Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift and Nina Dobrev just can't get enough of Monique Lhuillier's fun, flirty and feminine designs. "I'm a true believer in classic, beautiful things and every season I try to elevate it by incorporating a new technique of beading or a new fabrics and new shapes but always keeping that prettiness in mind," Lhuillier, 41, has said of her ever-evolving collections, the most recent of which (Spring 2014) will be shown to New York audiences at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Sept. 7.
Internationally recognized for her bridal gowns and other ready-to-wear garments with signature silhouettes, Lhuillier sells her fashions in high-end stores including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Here, Us Weekly uncovers five facts about the fashionista that may surprise you.
1. She keeps her business all in the family. First influenced by her fashion designer mother while growing up in the Philippines, Lhuillier — a graduate of the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising — moved to Los Angeles to attend college and while there, met her husband, Tom Bugbee, with whom she established her line in 1996. Six years later, she showed her first collection at New York Fashion Week. "I've always gravitated toward a more glamorous aesthetic. My mother is such a sophisticated, regal woman, and when I was growing up, I didn't know anything different. I thought all women lived life that way!" she tells Shopbop.
2. The name Lhuillier is no longer synonymous with just fashion. Teaming with Waterford on fine china, stemware and flatware, the designer launched Monique Lhuillier Fine Paper in 2008 and a home fragrance line in 2011. She has since followed up with fine jewelry and couture footwear lines.
3. Her wedding gowns have been worn by the likes of Vanessa Minnillo, Kristin Cavallari and Reese Witherspoon, but Lhuillier says the gown she designed for Britney Spears' ill-fated 2004 wedding to Kevin Federline was the toughest to keep under wraps. Calling that year her "breakout year," Lhuillier explained to Glamour that her company seamstresses didn't know the $26,000 gown with a hand sewn train, cathedral-length veil and matching half-gloves were for Spears. Lhuillier also designed dresses for Spears' five bridesmaids at a price of $3,000 each.
4. Lhuillier knew she had made it when her last name — traditionally a tongue-twister — started to go mainstream . . . sort of. "The first year, people could barely say my name. They were like 'Monique L … that Monique girl,'" she recounts to CNN. "Then after a year or three, they were saying 'Monique Lu-yay' and I was like, 'Well, something's happening.'"
5. She broke into the bridal business by accident. "When I looked at what was out there [while planning my wedding], I felt that there was a lack of fashionable options for young women so I said, 'This is what I want to do: I want to start with wedding gowns'. I was 23 years old," Lhuillier told CNN. "My husband was like 'it's a phase.' We got married and six months later I came up with a small line of wedding dresses — probably six of them. I went to a local trade show and had a little booth and showed my dresses and to my excitement and delight, five stores ordered pieces from me. We drove home and I realized that I actually had to make everything."
Monique Lhuillier will showcase her Spring 2014 collection during New York City's Fashion Week on Sept. 7.
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