Fashion icon Monique Lhuillier is inspired by her surroundings wherever she goes, which adds extra charm and depth to her dramatic designs. Read on to discover her tips on packing light and what she does to quickly feel at home in her new destination.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
I draw inspiration from a lot of different places. My favorite thing to do is travel, and when I go on these different trips I just get so inspired, whether it’s a beautiful art piece I’m looking at, people-watching on the street or a beautiful fabric that I see. The ideas just start, and it happens. So it’s usually from traveling, but also just living. It sometimes could even be from furniture. I’m drawn to beautiful things.
What is the most important piece or pieces to your own personal style?
A great-fitting cocktail dress is a signature of mine. I feel like it’s so versatile, it takes you to so many different places. I travel a lot and know these pieces serve a great purpose.
How often do you travel?
I travel twice a month. It could be a long trip to Europe or Asia, or a shorter trip, such as one to Las Vegas.
What are your best travel tips?
To over-pack is just a drag. I always say plan your wardrobe two days before you leave and style it out with the shoes, the belts, etc., so that way you’re very well-edited and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. Otherwise, you’re going to be at your destination and it’ll take you 30 minutes to decide what to wear. If you’re organized, it makes traveling a breeze.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at your new destination?
I like to unpack and get everything hung, and then I take a walk and see my surroundings—the neighborhood, check out what sort of things there are to do in the hotel. I like to discover immediately.
How do you make a hotel room feel more like home?
I bring my music with me; that makes me feel at home. I also bring a fragrance with me, whether it be a candle or an air spray, so it smells like me and my environment. If it’s a long stay, I order fresh flowers in my room, which automatically makes it feel more cozy.
Aisle or window?
If I travel with somebody, like my husband, I like the window seat, but if I travel alone, I like the aisle. I like to be independent and not cross over and bother anybody.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Too many to mention! But I have some favorites. I love going to Venice and eating the delicious food—it’s so beautiful. I also love going to Capri and staying at the J.K.Place Hotel; it feels like your own private beach house. We also love going to Aspen, Colo., which is only a two-hour flight from Los Angeles—we’re a very big outdoors family, so we ski a lot in the winter; in the summer we like to bike and hike. But I could go on. I also love Paris.
What’s one thing you can’t be without when you travel?
My iPhone, because I can take pictures with it, I’m always connected—if somebody needs me, I’m very accessible. I have my music, my pictures and it just keeps me on track.
What are you listening to right now?
I listen to a lot of Pharrell, I also listen to Coldplay. I like to dance, so I have a lot of dance mixes—I love David Guetta, Justin Timberlake.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure, at home or on the road?
I love getting a weekly massage on Sundays. It’s where I tune everything out. I have somebody come, and it’s my time.
A lot of people know you for bridal, but it really doesn't sum up all that you do, now with over a decade designing ready-to-wear.
I started my company 18 years ago. The first seven years, I was only doing wedding gowns. Those were a great start for me, but then I wanted to dress women throughout their lives rather than just on that special day, which is how the ready-to-wear started. Now, I want to dress her earlier in the day, so you see more separates and what I call “high day” looks in the collection. The vision is growing because I’m putting more emphasis on special things. It then goes into evening and gala gowns at night. Another new thing for me is shoes. This is my second season doing shoes—all the shoes you saw on the runway were from my brand new collection.
What was it that drew you into the world of fashion?
When I was growing up, I had a very glamorous mother. I loved watching her get dressed and transform. She was my first fashion icon and inspiration. When I was little, my mother said I used to change clothes multiple times a day, and when I was in my teens, I would design dresses and have them made by a local tailor. If I went to buy clothes, I would buy something, take it home and restyle it. So I knew I wanted to be in the fashion business, but I didn’t know to what extent. I knew that I loved fashion. When I graduated from design school in Los Angeles, I became engaged to my husband, and that’s when I decided to start a business. I was looking for a wedding dress and I couldn’t find enough options for a young, fashionable bride-to-be, so that’s how I got into the bridal business. It carved the path for me.
To you, what makes a great wedding dress?
A great wedding dress is a beautiful design that accentuates the bride’s figure. The way it’s cut and the way it shows her silhouette is key. I also love making it feel very ethereal and effortless. My technique for doing that is making sure the fit is perfection and the way I layer fabrics over each other. It gives this dreamy, romantic feeling.
The ready-to-wear showcases the rest of my personality. I feel like the bride is looking for the dream, the magic on that day, but then after that, it’s like the next chapter in her life, and that’s what my ready-to-wear speaks to—who this woman becomes as she continues on this journey.
What’s next for you?
We’re looking to open a third store—we have one in New York and one in Los Angeles. We’re opening one in London soon. I’m looking forward to launching a fragrance at some point. People don’t know that I have a lot of categories in my collection. I have my bridal collection and a diffusion bridal line. I have bridesmaid dresses, a ready-to-wear collection and a diffusion ready-to-wear collection. I also have a jewelry collection and stationery. I have my hands in fine china and crystal, because it tells the story and the aesthetic—it’s throughout the collection. I always wanted to build a lifestyle brand, and I feel we are on our way to doing that beautifully. What people don’t know maybe is that I’m very involved in every design decision. It’s been amazing. I always say when we do something, it has to really feel like me, something that makes sense with the core brand.