Research Paper: Fashion Designer Monique Lhuillier

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Fashion Designer Monique Lhuillier

Fashion Designer

Monique Lhuillier

History of Monique Lhuillier's Life

In a scant 12 years, Monique Lhuillier has risen from her roots in a third-world country to becoming the hottest Fashion Designer. Lhuillier was profiled in legendary Newsweek magazine within eight years of her not-quite-humble start in the fashion industry, garnering a coveted "second cover" status to President Bush.

In 1996, she launched a bridal collection that rocked both haute couture and Hollywood, she expanded into evening wear, ready-to-wear, handbags, and her latest venture, tabletop (a Royal Doulton exclusive). She was recently featured in a multi-page spread at her newly refurbished Bel-Air mansion in Elle Decor.

Fashion Designer Monique Lhuillier, who quickly surpassed Vera Wang as the bridal gown gold standard/Gown Goddess, was born Diane Monique Lhuillier in 1971 in Cebu, Philippines.

In the early days of her fashion career, Lhullier was adept at creating a self-mythology. She's often quoted as saying she started out with only $10,000 in capital. There may be a modicum of truth within that - it may have been the amount initially put aside to begin what may have seemed a frivolous venture.

But any visitor to Cebu City, Philippines, will be bombarded, at nearly every second block, with a shop bearing the now-famous designer's name. Indeed, it is her family's business, or shall we say businesses.

Long before Lhullier's designer-y name was frequently associated with celebrities, her family name was synonymous with jewelry shops, as well as the largest chain of pawnshops in more than 100 cities throughout Cebu and the other Philippine Islands. In short, she came from money. Lots of it. And having that kind of money in Cebu City means access and exposure to haute couture. Couple that with the fact that Lhullier has a prized-in-the-Philippines fair-complexion, has an obviously European name, and natural beauty, she grew up cloaked in privilege.

And she came by her elegance honestly, Lhuillier told W. Magazine that, growing up, she never saw her mother "without earrings or lipstick -- even at breakfast."

At 15, Lhuillier was sent to Chateau Mont-Choisi boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the desire to pursue fashion as a career was sparked. Her parents sent her to Los Angeles, where she attended the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing (FIDM). While a student, she met her husband, Tom Bugbee, who was an accountant. He also became her business partner. The couple founded Monique Lhuillier (the company) in 1996 with the launch of their first bridal collection.

Lhuillier's Career is Launched

Her first fashion show was extremely, and extraordinarily, well-received and she caught the notice of new brides, fashion/bridal editors, and most importantly, celebrities.

Lhuillier's now iconic status as a bridal designer happened, not-quite-accidentally. At 23, Lhuillier, a 1994 bride-to-be, couldn't find a dress to suit her. She eventually designed not only her own dress, but the dresses of her entourage as well. It sparked her creativity and soon she was sketching and designing dresses. Bugbee thought it was a phase, "He thought I had the wedding blues and eventually I'd get over it," Lhuillier has said.

But she didn't (get over it), and when Kevin Costner's bride, as well as Britney Spears, wore Lhuillier's gowns in their much-photographed and much-written about weddings, the general public knew what the fashion industry had for the last few years: Lhuillier was on her way to superstardom. She was profiled and/or her designs were featured in every niche bridal magazine. Her gowns were in demand at bridal shops. Soon the dresses were at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Her wedding dress designs graced the pages of Modern Bride, Brides, Bridal Guide, Wedding Dresses and Martha Stewart. They were worn by actresses on "Melrose Place" in Fall1998 and Spring 1999 (Josie Bissett and Kelly Rutherford, respectively) and Lhuillier's gowns were highlighted in "Weddings of a Lifetime" in the Fall 1998. These big breaks were followed by one of her dresses appearing in a 98-Degree's music video and on Meg Ryan in a Mitsubishi ad.

When she launched her evening wear line in 2001, celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson (among others) lined up to wear Lhuillier's designs on the red carpet at high-profiled events in which entertainment journalists always ask "who are you wearing?" And the Filipina found her name peppered in mass-market publications like People Magazine and in Style.

