Princess / Bombshell
By: Georgette Gouveia
At the Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 24, many a star will no doubt be wearing Monique Lhuillier, a mainstay of our collection at Mary Jane Denzer.
And why not? In this the most romantic of months, Lhuillier may be the most romantic of designers working today. Gauzy, bell-shaped skirts sweep into the room, announcing your arrival. Bows play at the throat. A peekaboo diagonal only hints at decollété. But there are really two Lhuilliers, it seems. There is Princess Monique, as evidenced in the pink gown with the fitted, ruffled bodice that Emmy Rossum wore to the recent Golden Globe Awards. Is it any wonder that Lhuillier is one of the queens of the bridal industry? And then there is Bombshell Monique, whose columnar lamé numbers feature cleavage down to here and slits up to there. In wearing a shimmering silver column gown to the Golden Globes, one whose draped décolletage plunged to the waist, “The Americans’” star Keri Russell echoed the stars of yesteryear, like ’30s platinum sex goddess Jean Harlow. That was no doubt by design.
The House of Lhuillier’s fall 2019 collection takes its cue from such ’70s and ’80s Hollywood divas as Marisa Berenson and Joan Collins, yes, Alexis Carrington Colby herself of “Dynasty” – which has been revived on The CW but alas without dear Joan and her castmates. She and Berenson aren’t afraid to be strong and sexy.
Lhuillier herself came from a far more demure background in the Philippines – where her French-Vietnamese father, whose business concerns embraced diplomacy, jewelry and real estate, and her mother, a former model who turned making the family clothes into a business, forbade their daughters from wearing black at too young an age. Lhuillier was educated in Switzerland at Château Mont-Choisi and Saint Theresa’s College. So protective was her family that she wasn’t allowed to travel to New York alone to study fashion design, an early interest. So, she attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where her two brothers lived. There she met Tom Bugbee, her future husband, father of their two children and business partner. It was their nuptials that set Lhuillier to designing outfits for the wedding party. Her bridal collection debuted in 1996, and she was off and running.
Ten years later, she received the Philippines’ Medal of Honor. But Lhuillieur has never been one to rest on her laurels. Last year, she launched a home design collection at Pottery Barn that included crystal vase lamps, silver taper candleholders, etched glassware and silk bouquets of peonies and roses good enough to scent.
It seems that Lhuillier is determined to make every aspect of our lives as romantic as possible.