have an element of fantasy. My aesthetic is elegant, feminine, and ethereal.

Flats or heels for a wedding?

A bride should wear a shoe that is comfortable and makes sense for the venue. A bride having a beach wedding will have very different footwear needs than a bride having a city wedding.

Hair up or down?

Hair (and makeup) makes such an impact on a bride’s confidence and ease. I always tell my brides not to try something new, and that it’s absolutely crucial to do a hair test the week before the wedding.  She should choose a hairstyle and make-up that enhances her natural beauty.

Can you describe your own wedding gown?

I chose a very traditional dress. It was a silk white duchess satin dropped-waist gown, off the shoulders, with lace appliques and a bustled skirt. I also had a long cathedral veil to match. It was the third dress I tried on!

Is there anything looking back on it that you would change or do differently?

I had a beautiful wedding and there isn’t much I would change, but if I had to do anything differently I think it would have to be my hair. I’m very petite and had an up-do for my wedding. I think I’d try something more natural now.

It must be a challenge to constantly reinvent what is essentially a white dress, how do you do this?

Now more than ever, there is the opportunity to be creative and push the limits of traditional bridal fashion. A bride used to be limited to magazines for inspiration and was more confined to what was available in her local boutiques. With the internet and social media there are endless possibilities, and it challenges designers to create dresses for all different kinds of brides. Wedding attire now includes colourful gowns, short dresses, jumpsuits, and two-piece outfits. Brides today are walking down the aisle in more fashion forward silhouettes, and they aren’t afraid to take a risk, which is exciting for a designer.

Do you think a trouser suit or jumpsuit can be an elegant alternative to the wedding dress?

Yes, I’ve seen many different evolutions in bridal style, but I think one of the biggest changes has been the shift to more modern shapes and styles. A jumpsuit or trouser suit can still be bridal and elegant, but it’s also comfortable and brings edge to the bridal look.

Can you explain what getting a bespoke Monique Lhuillier wedding dress entails?

A couture dress is created with only the specific wearer in mind, a custom design, executed with the finest materials specifically sourced and cut for the bride. The full process of creating a couture bridal gown usually includes 6-8 fittings and generally takes a year from initial consultation to the finished dress. All couture gown consultations and fittings take place at our LA Flagship. There are usually 1-2 design consultations, 1 muslin fitting, and 3 final dress fittings throughout the year long process. Additionally, depending on the bride’s needs, our head tailor will accompany a bride on the day of her wedding, no matter where the location is, to properly prepare the dress and assist the bride on her wedding day

With online shopping becoming so popular, do you think this will change the way brides shop?

Now more than ever, brides have access to a wide range of styles and price points. A couture dress will still take 6-8 months to create, but dresses from my Ready-to-Wed collection can be purchased in the store, or shipped overnight to a bride. While the internet and social media have created more options that are immediately available to brides, it has also inspired brides to further customise their look by exposing how much is out there.

What do you think of the trend for brides to wear multiple dresses on their wedding day, from the bridal gown, to numerous different party dresses?

It’s all about preference. A bride may select an elaborate dress for the ceremony because she wants that element of fantasy, and then choose to change into something a little lighter for the party, perhaps easier to dance in.

What are the ultimate wedding accessories to complement a bridal look?

A bride’s complete look should reflect her personal aesthetic, but with special, luxurious elements. I also love a bit of sparkle. If a gown is simple, a crystal headpiece or some chic jewellery can enhance the overall look.