If she is to credit one major fashion coup, it may be doesn't-have-a-stylist so she must have picked it out herself, Angelina Jolie, who Lhuillier dressed for the 2002 Golden Globe awards. Perhaps Lhuillier, who clothed the now saintly actress in sedate and sophisticated garb, can be credited with Jolie's fashion and profile reinvention.

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).

Her Designs

From bridal gowns, she added evening wear, which was quickly followed by ready-to-wear, handbags, and now table top (collections of dishes, flatware and stemware).

Her launch of ready-to-wear, at New York's Bryant Park Tents in Fall 2003 was heralded editorially as impressive, and she followed it up with Fall 2004's dark, gothic romance.

Each of Lhuillier's collections, as varied as they are, feature a common thread: flattering sophisticated elegance. While some may dismiss her as not a risk-taker or playing it "too safe," it's obvious that a great deal of thought goes into each design. It may have started out as a hobby for her, but certainly didn't end up as one.

Lhuillier's designs, even when they (albeit rarely) veer to the edgier, are a balance of sophistication, elegance and the occasional whimsy.

Financial Data

Last year, Lhuillier's and Bugbee's company grossed more than $20 million.

Marketing Strategy

Lhuillier's Marketing Strategy combined old-fashioned word of mouth and quite frankly, luck.

Beautiful, social, elegant and personable, Lhuillier and Bugbee actually made the rounds of prominent magazine editors and writers in a "meet-and-greet." Even before the launch of her evening wear, the couple's publicist arranged lunches and one of the fashion writers they met with was Karen Brailsford, who was a correspondent at People Magazine (and is now the editor of E!'s Style Channel). "They were very nice," recalls Brailsford, adding that their unpretentiousness, in the light of Lhuillier's sudden fame, was memorable.

Her collections were quickly embraced by Hollywood stars and editorial spreads featuring her designs were in the world's top magazines, Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Elle, Town & Country.

Her career and designs are scandal free; no one wearing a Lhuillier has appeared in a "What Was She Thinking?" To further define her to the world, Lhuillier became the spokesperson for Elegant Bride Magazine.

It was a dream (if un-strategized) marketing plan. There was no better publicity than having her designs worn and mentioned at Hollywood's red-carpet events.

Stars wearing her gowns include 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, Jamie Lynn Discala, and Sharon Stone. In the last six months, Rebecca Gayheart, Maria Menounos, Kristen Bell, Dita Von Teese, Maggie Grace and Kate Mara were photographed wearing her dresses. Lately, newly christened fashionista Katie Holmes has appeared wearing Lhuillier. Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice star Kate Walsh, whose wedding garnered tons of press attention, wore a custom-designed Lhuillier dress. Eli Manning's new bride wore a Lhuillier gown to their very recent wedding.

Lhuillier's gowns were first available in west coast bridal shops, then throughout the country. The designs then appeared at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and now they are to be found all over the world. She has a flagship salon of her own now in Beverly Hills, Calif. That opened on October 10, 2007.

Despite her tony upbringing, she continues to be quoted in a manner, that, for many women, seems like a good girlfriend, like someone they know, could know, want to know. She's easy, breezy, never issues edicts about what should or shouldn't be worn by her clientele, telling them, "Wear what looks best on you."

Her designs have been described as having youthful elegance, as simple feminine, yet with enough variety to flatter every size and shape. Lhuillier tells of a fan who desperately wanted to wear one of Lhuillier's gowns at her wedding, but at a Size 28, was "sized-out" of Lhuillier's regular collection. The designer collaborated with the woman and turned her dream dress into one that fit flatteringly.

There's no signature fabric, theme or style. Lhuillier's designs have featured Alencon lace, tulle, delicate silks, hammered-silk organza, jeweled silk satin, ribbon detailing, and re-embroidered lace

Her gowns have long and short sleeves and in-between. Some were strapless with full skirts, some strapless with straight skirts.

Lhuillier's initial signature "Angel" gown was a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Fashion Designer Monique Lhuillier.  (2008, May 1).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/fashion-designer-monique-lhuillier/510809

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"Fashion Designer Monique Lhuillier."  Essaytown.com.  May 1, 2008.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/fashion-designer-monique-lhuillier/510809.