[FASHION] Monique Lhuillier - Upcoming Filipino Wedding Dress Designer to Stars
- Filipino designer joins Oscars' fashion contest
Her name is on the lips of numerous stars in Beverly Hills. A year
ago, Filipino Monique Lhuillier designed a wedding dress for Britney
Spears and for actor Kevin Costner's new bride. On Sunday, an Oscar
nominee will walk down the red carpet wearing one of her creations.
"A lot of celebrities don't want to see your dress, your name, on
too many other people," Lhuillier, 32, says in an interview at her
Beverly Hills boutique. "They want to be special. So you have to
choose who you want to target. It is a gamble."
And competition between the different fashion houses is tough.
"It is hard to secure a celebrity because every single major house
that makes beautiful dresses is in town in LA. And some celebrities
are under contract," Lhuillier notes.
This year for the Oscars, Lhuillier is working with four
The Lhuilliers of Cebu
Her parents are Cebu-based businessman Michel Lhuillier -- of the
string of pawnshops and jewelry stores in the Philippines -- and
Amparito Llamas, a former fashion model in Manila.
Amparito recalls that her youngest in her brood of four was already
a fashionista when she was 2 years old.
"She'd change clothes four times a day, and by 10, she knew fabrics
and texture," reveals Lhuillier's stylish mom, in an interview
published in the Inquirer.
According to information on her website, Lhuillier was 15 when she
left home to attend the prestigious Chateau Mont-Choisi boarding
school in Lausanne, Switzerland. At 16, she moved to Los Angeles and
enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
In 1977, Lhuillier's parents gave her $10,000 as seed money and with
the help of Tom Bugbee, a Californian she met as a student in Los
Angeles and later married, parlayed that initial sum into a
successful career, and now a business, in the United States.
In 1996, Lhuillier launched her first bridal collection, which was
well-received by retailers and magazine editors.
In 2001, she designed her first evening collection, which has
developed into a complete ready-to-wear line.
Today, Lhuillier's bridal line is available in department stores and
specialty boutiques throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and
Japan, according to her website.
She is considered one of the leading innovative fashion houses in
terms of design, quality and brand image. In past issues, Vogue had
singled her out as one of today's "it" designers.
It helps that her husband is an MBA degree holder whose forte is
finance and entrepreneurship.
The couple, married for 10 years now, are in a successful
partnership. Lhuillier concentrates on design while Bugbee is chief
executive of her company which employs 75 people.
Last year, Lhuillier landed in the spotlight, thanks to wedding
gowns she designed for Britney Spears and Christine Baumgartner,
The Filipino designer also dressed four stars for the Emmy Awards,
including Allison Janney from "West Wing" and Jamie-Lynn DiScala
During the selection for Spears' wedding gown, Lhuillier had to meet
the star at a secret location to avoid the media.
The designer took 40 dresses to show her. Spears selected one
and "we created something a little more elaborate, something special
"We treat all of our celebrity clients with a lot of secrecy,"
For 2005, two celebrities -- an American film star and an
entertainer, both keeping their engagements under wraps -- will have
Lhuillier design their dresses.
Actress Angelina Jolie was the first star that Lhuillier made a
dress for -- for the 2002 Golden Globes. Jolie, whom Lhuillier says
she "loves" to work with, wore a black dress.
Sarah Jessica Parker, star of "Sex and the City," is a client. So
are Jennifer Connelly, Janet Jackson, Debra Messing and Sharon
Lhuillier also designed world-acclaimed Filipino singer Lea
Salonga's wedding gown when she got married in the United States
Traditional with a twist
Lhuillier launched her first collection eight years ago when, for
her wedding, she struggled to find just the right dress for herself.
The wedding dresses she designs tend to be "traditional but with a
twist" with "something just modern" about them.
Her clients "feel sexy and beautiful in their wedding dress; they
don't feel like they are wearing their mother's clothing."
Her gowns today sell for between $1,500 and $30,000 and are sold in
Beverly Hills, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. But not yet in
Lhuillier dreams, however, of dressing new clients, including more
"I have not worked yet with Nicole Kidman, but she is on my wish
list, and also Cate Blanchett." (INQ7)
Born Diane Monique Lhuillier to French, Spanish/Filipino parents,
Monique was raised in the southern part of the Philippines called
Cebu. As a child, Monique was very influenced by her mother's
glamorous sense of style and was exposed to the importance of style
because the family traveled extensively. Her favorite destinations
were always Paris and Los Angeles. At the early age of 15, Monique
left home to attend the prestigious Chateau Mont-Choisi boarding
school in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was while she was in Switzerland
that she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a designer. She
decided to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
(FIDM) and move to Los Angeles.
At FIDM, Monique excelled and received a merit-based scholarship to
attend the advanced program. During her studies, she decided to
focus on the luxury market and specialize in bridal and evening
gowns. It was also during this time that Monique met her husband,
When Monique graduated and began looking for a job, she realized
there were very few couture quality companies based in Los Angeles.
Unwilling to leave for New York, Monique took a design and
production position at a small French firm that specialized in
better eveningwear and separates.
Shortly after her engagement, Monique decided to take some time off
to plan the wedding. During her dress search, Monique's focus on
the wedding business was reborn. She was determined to be part of
it and to do it better.
In 1996, Monique launched her first bridal collection. It was very
well received by retailers and by magazine editors. In the next
year, Tom took control of the company and turned Monique's vision
into reality. The collaboration has proved to be very successful.
In 2001, Monique designed her first evening collection, which has
now developed into a complete ready to wear collection.
Monique received the 2001 Glamorous Bridal Designer Award, the 2002
Avant Garde Bridal Designer Award and the 2003 Designer of the Year
Award from Wedding Dresses Magazine and the bridal industry
members. In 2003, she was also inducted as a new member of the
Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Over the past six years, Monique Lhuillier has taken the fashion
industry by storm. Monique Lhuillier and Tom Bugbee, a young,
dynamic husband and wife team, founded the upscale bridal company in
1996. The bridal line has been extremely well received and can be
viewed at department stores and specialty boutiques throughout the
US, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
Within six short years, Monique Lhuillier has not only established
herself as one of the leading bridal designers, but she also
introduced her first Ready-to-Wear Collection with 7th on Sixth at
the NY Bryant Park Tents in Fall 2003 which garnered impressive
editorial reviews. The Fall 2004 collection has a dark romantic
feeling. Sophisticated looks feature dramatic cuts that are
structured but not stiff. The collection is versatile and modern
American, yet glamorous and luxurious, rich with color. The Fall
collection exhibits a play on textures, such as velvets that are
paired with chiffons, and silk satins that are mixed with crepes.
The collection is available at specialty stores and select Neiman
Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue Stores throughout North America, Asia
and the Middle East.
Today, Monique Lhuillier is considered one of the leading innovative
fashion houses in terms of design, quality and brand image. The
Monique Lhuillier boutique, in the heart of Beverly Hills, offers
world-class service and a wide selection of her latest Ready-to-Wear
and Bridal collections as well as some custom offerings. Her famous
designs have been featured on such fashion forward television shows
as Sex and the City and Will & Grace, and is a favorite among many
noteworthy celebrities. Her Ready-To-Wear collection has been worn
by megastars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Connelly, Janet
Jackson, Debra Messing, Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone, Mariah Carey,
Sarah Michelle Geller, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Marg Helgenberger,
Amber Tamblyn, Elisha Cuthbert, Jorja Fox, Holly Hunter, Tiffany
Thiessen and Jamie Lynn Discala just to name a few!