Monique Lhuillier opened her first New York store on Oct. 5, and within five minutes made a sale—a fur-and-lace jacket from her Fall ready-to-wear collection.
The store is in a two-story brownstone on East 71st Street. Next day, 43 brides had appointments on the second floor, which is the bridal section.
Monique’s New York flagship store comes 12 years after she opened her first store in Los Angeles, and four years after that in Edina, Minnesotta.
“We are very strategic in how we grow, and we grow within our means,” Monique told writer Jessica Iredale. She added that “there was never really a rush to open in New York … just when it felt right.”
The business is owned by Monique and her husband Tom Bugbee, the company’s chief executive officer. They always wanted a space in New York City’s upper East side, since that’s “where our customer base is.”
They found this location in 2010, at first limited to the ground floor. But soon the second floor gallery became available, as well as a one-bedroom apartment on the same floor.
Monique’s New York flagship store has 3,000 sq ft, with enough space to house all the label’s collections—RTW, bridal, table top, shoes and chandeliers done for Waterford.
The chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, designed by Monique with tiers of multifaceted crystal baguettes. They imitate the layers of fabric and beadwork of her gowns.
Monique’s signature gray color scheme is evident in her New York flagship. The walls are in gray suede. Chairs from the ’60s and ’70s are covered in gray velvet.
Monique worked with designed Jennie Abbott, who designed her Los Angeles home and store. There are two commissioned works by New York sculptor Silas Seandel. More artworks are by Herve van der Straeten, Daniel Gluck, Neal Small and Nany Lorenz.
An open staircase framed by 22-foot glass walls leads to the bridal section on the second level. The RTW collection is on the ground floor because Monique and Tom want it more accessible to the customer. It is also the category they consider essential for more growth.
In 1986, Monique launched her business as strictly bridal. She soon became one of the top designers in the US, thanks to her celebrity clientele. Britney Spears wore Monique Lhuillier in her wedding to Kevin Federline in 2004.
Bridal is the foundation of Monique’s meteoric success. As she says, “I feel like in bridal we’re at the top of our game right now.” However, at the moment, her primary focus in on RTW.
Now that they have opened their New York flagship store, Monique and Tom are looking forward to possibly opening in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Establishing her own network of stores will result in the company’s expansion.
As she told Iredale, “A lot of department stores or specialty boutiques that carry me buy me for wedding gowns or solely evening gowns.
We really feel like the future for us is in the ready-to-wear collection, and housing the entire thing in our stores. Now the customer has access to it all.”
Monique was born in Cebu, the youngest of four children of Michel Lhuillier, Honorary Consul of France in the Visayas, and Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, who Monique always says has been her inspiration.