Monique Lhuillier Celebrates The Big 2-0

Monique Lhuillier fashion show - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Monique Lhuillier fashion show - Getty - H 2016

The L.A.-based designer reflects on two decades of dramatic gowns and dressing Hollywood's biggest names.

Monique Lhuillier has been in the business for twenty years — first launching bridal wear before expanding to ready-to-wear — and she remains a favorite among the Hollywood set for her delicate romantic gowns.

In celebration of designing for two decades — no easy feat in a fickle industry where interest comes as quick as it goes — the L.A.-based designer looked to her past for spring 2017 inspiration.

"I decided to start by looking at my archives and really seeing through the years what were the iconic pieces that really resonated with people when they think of me," said Lhuillier before her runway show Tuesday afternoon at the IAC building in Chelsea. "That journey proved to be really nostalgic and personal."

The fairytale collection held true to Lhuillier's aesthetic and her history, with models walking the runway in pale hued gowns featuring floral embroideries, ostrich feathers, Chantilly lace and tulle skirts.

Lhuillier chatted with Pret-a-Reporter about the lessons she learned from being in the business for two decades, the benefits of being based in L.A., and the one celebrity she'd like to dress one day.

How does your spring 2017 collection reflect 20 years of your designs?

This collection you'll see a lot of my signature elements like intricate embroideries, ostrich feathers and lamé . Then I did these belts [satin belts seen on several of the runway models] which act as demi corsets so it really focuses on the waist. The coloration is more muted and oxidized to give it that timeless feeling. The collection has all the signatures of my femininity and sophistication, yet she has a twisted side, and you'll see that it's not sweet at all.

The accessories are all very jeweled. Handbags are all intricately embroidered and the shoes are all about the ankle detai,l so they look like they have jewelry dripping off them, and if they don't, then they have ribbons around the ankles.

MONIQUE'S MUSES: Models on Monique Lhuillier's spring 2017 runway. (Photos: Getty Images)

Given how long you've been in the business, what have been some of the biggest lessons you've learned?

Since starting so naively 20 years ago, I've learned that it really needs to be a balance of good design and good business sense because you could put out the most beautiful collections, but if you don't know who your customer is, if you don't produce on time, if you don't deliver it and it doesn't fit or make someone feel good, then you have no business because it's really a mix of art and commerce.

With fashion there's usually not a lot of loyalty — if they love your collection one season, that's great, but if they don't the next season then they'll skip it. I say once you have your customer base, just be true to your aesthetic and have a good business sense. And I also want to point out that I've grown a wonderful team that I can so proudly say has been with me from the very beginning. It's about growing a great team.
MONIQUE'S MUSES: Models on Monique Lhuillier's spring 2017 runway. (Photos: Getty Images)

You've always been based in L.A. How did you find it benefiting your brand? 

We are from Los Angeles so that's why we started in Los Angeles. I'm going to say the first eight years were more challenging being based out of Los Angeles because trying to be taken seriously, doing high-end clothing out of L.A., which was not the fashion capital of America. For me, not previously working for another house — it took a while to get people to trust me and my product. That presented a lot of challenges in the beginning but my husband and I were never focused on being the trendy designers, we were in it for the long haul so we were true to what we did.

The last 12 years have been incredible being based out there because I feel like I have a great balance in my life. My life isn't only the fashion world and I'm able to step back and really take time and still enjoy everything that I do. I feel like, now, if I lived in New York, it would be a little overwhelming for me, so I think it's great that I'm based out there. What's also happening is a lot of fashion people have moved to Los Angeles and now L.A. is fashionable. And we were there from the beginning. We were one of the pioneers and I'm proud to say that.

You've also had so many great red-carpet moments — what have been some of your favorite?

I have so many! A few are Taylor Swift at one of the premieres in one of our red and nude skirts, which was really beautiful, and Blake Lively in a red lace leather and feathered skirt. I'm so blessed that I've had a lot of moments — those are the two I can remember right now — but I hope that continues because I feel I have a wonderful relationship with Hollywood, being there, and having celebrities tell me how beautiful they feel in my clothes. I hope it continues the next 20 years!
RED HOT: Taylor Swift in a Monique Lhuillier gown at The Giver premiere on Aug. 11, 2014. (Photo: Monica Schipper/FilmMagic)

Anyone you'd like to dress in the future?

You know I've never dressed Nicole Kidman — I'd love to dress her.